Thursday, November 1, 2012

Road Trip! Models in Chicago

"You'll hear 101 'Nos' before you start hearing 'yeses'." - Caressa Brown, on Mentoring Models

Dayton Fashion Week Models (and parents) with me in Chicago

On October 25th myself and Caressa Brown took a group of Dayton Fashion Week models (and a couple of parents) to Chicago. Our purpose: to get these young men and women signed to an Agency!
I consider it my good deed for the month - the trip from Dayton to Chicago was over 10 hours of driving alone, not to mention the walking (and running) in the rain. But let's be honest - this is also the only time this 5'4" overweight woman in her thirties is going to get to see the inside of a modeling agency, right? Of course I was going to take a day off work and do this!

Let me tell you a bit about the three agencies we visited and my impressions of each:

Prior to this trip, I knew BMG mostly in conjunction with the entertainment industry - which I guess isn't so off from model-land. When we arrived we were under the assumption that Open Casting was from 2 - 4 pm. The reality was that they opened their doors at 4 pm. If you're not there, at that time, you don't get seen because they closed them immediately. At 2 pm we were turned away from BMG and proceeded to Ford, then on to Factor/Chosen. At 4:20 pm I was running in the rain (literally) with models who didn't get held for a call-back at Chosen and headed toward BMG after calling and BEGGING them to see us since we had driven so far. I'm happy to say that this agency DID look at photos of the models who made the trek with me. And at least one beautiful model (Brooke Selanders) was told to send more images.

Brooke Selanders got a request for more images at BMG
However, our models did not directly interact with anyone by the receptionist. That was a disappointment, as was the general decor of the agency's interior itself. After visiting Ford and Factor/Chosen, it became apparent to me how much the way the agency appears on the outside is just as important to the models looking to be signed as the way the models look to the person who is working for the agency. That is to say "if you don't look the part, we're going to be a little skeptical." BMG needs a "remodel". But we are going to be ever grateful for the generosity in bending the rules for a group of hopeful models from Dayton, Ohio!

Olivia Nichols was too short by 1/2 inch at Ford.

Notorious for being large and selective, we learned that unless you are 5'8" you are too short for Ford. Fractions of an inch matter here more than your portfolio or anything else you bring. In fact, the lovely lady from Ford didn't crack open many portfolios - she chose to take her own digital images. There was no discrimination either. If you were 5'8", then the pretty lady in charge took your picture. Some models had more pictures taken than others, which might be the only hint as to their eligibility.  But what I did learn: High heels are not a must (and actually are a distraction) for an open call at Ford (as is makeup, by the way). If you don't meet Ford's requirements, they will give you a list of other agencies in the area that might take you. Interesting fact: there is no age limit at Ford.

Our Men May Have Had Good Luck at Ford (Lee Owens, left, Kevin Lee Walker, Right)
Olivia Nichols got a call back at Factor
...and they BETTER SIGN HER!!!
These companies are part of the same parent group. Factor handles women, Chosen handles men. The group split from Elite a few years ago and is starting their agency in an effort to become smaller - to better grow their models (and I'm sure work with higher quality "product"). If you go to an open call at Factor, expect a speech from the man running the show that will last approximately 20 minutes. After that he'll have you stand up in front of him one at a time, give your height and age as well as something interesting about yourself. The key here is to be memorable, so make sure you listen to the stories he tells. Talking about sheep in an adorable Kentucky accent is a good way to be memorable, as Olivia Nichols learned. If you're not memorable enough, the man will dismiss you. Those "chosen" will stay behind to talk some more and share portfolios.

Erica Skrlac also got a call back at Factor!
They had better sign her too!!!
The cynic in me wonders how much Factor competes with BMG. The reason for this is that Factor's call is at 3:30 pm. If the man talks for 20 minutes there's no way that someone dismissed would make a BMG open call at 4 pm if they are on foot. Additionally, anyone Factor might be interested in would not have a chance to get to BMG at all because you will be there a longer period of time. Also, I'm almost positive this man who was judging our models at Factor knew exactly who he wanted to stick around before he even launched into his 20 minute monologue. But that's just my opinion.

The Chicago Cheat Sheet According to Styrch

For those of you thinking about going to castings in Chicago, here is my advice for you:
  • Know your height and don't lie about it - and if you go to Ford it won't make a bit of difference if YOU think you're 5' 8" and you measure that at home if the woman measuring comes up with a different number.
  • Take high heels, but wear nice flats - You won't use the heels as much as you think you will. And if you have to take off one shoe to be measured, you'll be standing awkwardly which can skew your height out of favor.
  • Jaylin Snider
    Wear minimal makeup and have your hair pulled back - If you have ever watched America's Next Top Model, this is consistent.
  • Dress nicely - don't look like you just fell out of bed. Leave your sweats and leggings home. Wear a nice shirt and crisp jeans if you want to be really casual. Otherwise, dresses, skirts, dressed up shorts... almost anything goes. Just don't dress like a slob.
  • Think of at least three interesting things about yourself that are different. If you're asked then you can pull them up to mind quickly.
  • Bring extra photos - More important than your portfolio may be a picture to leave at an agency (such as BMG) if they request one. These can be part of your portfolio, but have certain images your willing to part with that also show you at your best. 
  • If you have braces, wait! - It's not a dismissal, but they don't like to see them out in Chicago. 
  • Be on time! - You won't always have the power of a group behind you begging to be let in after hours if you go by yourself. Plan your visit appropriately. Know which agencies you're willing to skip if you have to prioritize castings. 
Caressa Brown mentoring Lexii Henry
Portfolio Tips From Caressa Brown
While most of the agency visits in Chicago did not result in anyone seeing their portfolio, it IS important to have something to show just in case. A former model herself, Caressa Brown helped our DFW models put together their portfolios. When Caressa gave advice, I took notes:
  • Lead with strong pictures - These are the first pictures they will see in your books.
  • Choose pictures without other models in them - you don't want to be upstaged and you want to show off YOURSELF as best as possible.
  • Show a range - Make sure your portfolios aren't all of the same kind of photos. You want to make sure you look as versatile as possible.
  • Be strategic - Check out agencies models' portfolios online. Learn your competition (who you most closely resemble). Be prepared to discuss how you can bring something different to the table. You may aim your portfolio to address this.
  • You're "best quality" picture may not be the "best" - Sometimes lower quality images are also the pictures that show off your talents. The print itself may not matter as much as what you are doing in the image.
  • Let them have it! - if they want an image at the agency, as state before, give them the picture.
Brooke Selanders, Courtney Ward, and Jaylin Snider Primp and Prep
Round Up
Overall, no determinations are made on the day of visiting any of these open calls. But it is one heck of an experience. We're still waiting to hear if any of our models will receive further call-backs. If I have the tally correct (and models, please let me know if I am wrong) confirmed callbacks are as follows:
BMG - Lee Owens, Brooke Selanders
Ford - No one yet... maybe the guys.
Factor - Olivia Nichols, Brooke Selanders, Shampain Simms, Erica Skrlac
Chosen - Like Ford, we're hopeful

Regardless, it's a good experience for everyone involved. At the very least, it's easier to experience your first "no" when you see others you know going through the same thing (or so I assume). Our models handled rejection like champs! And they were excited for those who were accepted by the agency as well. I think Caressa Brown felt a bit like a "proud mama" watching her baby models grow up a bit. Me... I enjoyed being part of the experience in general. And I'll gladly do it again.