By: David St.John
The picture for models in Portland is complicated to an extent by the people who say they are or want to be models themselves. In general they seem confused and ready to make any excuse not to invest in their career in the field. Most grew up being told common fables like ‘go to college and get a degree and that will guarantee you a good job’. But too few researched the fields of their degrees and even fewer get real serious about taking the most important and often difficult courses which might have guaranteed a good job. Many are skating along on dad’s dime busily partying and barely staying in school. Many don’t bother to work so the common theme becomes “I’m just a poor, struggling, student and I can’t afford modeling or acting classes, comp cards or portfolios – the things it takes to be considered a serious model.
Tyra Banks tells them on TV’s Americas Next Top Model, ‘never pay any money to an agent because…bla…bla…bla’ Viewers think that is her opinion and must be based upon fact until they realize two things; (1) she was just quoting her provided TV script; and (2) she wasn’t talking about Portland. Parents that have been dragged through financial turmoil by needy daughters declare Tyra’s edict that agents should pay you not the other way around. The truth is that in a real big city you can’t get into an agency unless you already have magazine tear sheets proving you are viable. No one discovers you and pays your way just because you have a figure, a face, long legs. No one is sure how professionally you will behave so they aren’t about to throw money at you for any ethical reasons.
Portland’s ‘chain’ modeling schools are not to be confused with private modeling schools. But the chain schools use a herding technique, called talent scouting. They get all the potential sales targets into a waiting room and do private interviews in which each is told ‘you’re the only one we want’. Then, unless they sign immediately they are sent home to sweat and await a 4PM phone call. They have already been lied to about their dream coming true and will be given one more chance to sign up on the phone. Dad will have to give his credit card up over the phone or her fame and hope wanes.
In Portland two of the already closed chain schools had fake agents step into the interviews to promise the candidates that they would surely be busy models. Unfortunately both fake agents now operate modeling agencies that charge either $180 to get to be on their web site or $450 for a required photo shoot. Neither of which guarantees you a single paid gig.
There are several modeling agencies in Portland. Most have been there for 14 years or more and are going to ask you for $500 to $1200 for photo fees for pictures that are supposed to make you famous. The worst agents lie to you telling you that Nike, Adidas, Macys, Nordstrom, MGM, Disney and Santa are all planning to meet with you in two weeks – so you better shape up and buy their comp cards by then.
If you go in to an old established agency you still have little guarantee of placement. They are still going to need to get to know how promising and reliable you are. Some agencies reputedly fail to pay, other do pay, some pay very late. People know who these are. Some big agencies get over 500 applicants a year and some have a data base of over 1000 models. That may not be where you belong.
One big agent sells an acting course, some sell modeling training. You probably require both so you should be prepared to invest in your future if the pricing seems fair.
What is a comp or composite card and who needs them? Comp cards are just that, a composite of 4 or so pictures of you looking your best. If you print them yourself to beat the agency price, you have just offered up your own identity. Agents make a small profit on the cards because their branding, name, logo and address are on the cards to save you from having to give out your own, thus protecting your identity. That way you do not get any 2AM calls from strangers. Comp cards must be carefully proofed for accuracy and color accuracy. If the agency puts out bad cards it hurts everyone. Those are your business calling cards. 100 is standard.