Child Modeling
August 25, 2004 8:50 PM   Subscribe

Kids, modeling and a confused father. I'm going to try this in a concise paragraph... on preview, forget it (more inside).

I have good looking kids, emotive and bright (seven, nine and twelve - a girl and two boys respectively) and have been approached by an agency that would like to explore advertising and modeling work for them. I live in the woods but I'm not a bumpkin. I have family involved in various media related fields and have done a bit of research and by all indications this is a legitimate offer by a reputable firm. It's not as though I'm contemplating loading the brood into the family Truckster and heading out to the big city for fame and fortune. This isn't about paying for crappy headshots.

I should mention that I'm not particularly advertising or corporate friendly by nature but also don't want to arbitrarily blow off something that could be an enlightening and educational expierience for them. The potential money isn't a big factor, I know the odds and am not at a place in life where I need to be particularly mercenary.

I was wondering if anyone had any expierience with the fascinating business of kid pimping?
posted by cedar to Work & Money (12 answers total)
One of my boys ended up in a product shot when he was about 18 months old, through a totally random connection, and while it's not quite the same thing, the main thing we learned is that the kid really gets almost _nothing_ out of it.

Shoots are long, repetitive, and boring--the antithesis of a fun learning experience for a kid who's not interested. I would say the one and only criteria should be if the kids, who are old enougth to understand what you're talking about, seem excited or intrigued by the idea. If they're into it, and you do it once, and they still like it, then go nuts. Put 'em through college doing something they like. If they're not into it, though, I wouldn't presume it's enlightening or educational just on principle.
posted by LairBob at 9:33 PM on August 25, 2004

I've got a kid who enjoys doing it, and who has been at it since she was about 3, when she first said "I wanna be on the TV."

What's worked for her has been to be on file with a local, friendly photographer who gets a lot of work. When one of his shoots calls for a kid, she gets the call, goes in, and does whatever they call that little dry run before any deals are made. If the client likes her, she comes back and does a shoot.

There are kids who show up to these shoots who are ridiculously uber-serious about it, decked out in prissy clothes and hustling for an agency that has them working back to back jobs. I kind of prefer the more laid back approach we're taking because she only has to show up four or five times a year.

The money seems to be pretty good, about $100 an hour before taxes. I owe the IRS on it, since it's 1099 income, but that's not a big deal to cope with.

She has a ball going to the shoots, playing around with the crew and the photographer, and prancing about in various kinds of clothing. She's never refused a call, and is always eager to go. Obviously there's some fun in it for her, not to mention the income.

If she decided to dislike it, we would just stop returning the studio's calls or tell them we're off the list. It's pretty easy. So far, there's not much danger of that happening.

I guess the key would be (A) to avoid going with an agency until you want a ton of work, and (B) to form a good relationship with a studio that'll call you in once in a while.
posted by majick at 10:26 PM on August 25, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, majick.

I like the idea of working with a studio rather than an agency and it hadn't occurrred to me. Providing something comes of this, and we are far from that point, a heavy workload isn't going to be possible. Relocation isn't in the cards and that sets some practical limits, I'm not exactly centrally located.

Enjoyment and excitement, oh, yeah. That would be an understatment. They like room service, elevators and new restaurants -- no, Dad, we can't stay with your friends, the food smells funny and we don't like the music -- it's an adventure for them. Something new.
posted by cedar at 10:42 PM on August 25, 2004

We haven't managed anything that required more than about half an hour of travel. But then, living smack in the middle of an urban area means that it's no great undertaking to go to these shoots. Even the multiday projects -- and a majority of them take less than a day -- don't involve grand travel and fancy suites.

At least for us, it's been more of a day trip, some excuse to miss a day or two of school and work downtown.
posted by majick at 11:33 PM on August 25, 2004

I have zero knowledge about this, but you should probably check out the amazing and horrifying HBO docu from a few years back called Living Dolls, about child beauty pageants. It's not about modeling exactly, but it shows the depths parents will sink to, and the hideous cost on their kids of obsessing about looks. Just to get a worst case scenario.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:25 AM on August 26, 2004

We use kids every month (younger ones than yours, tho), and only book them thru reputable agencies. It's a giant pain for the parents, having to drag the kids in for a casting call beforehand, and then if booked, for a shoot itself--above and beyond going to agencies to see if they want to sign you in the first place. And you have to be available whenever shoots/castings are scheduled, whether it's a school day or you have work or not. (email me for more.) Rural people usually don't do it, as they're not close enough to the offices/studios. I see you're upstate, so that would be a problem, if you/the agency wanted them to work with any NYC magazines.

The scout that approached you could be on the level-- check them out, and know that you never have to pay anything to be signed by an agency. If it's based on you paying to play, it's not reputable.
posted by amberglow at 5:37 AM on August 26, 2004

Response by poster: That's the first thing I looked at, amberglow. No payment or nonesense, they just want me to make the kids available for some photos and conversation. They have offered to cover reasonable travel expenses -- the room service would be all me.

Yep, I'm upstate but have family on Long Island and in grad school in the city. I'm already spending half my life on the Thruway.
posted by cedar at 6:32 AM on August 26, 2004

that sounds good have to decide if it's worth it for them to miss school, and for you to miss work for shoots and things...
posted by amberglow at 6:34 AM on August 26, 2004

I think more appropriate might be Showbiz Moms & Dads, on Bravo. Don't know if it's running now though.
posted by agregoli at 7:19 AM on August 26, 2004

Cedar, if your children do decide to go into this business, you should speak to your school board about child-actor friendly schools (though most of them are of the private variety). I used to work in such a school, and we had packets ready to go for on-set tutors, and were set to work around schedules (helpful when one of our kids made it to the cast of School of Rock). You'll end up less stressed, if you have a school willing to work with you, rather than against you.
posted by FunkyHelix at 8:00 AM on August 26, 2004

We're far from showbiz parents but our littlest recently appeared in a sign language video and she enjoyed the experience (can't say that for all the other kids at the shoot). You're looking at a whole different level than we are but the basics are the same, as long as she enjoys it, we'll keep doing it. I think that's the key.
posted by m@ at 8:50 AM on August 26, 2004

Cedar - I have a friend who did this all through her elementary and middle school days. (Then she hit her growth spurt and grew to about 6'3", and started playing basketball instead...)

Her parents were very blue-collar, 2nd generation immagrants. Her dad was a police officer and her mom cleaned houses, if I remember correctly. While the temptation was there to use the money to buy things for the kids and whatnot, they instead put it into a savings fund and with interest it paid enough to put all three of the kids through really, really good colleges. If you do decide to, ah, "pimp out" your kids, you might decide ahead of time what you'll do with the money... and make sure that the kids are aware that this won't be buying a full library of x-box games or something. ;)
posted by SpecialK at 10:08 AM on August 26, 2004

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