I'm not the type of person to toot my own horn but uh... toot, toot! I thought I'd share my experiences on being a commercial print model. I just started doing this so I am definitely a novice but I wanted to put something out there that could possibly help someone else looking for information on the subject since there was not much first hand account info out there when I looked for it.
I started doing commercial print modeling and acting after moving to Ohio. We'd only lived here for a few months when one morning I saw a listing on Craigslist looking for women in their 30's with nice teeth for a dental commercial. Having never been into Cleveland before I thought it was a nice excuse to drive into the city that day and yes, I think of myself as having half way decent teeth. My parents still remind me to this day about the thousands they spent on my braces, head gear, tooth positioner etc. (Yeah, it was a very tough couple of pre-teen years! Not cute!)
I walked into the agency, they took my picture, signed me as talent, gave me the name and number of their photographer and told me to get some headshots taken. It was weird and fast and all of a sudden I was a commercial print model. I really didn't think much of it because I thought that it didn't mean anything until I actual booked something. Right off the bat I went on a ton of auditions for national commercials, print jobs, corporate videos- lots of things but I didn't book any of them. Still, I thought- who cares? It's not costing me anything and it's all really kinda fun. I finally booked my first gig many months later and it happened to be a pretty big one- a multi-regional/state print campaign with Key Bank.
I knew that there was a possibility that they would use my image on a billboard but I really didn't think it would happen or that I would actually see it. I figured if anything it'd be on a random billboard buried on some obscure corner in the city. I ended up seeing the billboard on the way back from our trip to St. Martin. It was 1 a.m. and we were dead tired making the 45 minute drive back home. I saw the billboard, saw myself and thought "Huh, she looks familiar." Ten seconds later I screamed, "That was me on that billboard!" Dave swung the car around at the next exit and we drove back toward it. Laughing, we pulled over to the side of the road and took pictures.
Seeing yourself on a billboard that big is so strange. Most people who see it say that it looks like me but it doesn't look like me. I guess I'd have to agree since I initially didn't even recognize myself. The boards were up for a couple of months along freeways and roads. It was weird driving and all of a sudden randomly seeing yourself- very weird!
Here is what I have gleaned so far, in my very short time doing this:
- Even if you're brand new to the industry most agencies will not hold your hand through the entire process. They are there to book you and expect you to be able to handle yourself professionally, on your own. When I was booked on my first gig I didn't get any instruction other than where to go, who I was meeting and what clothes I should bring. There was no pep talk about what would happen, what to do when I got there, how to pose, etc. Basically it's a figure it out as you go situation. If you can't do that or are uncomfortable with that then this definitely is not for you.
- When you're booked on a shoot your agent will tell you what type of clothes to bring. Make sure to bring a lot of different options. And I mean A LOT. If they tell you to bring five options I would bring ten or more. You want to present them with as many options and looks as possible. Colors, cut and fit- make sure you have a variety.
- Along with the specified clothing you are told to bring, you'll also need to bring your model bag. Every agency has a standard "model bag" that they require you to have with you at each and every shoot. In it are standard things like different colored nylons, bras, underwear, shoes, accessories and basic clothing pieces. Your agency should provide you with a list of these items when you sign with them.
- Ask whether or not there will be a hair/makeup person for the shoot. If there is one, you should arrive with a clean face, no makeup on and clean hair. If not, then you will need to arrive at the shoot camera ready. Obviously you'll need to know what part you're playing so that you can do your hair and makeup to fit.
- I've been told many different things about nails. One makeup artist told me to always get a french manicure for every shoot but I've had shoots where I was told specifically no nail polish at all. I've since decided to always make sure my nails are manicured and buffed with no polish or a clear coat.
- Have a variety of clothes in your closet. Most parts I audition for are as a nurse, business woman, soccer mom, country club mom and even a cheerleader! You'll need a wide range of clothing styles to cover these types of parts. I even have a pair of scrubs that I wear when auditioning for nurse/doctor/medical related stuff. The more you look the part the better.
The most important piece of advice I can give you:
As exciting as it is for you, you are NOT a star. You're not Natalie Portman or Cameron Diaz. You're not starring in a $100 million dollar movie. You're a piece of the puzzle. Be professional, do what's asked of you, don't talk too much and then leave when they're done with you.