Could your child be a model? Melanie Goose discusses the pros and cons of putting your child in front of the camera
The life of a child model seems fun, glamorous, exciting, and even lucrative, and the possibility of magazine, catalogue, TV commercial, film and video work can be enticing. The reality is it can be boring (there’s a lot of hanging around), disappointing and tiring.
For some children it will be a positive experience, for others it will be an ordeal. And while ‘beautiful’ children and ‘character’ faces will always be in demand, an open, engaging and confident personality is just as important. Most importantly, however, the child has to want to do it – that’s the child, not you, living out your dreams through them.
Many jobs will involve a casting where several children will be vying for the job. Being rejected is something your child will have to deal with. ‘It’s important to help your child understand and deal with the harsh reality that life can be competitive and we don’t get everything we apply for,’ says TV psychologist Jo Hemmings. ‘Being rejected at castings can be especially tough on children under 10 and parents must enable them to have the coping mechanisms to deal with this.’
If your child is still keen and you think they can cope with being rejected on occasion, it’s vital that you find a reputable agency to represent them. Never answer adverts in newspapers for ‘open auditions’ at hotels. Good agencies don’t need to advertise for new faces. Unfortunately, there are a few unscrupulous ‘agents’ who may charge fees for joining a non-existent agency or sell photo shoots with no real possibility of future paid work.
Louise went to a hotel casting and handed over £185 to join an agency and have pictures taken of her daughter. But she never received the photographs and couldn’t track down the company. Six months later the same company advertised auditions in a hotel and she bravely confronted them with a newspaper reporter while telling other parents in the room not to part with their money. After causing a scene her fee was refunded (although they tried to give her a cheque!). BBC One’s Rip Off Britain has recently reported on a similar scam.
‘I’ve had a lady on the phone in tears who spent more than £2,000 with a company in London,’ says Katie Froud, founder of model advice service Alba. ‘They got her to travel to London with her six-month-old baby and spend seven hours in a studio. The pictures are terrible and she won’t get anything out of it. It’s a disgrace.’ Alba vets the agencies it recommends and sends in a ‘secret shopper’ to test them out. And it will only include agencies on its database that have traded for three years and can prove they have a separate client account.
Most kids, however, have a great experience of modelling. ‘It was fun,’ says Charlotte Evans, whose ex-model mother Elisabeth set up the Elisabeth Smith Agency in 1960. ‘It was so easy back then because you could drive up to the studio in London [where most modelling work is], park outside, do the job and go home. It’s more stressful now for parents because you can’t do that and they have to struggle with public transport. This is one of the reasons we only take on children who live within an hour of London.’
Always check the agency’s website for its terms, such as fees for promoting the children. Elisabeth Smith charges £185 for the first year and £50 for each subsequent year, but prices will vary. Visit at least three agencies. A good one will never sign up your child without meeting them first. Once your child is taken on you will need to have professional pictures taken, which the agency can help arrange.
No model agency can guarantee work. If your child does get work the agency will take anything from 25% commission. Photographic work pays about £50 an hour with a minimum two-hour booking, although commercials are better paid. Average earnings can be £500 to £5,000 a year – not a fortune, so don’t plan your retirement just yet!