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Model and Talent Availability

How Important Is Availability to a Model or Actor’s Success?

If you are lucky enough to get a meeting with an agent or manager, the question of availability is going to come up. What conflicts do you have? How quickly can you get to last-minute castings? What do they want to hear? “No conflicts and I have my ear on my phone and my foot out the door at all times, waiting to jump when you say JUMP!”

male model Arthur Kulkov

Top male model Arthur Kulkov

OK, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but not too far off from what most model and talent reps expect. Let’s face it: There’s another pretty face out there who WILL jump on command at a moment’s notice. This is not a business for planners who need to know days in advance what their calendar will look like. Castings often come in with 24 hours notice and same-day is not that unusual. Booking details may be finalized the night before. If you are on a movie gig, call sheets might be emailed late at night for the following day. It’s just the way it is. You can try to change it but you’ll get booted out of the biz and into a nice, steady job in a cubicle.

The perks: excitement, glamorous sets and locales, meeting fascinating people every day, big pay checks (sometimes), fame (maybe), travel, work that is often more like fun. The drawbacks: a lack of security, an unpredictable schedule, saying goodbye to fascinating people when a job wraps, no steady paycheck, fame, travel. Take it or leave it.

Child Models & Actors

Child actor-model Natalia Mann, shot by Pasha Kalachev

Child actor-model Natalia Mann, shot by Pasha Kalachev

If you are a parent of a child actor or model, then your availability is also key, as well as your willingness to be somewhat flexible with schooling. Castings are often after school, but depending how far away you live, there still may be quite a few early pick-ups from school. Jobs are not scheduled around school, so if Junior finds some success, some missed days of school are inevitable. There is often downtime on set and to and from the job, which needs to be used efficiently to catch up on school work. Most schools are fairly flexible about some missed time, as the experience of being in a working environment comes with life and career lessons; tantamount among those lessons is developing discipline. If a child, particularly an actor, is working steadily, online schooling or tutors on set/backstage often replace regular schooling. (Although I know one child who juggled Broadway roles with regular public school in Connecticut and pulled it off.)

I recently had a mom write to me and say, “An agency was interested in my twin girls, but I have a part-time job and they needed me to be available when castings came up. What do they expect me to do, quit my job and wait around for castings to happen?” No, they don’t expect you to quit your job necessarily, but they would expect you to arrange for someone to be available to shuttle the girls to castings: a relative, a babysitter, their dad. Though the initial outlay of money to make that happen can seem daunting, without trying there is no way to know if the dynamic duo may have landed a lucrative client and started building a college fund. But for some people, it’s just all too much of a hassle. Point taken and here’s an example of why…

One day I took my 8-year-old to the city for a request casting (this means the client specifically requested to see certain kids; unlike a cattle call, these are usually quick and efficient. Fortunately in our experience with a top agent, most castings are requests). We took the hour train in from CT, went to the casting, returned to Grand Central, boarded the train back to CT, and just as we passed Harlem, a text came in from the agency. Could we go to a casting in New Jersey that afternoon? I quickly calculated the difference between riding all the way back to our town and then driving to the casting, or getting off at the next stop—35 minutes from where we were—and jumping on a train back to the city, and then Ubering over the GW to NJ. The Uber scenario won. So, with no stops between Harlem and Stamford, we waited out the train ride, headed back, Ubered to the casting and back, and trained home again. Some 6 or 7 hours later, our day was complete. She booked neither of those jobs and that didn’t faze us in the least. You gotta be in the room to make it happen but you definitely can never count on results in this competitive world. As a writer, I carry my laptop everywhere I go, so the more time I’m on a train, the more work I get done. The 1-on-1 time with my kids (I have 4 of the little rascals) is usually nice too. It beats suburban monotony in my mind, but some people are perfectly happy shuttling to soccer fields with a carpool scheduled months in advance.

Bottom line: Think carefully about whether you can make a modeling and/or acting career work with your current commitments. See what you can adjust and what you can’t. Have a reliable guardian as a backup plan if you have kids in the biz (you cannot drop kids at jobs and come back when they are finished; a guardian has to be present throughout). Once you pay your dues early on and prove yourself, you will be able to book out once in a while without fear of getting booted. I’m pretty sure Brad Pitt and Gisele can book out whenever they want these days!

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