General Casting Tips for Independent Models
Getting work as an independent model is challenging enough when you do everything right. But are you?
It’s not all about pictures.
This guide is not designed for my casting but generally for all castings or for all real world submissions which is done much differently than booking shoots on amateur modeling websites.
We’ll give you tips on what to include, what NOT to include, and how to get the attention you deserve and we’ll be shocked if any of you know everything we’re about to explain!
General info you should know.
Before we get into specifics, here are a few things to always keep in mind:
• It is usually interns or assistants that first open submissions. They are usually given certain criteria to check for along with instructions on what to delete. When you send an incomplete submission you risk it being deleted right then and there. Are you giving them that option?
• A lot of “reading between the lines” takes place. Choose your words carefully and remember, your email is being speed-read. Are you telling them things that will cause them to pass?
• Online castings can receive thousands of emails to sort through and it only takes a couple seconds to pass on any given submission. You need to make an immediate impact. Are you saying the right things to get them to consider you, or even open a picture up?
• Everyone that opens your email has some form of an ego. Do you know how to take advantage of that?
What to include.
Always include everything specifically requested, and exactly as asked. (You’d be surprised by how many miss very simple things).
• If pictures are asked for, do not just send links, in many cases, and by policy, they may not be clicked on.
• If your age is asked for, give your real age, not a range. Refrain from saying “I look like I’m….”.
• If your height is asked for, give only your height, not how tall you are in heels. (Yes, people really do that).
• If asked for something make sure it’s clearly in the body of the email, not just in an attachment. Many companies have policies against opening certain attachments including Word files!
• If you forget to include something, don’t send a new email with just that in it. It’s rare that multiple emails can be conveniently put together at the receiving end. Send a new and complete email or risk having both deleted. Again, in most cases emails that are missing even simple things that were requested may get deleted.
A hint about links: One of the things that spam filters watch for when routing emails to junk mail folders are hyperlinks. Adding a link without enough surrounding text may cause your email to be routed outside of the destination inbox. Use links sparingly!
A hint when applying to agencies: If you have a profile on an amateur modeling website, don’t point it out. Some agencies will pass, especially if you appear seasoned on it. Why? Because the industry works much differently than how things operate on those websites and bad habits are hard to shake. Also, the model releases commonly used on those sites can haunt talent long after the shoot.
What to write in the email.
How you open and what you write is as important as the pictures you submit. Too short is arrogant, too long won’t get read. Check spelling, punctuation and grammar. Those unwilling or unable to write properly are perceived as unlikely to fully read a call sheet or a travel itinerary. Not to mention it comes off unprofessional.
• Always open with a salutation. For example: “Hi there”, “Dear” or even “Hey” followed by the company name or a generic title. Always close by signing (or typing) your name.
• Use a short opening line that shows some personality. Smiley’s are an awesome way to do that – everyone likes happiness.
• Introduce yourself.
• List the things requested in bullet points so they are not missed.
• Use a closing sentence.
• Don’t say “I would do anything” or use any other desperate language.
• Refrain from overstating things, for example: “My lifelong dream has always been to be in your…” but it’s ok to say things like: “I’d feel privileged if chosen”. The difference is respect versus desperation.
• Don’t ramble about anything, especially yourself or problems.
• You can add additional stats or credits if you like, but do it as a postscript (with using “P.S.”) or footnote after your signature (or typed name).
Remember: When anyone hires independent talent they are counting on you to be more professional than those sent by an agency. After all there’s no one but you for them to count on. You have to instill confidence that you are reliable and professional and the only gauge will be by what you write.
Hint for emails: Never resend a form submission and NEVER send the same
email to multiple people using cc.
The pictures you send.
Images that work with commercial clients, advertisers and agencies are much different than those that get you attention on amateur modeling websites. Ever wonder why so few girls on them ever get signed by top agencies?
• Never use images with adult logos or that contain nudity. In fact, refrain for using too racy of images at all (unless it’s for specific styles like glamour work).
• Never use images from shootouts and group shoots, especially if they have logos on them. Professionals don’t participate in those.
• Do not use faux magazine covers or images with logos of Ezines.
• Do not send highly crafted or overly artistic shots unless it’s a tear sheet. This includes unpublished high fashion shots.
• Do not only send images of just your “good side”, or images with dramatic shadowing. Try to use images looking straight into the camera. Not seeing a complete representation of the talent is a major cause of concern at the other end.
• Don’t send a lot of pictures, only your very very best and most appropriate images for that particular job. If the first one opened doesn’t do it, the others will never be seen so think hard about each image sent. Why? You’ve all met someone you’ve seen pictures of that look nothing like them in real life. The rising popularity of amateur modeling websites has spawned new types of highly modified images by photographers that are more skilled as graphic designers than as actual photographers. The people you submit to are getting wise to this and are learning to stay clear of those looks. Keep in mind that you are casting for work for yourself, not stylists or photographers. All the casting agent at the other end wants to know is what you look like and mostly how well you can
pose. Not how pretty a picture is.
Keep in mind: Agencies can and do use different types of images than you can as an independent. Their reputations are on the line and they essentially warrant the accuracy of the image.
Credits to include.
Keep credits simple and relevant. Don’t try and pad your credits
with meaningless fluff.
• Never use any adult credits (unless applying for adult work).
• Don’t list fashion shows from nightclubs or event credits (unless applying for something similar).
• Don’t list photographers you have shot other than as references, and if you do make sure they are known.
• Never list extra work when casting for acting roles.
• Many fashion and some beauty campaign credits are normal to list, but commercial credits should not include any brand names. Instead give a general description and footnote the bottom of the credits portion of your submission with “conflicts available by request”.
An exception for commercial credits exists when you become a spokesperson, or “star” in a recurring campaign, Think John Hodgman (Apple) or Paul Marcarelli (Verizon).
Some words of caution.
• If asked for your age, never lie. Many jobs require a U.S. or state government issued ID, or a foreign passport with your H-1B visa.
• Do not use images that are not a fair representation of your look.
• If you have done any adult work, for example Playboy, you don’t need to disclose it up front, but if asked, don’t lie.
Why the above? First, everyone dislikes liars. Also, some contracts make you warrant your submission info is accurate. Even if they don’t, it’s fraud and while it doesn’t happen often, you can be held liable for damages. What does happen is that you can get sent home before the shoot and without pay or potentially without expenses reimbursed.
Most seasoned clients will require you in for a live audition before actually booking talent, even models. Interview, audition and go-see tips will be a subject for another time
When your email is received.
If you ever see how it works at the other end, you’ll have a new appreciation for casting online. You are one twitchy finger from a delete key from an overwhelmed assistant. The people opening the emails have no, before yes on their minds and it’s important to get positive attention quickly. Some people read the first line of your email first, and others start by clicking on a pic.
The casting e-mailboxes these people go through may have an initial deletion rate of about 50%, and that IS generous. That means that about half of all emails never get seen by anyone making a real decision! Outside casting agents report to us even higher deletion rates. One very prominent CSA we work with makes the casting sheet intentionally long and leaves a question to be answered near the end because he wants to know you’ve read the entire thing before considering you – remember that!
Don’t get deleted.
The most common reason for instant deletion is incomplete information and that’s pretty easy to avoid. But each person casting is different and some reject minimal submissions (for example, just stats and no wording), or talent with adult experience, and others won’t book anyone active in amateur modeling. They each have their own reasons that we
may or may not agree with, but we cannot easily change their ways. However, if you understand it, you can use it all to your advantage and cast much more proficiently.
These tips will benefit you!
Applying for work as an independent is difficult enough. If you use these tips to increase your chances for work we can just about promise you it will make a difference. Use the ones that make sense, and of course different jobs have different requirements. But when applying with reputable agencies, or submitting for commercial gigs, we are confident in each and every tip listed.
Now imagine applying for any job that is advertised. You need a resume and that resume needs a cover letter that is relevant. You must meet a specific criteria and modeling is not different but much more competitive. If you do not put for the effort to produce a proper professional presentation and help yourself get the job, why would a professional even consider you?.