For the past year I have been Momager to a signed kid model. My son ObieQ was signed to an agency right before he turned 3yo. In that year he has done print, TV, fashion shows and even a magazine cover. I get questions all the time…How to get started? Is the money worth the hassle? How does the auditions affect the kid’s self esteem? I am answering all those questions here. It is important for me to stress this is our family’s personal experience. I don’t claim to be an expert. I just want to be as transparent as possible in case you are thinking about getting your little one in the business.
How ObieQ got started:
Obie’s first modeling opportunity came when a friend of mine started her own clothing line, Kido, here in Chicago. She needed pictures of her first designs. ObieQ was 4 months in the picture above. When she featured this onesie on her website and it was a HUGE deal to me. I sent the link to everyone I knew. Next, was another Chicago based brand, Monica & Andy. Their social media manager reached out to me on Instagram and asked if I would be open to bringing ObieQ to a group photoshoot. I was hesitant, ObieQ was no “model” and I didn’t want to put any expectations on him. I decided to go and we had a blast. That was my first time seeing ObieQ on a real set, he lit up.
One of those pictures ended up in the Wall St Journal. At that point my girlfriend called me and said “It’s time to get him signed!” I STILL held out. He was only 2yo and I wanted to keep this fun. It took 3 months for my husband to talk me into it. Finally I sent an email with a few pictures, mostly from my iPhone. We were called in for a meeting. ObieQ was signed on the spot.
How does this all work?
After signing, we secured his work permit and ObieQ started to get booked right away. His agent sends me emails and it is important I respond quickly. The first email is usually an availability check, a client is considering him for a job. Once I confirm he is available at the day/time of the casting we receive more information including the client’s name, rate and length of session.
During castings we show up at our designated time, check in and receive our slate. At this time you are gonna look around and see the cutest kids you have ever seen in your life. At the ripe age of 6 they are professionals because they have been doing this for 3yrs, half of their life!
STORYTIME: At one casting, this little girl who was maybe 5yo, showed up with her Grandfather. She handed him her backpack and coat. She then interacted with the casting agent in such a professional manner, I was blown away. She did her job. Got her things from her Grandfather and was done in MINUTES! It was then ObieQ’s turn. They asked him to “walk to the back wall”. ObieQ heard “walk backwards to the wall”. Y’all, he MOONWALKED to the wall. I was shocked. Silent. The casting agent thanked us for coming and we left. In the car I called my husband laughing. I told him there was NO WAY ObieQ booked that gig. The gag was on me. They loved his personality and we have worked with them twice!
You wait for your name to be called. When back with the director it is usually quick. They know exactly what they are looking for. I try not to read too much into their comments. We have been in auditions and they tell me how amazing ObieQ is, and then no call back. There are also times like the story above when I think I have it figured out and I am then shocked.
The turn around from casting to actual photoshoot is fairly quick. Once we receive a callback we head out to usually the suburbs or even neighboring states for the photoshoot. ObieQ is usually paid a flat rate. In the initial email the length of shoot is listed so you can plan your day around that time. Everyone is trying to get it done as quickly as possible so shoots are extremely efficient. Photoshoots (pre COVID) can often be like big play dates. Other kids and their parents, snacks, music, it’s a very welcoming atmosphere. They want the kids to be as relaxed as possible.
What about the Money..Honey!
Payment is made directly to the agency. After their fee is taken out a check is made out to the talent, your kid. There is a big range for jobs. There are gigs when he has gotten paid ~$100 and others where he has made 4 figures. This all varies on client, length of shoot and usage. The good thing is you know the payment before you agree to the job. There are no surprises. When ObieQ received his first big check we started a trust account for him. This is all fun and games but the hard truth is that ObieQ will have money that he has earned when he gets older. That gives us great pride.
My little one is cute isn’t that enough?
I am more clear of this now than I was before, there are SO MANY cute kids out there. Little girls and boys who just have “it”. I have been in rooms with so many cute kids that my ovaries were flipping like the Jesse White tumblers. From my experience in the last year, there are 3 things that are most important when starting in this business
- Your child is independent. This is top of my list without a doubt. As a parent I have been allowed to be in most rooms with Q while he is working but as soon as we are on set he is the talent. They speak to him not me. It important that he is able to function without me constantly reassuring.
STORYTIME: When ObieQ walked in the Brand Jordan fashion show for the NBA All Star Weekend, I had to leave him for 4 hours with a dresser. I had to leave the building. I was able to pick him up once the show was over. This was my first time doing this. He was not even 3.5.. When it was over ObieQ told me he had so much fun. He was cool as a cucumber. I was a nervous wreck
- Easy to work with, professional and flexible. Normally, I am always running late, getting out of the house for us is a whole ordeal. Being on time is a non negotiable for this business. For ObieQ and I we always get there early so he doesn’t feel rushed. ObieQ shows up in his “work clothes”, which are plain tshirt without graphics, denim and non descript sneakers. I also bring a little suitcase with extra shirts, wipes, lotion, socks etc.. usually these items are on set but it is nice to be prepared. Castings and shoots happen during the week so it’s important that parents have flexible schedules.
- This might be the hardest tip to give. Parents should be quiet. You are not there to coach. There is a designated person on set to give directions to the kids. If you are also barking orders it confuses the child (and often annoys the crew). This is not the time to be a stage Mom. The only time I speak up on set is when ObieQ’s hair is in conversation. I have been asked to trim it,“push it down a bit”, etc.. My response is always NO and that his hair reflects the recent pictures in his profile. That is more about me protecting ObieQ’s self esteem than anything else. Other than that I am in the corner, quiet as a church mouse giving thumbs up to him to encourage him!
Work with a professional agency. Here in Chicago we are with BMG, they have been good to us. Do your research and find a reputable agency in your city. No need to make a big investment in photos. There are often times when castings will only accept cell phone pictures. I am sure this is different as kids get older and start doing more acting. However for the work ObieQ is doing we have never paid for a professional “model packet”.
Lastly have a conversation about this new “work” with your child. ObieQ knows that he has jobs. However he doesn’t know the difference between a casting and an actual photoshoot. I never talk about posing or getting chosen. We only talk about being a good listener and having fun. We will keep doing this as long as it is fun to him. Our contract has a clause where we can “pause” work if he is over it. This year has been so rewarding. I am still in awe of him on set but we never take it too seriously. After each audition or job we get a donut. That is what he cares about the most. His sweet reward.