We’ve all thought about it—you open up your magazine and that adorable kid from the Baby Gap ad looks out at you with those big eyes and you think, “My baby can do that!.” Or, as you’re out with your child everyone stops you and says, “What an adorable child, he should be a model!” And you think, “Could he? Should I try?” Read on and you can decide if it’s worth it. . .
My son got his first job when he was six months old. There was no casting (try-out); we just needed to be in San Diego (an easy drive from my home in South Orange County) at a certain time. Once we were there, we only had to wait a little bit until it was his turn to shoot. And when it was, I was on set with him, interacting and trying to make him smile. The whole thing probably took about an hour and a half—it was quick and easy and my son came away $300.00 richer. As we drove home I thought, “This is fabulous! Why didn’t I start earlier?”
I came to find out that his first job was a best case scenario and we quickly got a taste of what modeling was really like. First off, 99% of the time, your child has to go to a casting, which is usually in Los Angeles, before they are booked for a job. So, for me, living in San Clemente, that’s at the minimum, a good hour’s drive. When you get to the casting, there are two types—those that are scheduled and go very fast or open call castings. The latter are not fun—they have hundreds of kids running about and you’re looking at spending the next hour of your life in a lobby trying to entertain your child. After the casting (which in itself takes a minute and you’re doing all that you can to make your child smile), you need to find some kind of activity for your child to do before you get back in the car and sit in more traffic. This is how my child discovered McDonald’s—it’s an easy way to kill some time before you head back home. We’ve also played in cemeteries (seriously), malls, bookstores and of course, the real score, parks.
It can take lots of castings before your child books that first job, and when they do, you’ll probably be driving back up to LA. My son has done several jobs in Malibu (three hour drive) and some in Reseda and Agoura Hills (two hours). The job will be at a studio set or on location, but either way, you’ll need to entertain him in what will most likely be a small room. There’s always a “teacher” on set who helps the older kids with their homework, but sometimes you’ll get lucky and there will be a great one who has brought lots of toys for the younger kids as well. You should also bring food as you never know if there will be something provided for your child. Legally, when they are under three, they can be kept on set for four and half hours, so be prepared for everything (I found this out the hard way).
When it is time for your child to shoot, there will almost always be what’s called a “baby wrangler”. This person is in charge of making your child laugh, look in the direction of the camera, and keep him in good spirits. Again, there are good and bad ones. My son has cried uncontrollably on set because the baby wrangler’s antics scared him so. Some companies let you be on set as well, trying to make your child laugh, while others keep you in a separate room or behind a walled barricade. One important thing to remember is that your child will get paid no matter what the photos turn out like—he may not even get shot and you will still get paid the minimum time. The best situation is when your child repeatedly works for the same company—castings are virtually eliminated, your child gets to know the photographer and crew, and the entire situation is a whole lot less intimidating.
How much does it pay? Editorial jobs usually pay the least (averages about $150.00 per day) and advertising jobs pay the most (average about $150.00 an hour). Of course, these are only averages and some jobs pay less and some pay way more. A daughter of a friend of mine booked a Liz Claiborne ad and was paid $2,500!
All in all, there are a lot of cons—the driving, the “drop everything and go” (you usually find out about castings the night before) and the general stress of the situation. But, it’s a great way for your child to learn how to interact with others, the pay is usually good, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of seeing your child’s face in an ad, toy packaging, or POP in a store—no matter how much of a non-show mom you are.
Breezy Tip: Want to get your baby into pictures? Find an agency in your area and read their web site on how to apply. Agencies such as Ford Models and Jet Set generally require that you send in a photo of your child and they will then contact you if they’re interested.