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NY Acting Markets: Print/Modeling

Erica Moran, agency director of Avalon Artists Group/BMG Models, says the opportunities for New York actors in print work are huge. She's talking about ads for products ranging from pharmaceuticals to makeup to furniture, as well as the smaller market for actor-models in the pages of lifestyle features. Moran says advertisers often request actors—as opposed to gorgeous models—because the photos frequently depict relationships or attitudes toward a product, and actors are better able to convey such things.

Unlike runway models—who must be a specific height and weight—print models represent a spectrum of ages, shapes, and sizes. The emphasis is on real-looking people. "Of course, it depends on the product," says Moran, "but there is a demand for quirky-looking actors who may have gaps between their teeth, or freckles, or be a little heavy."

Rick Miller, who heads the Rick Miller Agency, agrees, explaining that there's a definite market for actor-models who are "real, friendly, and approachable. I like delicious-looking people, but not so beautiful as to be off-putting."

The downturn in the economy has diminished the volume of print modeling jobs, but actors can still supplement their income by working in the field. Jessica Seeley, who has been doing print work for six years and has appeared in ads in Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and other magazines, does one print job a week while auditioning for acting roles, and she finds that acting and print work inform each other. "When you're modeling," she says, "you are becoming someone else's idea. That gives me an opportunity to play a character." Modeling has also enriched her acting by broadening her life experience, which is essential for an actor, she explains. Equally important, it has taught her about effective lighting, how to be comfortable in front of a camera, and what her best angles are.

The competition in print modeling is very stiff. Unless a particular model is requested—and that generally won't happen early in your career—models are sent by their agents on a "go-see," where dozens of similar types are interviewed and photos are taken that simulate the job or campaign. If the model's style and appearance coincide with what the client is seeking, the model may be booked or called back. The pay can range from a few hundred dollars to $1,500 or more per day, depending on the product, the model, and the agency. Some projects pay by the hour; others pay a flat fee. Agents typically take 20 percent of the model's fee and earn an additional 20 percent from the client.

Moran likes models who have acting backgrounds, but she's even more drawn to those with special skills "that can jump-start a conversation," she says. "After that, I want to know the directors they've worked with and who has cast them."

Miller points out that it's a fast-paced world, the calls come in quickly, and the "talent always has to be in touch with a cell phone, be available the next day, return calls quickly, have great communication skills, and be honest about such problems as scheduling. Be reliable, positive, a joy to work with. Low-maintenance talent."

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