Child Models: How To Navigate Casting & Go-Sees

Jan 24th, 2013

In order for clients to meet with prospective child models, they set up an interview that is oftentimes called a go-see or casting or audition, depending on the market; although the term audition is traditionally used for TV, film or stage.  From here on, I’ll use the term go-see, which is standard in New York City. Sometimes clients will set a limit on the number of models they want to see for a specific job.  If an agency represents 100 children and the client only wants to see 30 of the best, how do they decide?  Every agent has their own method, but from my personal experience, the kids who book jobs on a consistent basis are at the top of the list. However, a good agent always wants to impress their clients with fresh new faces.  The agent will do their best to supply the client with a group of models they believe are best for the specific project and, of course, some children will be left out.


Sometimes clients may prescreen models for a go-see from comp cards or the agency’s website and ask to see specific models, which is called a request. If you hear about a go-see that your child was not sent to, don’t jump to conclusions. You have to trust that your agent knows what the client’s needs are and there will be other opportunities down the road.  Agents are not obligated to send every model out all the time, nor is it possible. I have heard of some parents going as far as crashing a go-see, but this is extremely unprofessional and will definitely put you on the agent’s bad side.


As with the photo shoot, only show up with your child.  Don’t bring your other children or family members – that is unprofessional.  There are many different types of go-sees, and you’ve probably heard of a “cattle call,” which is when a client calls many agencies and asks to see a large group of models at one time. Cattle calls can be overwhelming and lengthy, so it’s important to bring toys or activities to keep your child occupied. Always make sure your child is prepared and alert for a go-see, because these meetings are what really count.  Make sure your child has had a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast, and is well groomed.  It’s also important that your child be dressed appropriately. Casting agent Jennifer Venditti is careful to note: “I want kids to come as themselves.  They should dress in what they feel most comfortable in.  I hate it when kids get dressed up for ‘the part.’  Excessive grooming and dressing is just unnecessary.”


You must really be aware of how your child is acting at the go-see. If he or she is too shy or afraid, it’s a good indication that your child is not ready for the business. It doesn’t mean that something is wrong with a child, since each one will have a different response.  Photographer Liz Banfield shares her story: “I once had a toddler who immediately began crying when she walked into the audition and the mother would not give up, even after 15 minutes.  When I suggested that it wasn’t going to work out, the mother stormed out.  But from my perspective, a child who can’t handle a low-key audition is certainly not going to be up for an actual shoot where the pressure is really on and there are many more strangers and strange things happening.  You shouldn’t expect the photographer to be patient and wait for your child to warm up, because whatever he or she does at the audition will surely be repeated at the shoot itself.  I’m never going to book a child, no matter how cute, who shows up crying at my audition.  It’s so simple, but you’d be surprised how many parents don’t understand this.”


A go-see may be held at different locations, sometimes at a client’s office and other times at a photo studio. In Miami, for instance, where many clients come from out of town for location work, it’s not uncommon for the go-see to be held in the lobby of a hotel.  Upon arrival, you’ll be asked to sign in and identify which agency sent you.  If you are multi-listed, it’s very important to remember the agency that sent you so there is no confusion. A digital photo of your child may be taken on the spot, which will be attached to his or her  registration form.  In general, go-sees are very quick; your child will probably be seen by the client for a couple of minutes or less. Producer Jo Wagner advises: “Parents need to understand that no decision is going to be made that day…they need to be prepared for the fact that they’re only going to be with a photographer for five minutes or less, and then we’re going to say, ‘Okay, thanks.  We’ll let you know.’”


At first, this quick experience can be somewhat shocking for new modeling parents, especially at cattle calls when they’ve waited awhile to get their child in front of the client.   Don’t be alarmed! Those clients are not shortchanging your child,  but do know what they’re looking for and don’t need more than several minutes for an evaluation. Don’t take the whole go-see process too seriously. Carol Lynn Sher, Senior Agent and Director of Commercials and Print, CESD Young Talent Division in Los Angeles, cautions: “Timing how long the other kid’s audition is versus your child’s is the first step in becoming a stage parent.  Grilling your child the moment he or she comes out of the audition about what they said and what was asked of them leads to a lot of performance anxiety in kids. The number one rule of auditions for parents is to try to make the casting as much fun as getting the job.”


When it’s all over, the client makes a final decision and then contacts the agencies  and books the children they have chosen for the job. Sometimes the booking process takes some time, because there may be additional people involved in the final model selection who don’t attend the initial go-see. For instance, a casting director may be hired by a client to prescreen models for a specific job, and they may see hundreds of children and select the ones who fit their client’s criteria. In many circumstances, there is a callback, when a smaller group of selected models goes back a second time so the client can make a final decision; this is necessary when certain members of the advertising team were not at the original go-see.  Callbacks are pretty common for TV or film projects, especially when a large production team is involved and everyone doesn’t have time to participate in the initial auditions.


There’s no formula to a callback, so don’t stress out by speculating on your child’s chances. Sometimes clients just want to see certain children again to make sure they hire the best models for their project; other times, they just want to find out who fits the clothing.  Clients may put several children being considered “on hold” which can also be called “on avail”; if clients are unable to make a decision, they want the schedules for those kids open on the day of the shoot.  A “hold” is nothing definite, so don’t put too much emphasis on it or you’ll end up disappointed, because many times the client will not confirm the booking.  In certain circumstances, a client makes a decision based solely on a comp card or becomes comfortable working with your child and books directly without having to see him or her in person—this is called a direct booking.  All parents dream of direct bookings because less running around is required, especially if they live outside of the area.


After the go-see, you’ll be dying of curiosity (like most parents), but it’s not a good idea to call the modeling agency to inquire about how your child did or to report on how it went.  Agents are extremely busy, so it’s always best to wait for their call.  Some agents are sympathetic toward a new parent, and will politely explain that they’ll call if the child gets the job.  If the parents don’t heed that advice, but keep calling, it may affect their relationship with the agency in a negative way. Just remember, the agency makes money when your child works, so they certainly won’t withhold booking information from you and risk losing the commission. If several days have gone by, and you still haven’t got a call from the agency, most likely your child did not get the job, but bookings can still come in at the last minute.


I believe the best way to handle these stressful situations from the start is to just let it go. If you are constantly anxious about your child getting the job, it’ll eventually drive you and your child crazy.  It’s fine to get excited, but you also must learn how to relax and enjoy the experience.  It’s certainly unhealthy to project such anxiety onto your child, who is far too young to be drawn into the chaos and stress that adults deal with on a daily basis.  If you put too much pressure on children about getting the job, it’ll make them feel like a failure when they don’t book it.  Lindsay Stewart, Director of the Children’s Division at Jet Set Models in Los Angeles, agrees: “I believe that parents who look at this as a fun opportunity for their child and do not dwell too much on the end result of booking the job create a healthier experience.  I encourage parents not to focus on bookings with their kids, but more or less to make the castings a part of the job


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