So you meet with a potential agency and the response goes something like "We love your child's look and we'd like to work with him/her. Here's a contract/package for you to sign and then we'll get started". Somewhere in the document you'll see words like "Exclusive" or mention of payment plans totaling $1000 - $8000 for classes, photoshoots or other industry services. RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!!! Exclusive is not so bad as long as it's only holding you hostage to a specific state, which should be a small state with great clients but very little competition like NC, VA, MA, CT, or OH. Larger markets like NYC, Philly, L.A. and so on have way too much to offer and working as a freelance actor/model is best for NEW talent. Gain some experience, learn the industry and then consider exclusive contracts in major markets. Say "NO" to the costly packages if the agency requires one to move forward, if its optional than turn it down and start to build a relationship with the agency. For exclusive contract offers, or any offer, ask for time to read it over (at home) and respond within a reasonable time with a YES (after weighing all options and consulting an industry expert, like ME!!!!) or respond with a polite "We appreciate the opportunity to work with your agency, however, we'd like to discuss options outside of an exclusive contract like...". You decide what your counter offer is and go from there, all they can do is say no and that's OK because you weren't going to sign the exclusive contract anyway. An example could be working together for a 3 month trial period and re-assessing the exclusive contract at that point based on mutual satisfaction between parent and agency. FYI: Pushing back or negotiating is NOT the industry standard but I believe it should be. Usually, parents will either pay the money, sign the contract and take the risk of being scammed and/or totally unsatisfied or they'll turn down the offers. Either way, they give up out of frustration or lack of knowledge because of these "Take it or Leave It" offers. It's time to get empowered parents! Fight for your Talented Young Folks and help make their dreams come true. The entertainment industry is one that most people are either publicly or secretly desiring to break into, which means there's always someone preying on unknowledgeable, eager, interested parties. The industry standard can only change once the majority gets educated and uses their power of knowledge to drive different outcomes. With that being said, there are tons of great reputable agencies available, so do yourself and your wallet a favor and be patient while you seek them out. You will have to invest in your child's career but it doesn't have to come with a ridiculous, unreciprocated price tag. Initial investments should be expected for minimal website fees and other marketing expenses, affordable photoshoots, traveling expenses and training with reputable industry experts with relevant credits from the area of training.
Final Thoughts: Contracts are where parents go wrong. You absolutely have to be the agent for your child when seeking agency representation. YOU are the agency representing the child's best interest until they get an agency to represent their best talent interests. Even then, you are still their agency watching over the agency representing them. Know your stuff! Put on your business hat and view all offers with a mental microscope. Don't ever be pressured or desperate to the point of signing on the "It will take us years to recover from this decision" dotted line.
As always, TYF is available to you in various ways to assist with your creative journey. Talented Young Folks is the advocate for parents, you can lean on us! Happy Holidays!
Talented Young Folks Founder