In Light of Recent Events: Part I

There has been a lot of commotion in the media lately regarding abuse in the industry (to which I say: IT’S ABOUT TIME). Much respect to everyone who has found the courage to come forward – here’s hoping that this finally gets the ball rolling in the right direction for everyone.

The sad truth is that many of the stories that I have been reading have resonated with me and, in some cases, even feature people who I have come into contact with personally over the years that I have spent in the biz. It seems that no one is impervious to dealings with seedy characters and it has become not a question of if it will happen during your career but of how often. Similarly, it is also readily apparent that many of these people are repeat offenders who attempt the same nonsense with every new face in the industry. Frankly, I think we can all agree that this is both alarming and pathetic.

First of all, nothing that I have experienced has been as, shall we say, “substantial” as the ground-breaking cases being presented publicly. I am thankful that I did not start out full-time when I was a young teenager because I believe that this has saved me a great deal of grief in terms of being harassed by unscrupulous photographers and other industry “professionals”. However, that has certainly not rendered me immune to a pretty hefty helping of bs, some of which I will share in today’s post.

My first foray into the world of the industry creep was when I was probably fifteen years old (it was certainly pre-driving licence because my mom carted me to the audition). I was on set for a “Close Up” toothpaste commercial and had just spit out the lines “For fresh breath AND white teeth, use Close Up toothpaste. Close up…you’ll love that Close Up smile!” (I remember it like it was yesterday, apparently). Anyhow, the director wasted no time in coercing me to “do it again…but way more SEXY”. I was a kid. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know the difference between sexy and freakin’ oven mitts. This, however, didn’t stop the guy from persisting. He even went so far as to tell me to lick my lips and give him a little smile “as if I wanted it”. I was confused and rather embarrassed while my mom was, justifiably, horrified. And with that, my “career” as a teenage actress was put on hold until my formative years were behind me.

A little later came my tenure with the “Miss Canada” pageant. I don’t recall anything particularly worrying occurring during my time there, other than the girl (ahem…teenager) who did some sexy dance in a bikini top beating out my painting presentation in the talent contest, which was judged by a group of middle-aged male executives. Goodtimes never seemed so good, I tell ya.

Time marched on and I began getting approached by some scouts from various modeling agencies in Montreal and Toronto. Eventually, I ended up breaking into this thing we call the “modeling industry” and it has taken me to places I never imagined would be possible, both beautiful and very, very ugly.

I recall sitting down to a nice dinner with some friends and family when my phone started ringing. I had just started working full-time and things were going pretty smoothly. However, I’ll never forget what happened next. First, the gentleman on the other end booking me for a perfectly normal-sounding catalogue shoot, which was fine. But then it got weird. He proceeded to ask me if I shot nudes (nein). He immediately expressed his great disappointment at this and ultimately persisted in trying to convince me that I could get a “little extra pay” if I stayed after and did a “personal shoot” with him. The particular catchphrase that he repeated more than I care to remember was: “Your job is to show up on set and my job is to try to get you out of your clothes once you get here”. He had that sort of loud, aggravating phone voice that people seated adjacent to you can hear without even trying to eavesdrop, so of course most of the people at the table heard this conversation and were sufficiently horrified. I informed him that I would not be attending said shoot and he followed up with an e-mail calling me a prude.

Not all of the untoward behaviour has run in the same vein. There was another guy, an – I dare say – loser “club promoter” from Toronto who began bothering me incessantly over social media over some hair shoot that he was supposedly booking that I had already told him I was not available for.  ***What club promoters have to do with booking hair shoots remains one of life’s greatest mysteries.*** Anyhow, this person somehow got ahold of my phone number (I certanily did not provide it) and called me while I was out in the boat on one of those Friday nights of yore. First of all, who calls to arrange work on a Friday evening at friggan’ 11:00 anyway?!? Nonetheless, figuring that it was someone from the biz trying to reach me due to the YYZ area code, I texted his number to explain I had only sporadic service and to feel free to text or email me details or that I would return the call once I had phone service again. I guess his reading comprehension was not up to snuff because that’s when the calls started again, many, many in a row. Not dissimilar to that one crazy ex that we all have. No, seriously. It was insane. Finally, I picked up and immediately stated “Idon’thavegoodphoneservicesoIwillprobablyloseyouanysecond” before my service cut out. Of course, Mr. Wonderful immediately called me right back and began berating me and calling me every name in the book – and some I didn’t even know existed. Before blocking his number, I was treated to another dose of crazy in the form of text messages, explaining that he would ruin my reputation because, like, WOW, who “hangs up” on him, etc, etc, etc. That was followed up by an email that taught me a few more swear words and contained some hollow threats that apparently made him feel like an important person again. Oh, and he also let me know that I would never be safe walking the streets of Toronto in the future.

I’m now getting steamed so, on that note, I am off to treat myself to a Diet Pepsi. I shall continue my thoughts and experiences in PART II in the days to come.

2015-06-06 15.32.41 HDR

 

 

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Don’t Count on Money (or anything) before it’s in your Hand

So I was out on my bike (the dirt kind, not the pedal kind) a few minutes ago and all of a sudden, the idea for a new blog post struck me – like loosely packed, fresh gravel on a country road (thanks a bunch, whoever did that…) Anyhow, I figured it was high time to blog about something that I feel is very important to consider when accepting/negotiating jobs and counting on ensuing payment, which is not counting on anything until said payment is in your hand. Literally. Below I have highlighted a few words of wisdom that I have gleaned from years in this industry that we call fashion

A little shameless self-promotion: a Valentines ad for the perfume I am the face of, Sexual by Michel Germain

A little shameless self-promotion: a Valentines ad for the perfume I am the face of, Sexual by Michel Germain

1.) Reign in job offer excitement until you are actually on set.

I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket here, and I do realize that sometimes it is hard to suppress elation over a new client or nifty sounding gig. However, it is all too common that a job has been described to me in great detail, financial compensation has been agreed upon and all the other little nitty-gritty details have been pored over and then said job never actually materializes. This is why I avoid discussing details of my work with people close to me (you know who you are and I’m sorry!) until I am physically at the location of the shoot with a camera shoved in my face.

I try to vet out clients through mutual acquaintances or do some independent research to avoid this. In addition, it is often helpful to follow-up with said clients. However, this is often one of those painfully irritating situations that one has no control over…

2.) (If working outside of an agency) prompt clients to pay on site, directly after the job…

…because I have found a direct relation between the amount of time that is allowed to elapse after the shoot increasing and your chances of actually receiving compensation decreasing. Does that make sense? I hope so. Get paid ASAP.

3.) Don’t spend money you haven’t received.

This is one of the biggest bummers of working as in independent contractor. Looking at each month, it’s nice to feel satisfied with the amount of work coming in and it can be easy to spend proportionally. However, I’ve waited literally years for certain clients to pay me (a more common scenario is 45 – 90 days in my experience, but that’s still not exactly cutting it if the mortgage is due next week). In a couple of extremely irksome instances, I have yet to get compensated at all…and if you’re guilty of that and reading this: pay me!!!

Save the drama fo' yo' mama.

Save the drama fo’ yo’ mama.

4.) Save all correspondences between you and your client

I’ve experienced the dreaded scenario where there is a small, how shall we say, conflict between myself and the customer in regards to expected compensation after the job. This has definite potential for drama but can easily be diffused if you are savvy enough to keep all records of conversation between the involved parties leading up to a shoot.

5.) Don’t take anyone’s word for gospel.

It actually bothers me to write this because I sound like a conspirator or some sh#t but do no trust anybody. Well, maybe your best friend and parents and that kind of stuff. But as earnest as somebody sounds over the interwebs or the phone, you really can’t rely on anything until after the fact.

All this being said, a little common sense goes a long way in this business and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Do your homework, ask around and be a little skeptical every now and then and everything should be copacetic.

 

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Will Work for Store Discount…

…or not.

One thing that I have found is becoming more and more common in this business we call fashion is the preponderance of clients with an affinity for offering…well…nothing in exchange for a model’s services. And by nothing, I mean nothing.

I can almost understand a start-up designer or other such business offering a newbie model a shoot for, say, an outfit. I know that there are a trillion models out there who are dying to see their face in print so maybe it’s easy for the client to justify not paying them. Our “reality tv, facebook-obsessed” culture has contributed to the fact that it’s likely not entirely difficult for them to find someone who is willing to pose just for the sake of garnering a tearsheet and/or real/perceived notoriety. Now, an experienced model probably won’t consider doing the shoot (in my case, it’s just hard to justify the cost of transport and time for something that I have three overstuffed closets full of and a portfolio that is bursting at the seams, quite literally) but at least something is being offered.

Image

After the knee surgery (it’s looking way better these days).
Photo: Thomas Dagg

However, I’m finding far too often that a seasoned model will be approached by a “client” who just “looooooves your look so much; thinks your portfolio is to die for and just knows that your face is exactly what their brand needs to take it to the next level” and then follows up with “well, I can offer a 50 percent discount in my boutique as a form of payment”. I find this attitude particularly irksome when a casting is initially described as “paid” and then this card is played. It is further aggravated by the fact that, of course, the client is always paying for a photographer, hair/mua, printing and distribution costs and so on. If I’m exactly what you need and you feel that I will benefit your brand that much, maybe you should examine making the shoot at least feasible for me to do. Most of us are pretty good at working within budgetary restrictions – you might be surprised.

Now, you might be thinking “Aw, come on Kate. Don’t be so hard on these poor start up clients”. I can assure you, I understand their plight. But I can safely say that even a limited budget is better than store credit (in my opinion, anyway). Discounts don’t pay my mortgage or put food in my bulldog’s mouths, yanno what I’m saying? And when I’m basically being asked to spend money in order to work (because you will have to shell out at the designer’s boutique in order to get that fifty percent off) it becomes a little pointless to proceed with the shoot. And sometimes, just sometimes, these are not “small, independent clients” who are offering no rates in exchange for your services. But that’s another issue entirely…

 

 

 

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Let’s Not Waste Each Other’s Time

As some of you lovely readers know, I recently underwent some surgery wherein I basically received a brand spankin’ new right knee, and as a result, I’ve been a bit under the weather for the past few weeks. So before the Hydromorphone fully sinks in, I shall kick off this blog post.

What some people outside of the industry may be surprised to learn is that there exists a phenomenon called “pre-shoot meetings” (or phone calls) that every professional photo subject I know regards wearily. In short, this ritual consists of the photographer suggesting that he (and in my experience it is always a he but I really don’t mean to generalize) and the model in question “meet up” as a way of “breaking the ice” and “highlighting expectations” (although I’ve heard it put much less eloquently) before a shoot. In theory, I suppose, the model sees it as a casting of sorts. That is how I justified the few meetings or calls I subjected myself to, at least.

In reality, by and large, this meeting/phone conversation consists of said photographer bragging about his accomplishments, bad-mouthing every other photographer in their respective city, yammering about their car/dog/penthouse/ex-girlfriend, and specifying why their artistic vision is so mystical and special…before going back to bragging about past accomplishments. And ex-girlfriends (always models).

"Afrika" editorial by Ed Huang

“Afrika” editorial by Ed Huang

Below is a run-down of a pre-shoot meeting that I had the “pleasure” of attending many years ago (how I lament this experience, but it does make great fodder for my blog, now doesn’t it?) I swear on all that is holy, this anecdote is 115 percent true.

Photographer: rushes into hipster coffee shop of his choosing several minutes after the agreed upon meeting time. Looks around cooly for someone resembling my pictures. Notices me and saunters over. Does not remove oversized aviator sunglasses. Air kisses ensue. Sits down. Orders a large, skinny vanilla latte with extra foam. Still does not remove sunglasses. Plunks fancy BMW key ring on table with fancy BMW keys attached. Right. In. Front. Of. My. Nose. BMW symbol facing up. Always.

Me: “Drive a BMW, do ya?” (trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to contain sarcasm)

Photographer: (looks sheepish and snatches keys away, jamming them into the pocket of his 7 For All Mankind jeans) “Heh heh. Yep”.

Me: “So…the shoot?” (referring to the supposed reason why we are together in the first place)

Photographer: “So what do you know about me? (no pause) I suppose you’ve heard of my work for _______. Well, that was commissioned by ________. They are very important people. Like, THE most important people in the French fashion industry. They ONLY work with me now. The owner, _______? Well, he drives a BMW as well. Although not as nice as mine because of _______. You’ve heard of ________? Well, I discovered her. I MADE her career….” (conversation goes on…and on…and on. And by conversation, I mean me half-listening to him explaining why the entire fashion industry revolves around him and why everyone I have ever worked with in the past can’t hold a candle to his talent and charisma).

Me: “I have a really long drive home and it’s approaching rush hour…”

Him: “Oh of course!” (proceeds to talk for another 45 minutes, ignoring subtleties like me glancing at the time, shifting my feet, attempting to get up, etc. Finally claps his well-jewelled hands upon the table and states loudly enough for the three surrounding tables to hear “Well, I’ve got an important engagement at 5 pm. I’m really sorry my dear, but I will have to leave you now”.

Little to no actual discussion of “the shoot” he was supposedly hiring me for actually took place, no matter how many times I tried to steer the conversation in that direction. Was I perhaps a bit naive? Of course. I would never agree to such a meeting (or phone call) anymore.

So what is the lesson that I learned? If you don’t want to be trapped on the phone or at a coffee-house for hours upon hours with a Chatty Cathy whose favourite subject is he, himself and him, always send all pertinent details via email. Offer polariods, references – whatever the other party requires to make them feel comfortable. Offer to call, if truly necessary, but set limitations from the get-go, like stating that you are between engagements and only have ten minutes to discuss the shoot. Because really…what details need to be discussed that take more than ten minutes?

The problem with these solutions is that the pre-shoot meeting initiator (ie. photographer) has never, in any case that myself or a colleague has experienced, actually been serious about hiring for a shoot in the first place. This is evidenced by the vague terms that are used to describe the potential “shoot” and by a total lack of all pertinent details. So why would the photographer bother? I figure it comes down to ego stroking and the opportunity to hear themselves talk about their favourite subject to what they feel is a captive and impressionable audience.

I am in no way discounting actual casting calls or phone calls to firm up details of a real job. I can be quite social (sometimes so social that memory loss ensues, but I digress…) and am unafraid of the telephone. However, there is an obvious difference between these legitimate discussions and a superfluous “pre shoot meeting” or phone call that lasts the entire afternoon…for a shoot that doesn’t exist.

Near as I can figure, ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

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Dear Kate…I Really Wanna Model…

Happy 2014, yo!

As a precursor to composing this post, I would like to mention that my lovely, albeit clumsy dog stepped on my laptop’s keyboard yesterday and rendered it slightly useless. As a result, I am avoiding the use of the letter “m” as mmmmmuch as possible because that key is currently not attached to said keyboard by anything more than hopes and dreams. I also mention this as an attempt to garner sympathy from anyone reading this.

Anyhoo, a few years ago, I heard about a fairly successful Canadian model who was charging newbies by the minute for advice re. the industry. I remember thinking at the time that she was being a bit of a d*nk because, hey, shouldn’t we all be out to help one another? It’s a tough, dirty business. If we don’t support one another, who is going to support us? Well, fast forward a bit to my current situation…I now know exactly how that other girl felt and I am heavily contemplating doing the same.

Gratuitous picture insert of some of my work for Ecksand

Gratuitous picture insert of some of my work for Ecksand

I get a fairly staggering amount of private messages from would-be models of all ages and types, male and female, every week. They started trickling in around 2009 or ’10 and now it’s pretty much a constant flow. Now, if these messages were based on reality, were legitimate/warranted and at the very frikkin’ least sounded grateful you wouldn’t be reading this right now. But alas…you are. So what’s the problem? It’s the piss-poor attitude and warped sense of reality that the majority of these people exhibit.

Example A:

Unsolicited Message on Bookface:  “I’m determined to be the next [insert famous model’s name here] and nothing is going to stop me! Can you hook me up with a/your/the best agency? Also, tell me exactly what to do in order to achieve this.”

Kate: “[Insert basic formalities]. I would like to help you but I need some information first. What is your current height/size? I could then recommend a few decent agencies for you to look into in order to check out when their open call days are. Then you can find out the agent’s opinion firsthand, as I don’t know what they are specifically looking for but I do know their basic requirements. Thanks.”

Bookface: “I’m 5’2″. I know you think that’s too short but I don’t care. I’m determined to make this my career and nothing will stop me. Can’t you just get me into an agency? I don’t know what an open call is and I would rather skip all that stuff”.

Kate: “Good luck”.

Bookface: “So when can I sign with your agency?”

Bookface: “I don’t want to have to deal with all of that. Can you just get me signed with your agency? They will pay for me to travel everywhere, right?”

Bookface: “I don’t have any money at the moment and I really want to start making money modeling because I know how good the money is. I just need to get signed”.

Sadly shaking my head...

Sadly shaking my head…

Example B:

Random e-mail from a complete stranger: “Hi Kate. Love your work; you’re so awesome. I was wondering if you could answer some questions for me…[insert list of questions twelve paragraphs long].”

Kate: [Spends thirty or more minutes answering questions succinctly and politely]

Random e-mailer: [nothing]

Kate: Uh…you’re welcome?

You may think that these are exaggerated for the purpose of entertainment but I swear on all that is holy they aren’t the least bit contrived or, sadly, rare. I don’t mind helping the odd person out who legitimately appreciates and understands the advice that I am imparting upon them. However, those lovely people are the exception and, frankly, I would rather be doing a lot of other things, like snowmobiling or drinking vodka, than answering self-righteous and entitled inquiries. Unless I’m being paid, as it were.

So in closing, if you don’t know much about the business and fancy yourself savvy enough to be the next Tyson Beckford, please also be savvy enough to educate yourself…but if you’re reading this right now then you’re off to a good start. I reckon.

Wings on top, sukkah!

 

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On Height and the Industry

Upon meeting people for the first (or second…or third) time, one of the things that rarely escapes mention is my height – or abundance thereof. If said person is not aware that I model, comments will generally be made that I should (model). If the individual knows that I do this, they will make exclamatory remarks about how much of an asset my height is.

Now, let it be noted for the record that I DO NOT, NOT appreciate these comments. In fact, the opposite is true. *Thank you to all of the lovely people who make mention of it and appreciate my gangly attributes.* The point of this blog, rather, is to dispel some myths about height relating to the modeling industry.

In my experience, it has rarely, if ever, been beneficial to be over 5’9″. I am about half an inch shy of 6′ (5’11.5″ as my agency says). I know this because a doctor measured me about two months ago. Is it possible to be over 20 years old and female and still growing? Anyway, I digress…

NO ONE is taller than Chuck Norris.

NO ONE is taller than Chuck Norris.

The point is, clients in Canada generally would like female models to be about 5’9″. There are a few reasons I have detected over the years for this. One is that designer sample sizes simply are not produced for females in the 6′ range. Another is that if you are working with a male model, they are rarely taller than you (again, this is coming from my experience) and then the photographer will need to place them on a phone book or you in bare feet…or both. And sometimes that’ll ruin a full body shot, yanno? The same logic applies to working with other female models. There is a marked difference between someone who is 5’9″ and someone who is 2 -3″ taller. That’s generally not the esthetic that a photographer or client wants for group shots…and then you get into the use of bare feet, creative posing or phone books.

Over the years, I have amassed a dirty pile of nicknames that run the gamut from “Spider Monkey” to “String Bean” and been likened to a bad weed. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. But now you all know why it’s not the super coolest thing to be as tall as I am – in the Canadian modeling industry.

Photo: Babak Hair: Palma Anshilevich

Photo: Babak
Hair: Palma Anshilevich

 

 

 

 

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First Post of 2013 – Ice Pilots, Yo

So it’s May…and it’s also my first blog post of 2013. And what of it?

You may recall a post I wrote back in March of 2012 about traveling to Yellowknife to shoot an episode of Ice Pilots NWT with my dear pal Mikey McBryan and company. It was a tremendous time and the race results are in! Check out the full episode here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bv-ilFUHRfw. I said “cumbersome”. Hehe.

Thanks again to all my fabulous friends (old and new) up in Yellowknife as well as the terrific photographers, wardrobe stylists, hair/makeup artists, etc. who supplied their work for the episode. And a special shout out to all of the amazing and truly dedicated staff who work on this awesome show. Its absolutely best reality series ever made! Watch it!

Talk soon.

April 29, 2013 231

Every post needs an accompanying picture

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