Tips for Modeling in the COVID Era
Whether we like it or not, there's a lot going on that has taken all of us out of the norms, routines and habits we've all come to enjoy. When life throws you lemons, you make lemonade and every industry in existence has had to learn to overcome unexpected hurdles, do damage control and adapt to conducting business in an entirely new way.
The modeling industry, both the freelance world and at the agency level, is no exception.
Navigating the best way to conduct business safely should be the main priority for everyone and you should never be subjected or pressured into coming out of a comfort zone that you have established so let's make the clear up front.
By the same token, it is also crucial to consider the people around you and respect their boundaries as well, whether you see eye-to-eye or not. Only by being mature, professional, courteous and kind can we hope to come together to continue to create beautiful work while having everyone's health and best interests at heart.
That being said, I wanted to do a post to address some helpful tips and things to keep in mind as models of all experience levels begin slowly but surely getting back into the swing of things. The information below isn't absolute or set in stone but should more or less serve as helpful reminders and not all might apply to you, which is totally fine.
AGENCY REPRESENTED MODELS
One of the perks of having an agent in your corner is their ability to take the lead on subjects such as resuming bookings and scheduling models for castings, go-sees, direct bookings, etc.
Make sure you are in touch with your agent and find out what their plan of action is, if they haven't sent out an email announcement in regards to this already. Follow whatever their recommendations are and if you have questions or concerns, don't be afraid to ask. Keeping the lines of communication open during this time is essential. Agencies understand that people are worried and they'll do their best to answer any questions and keep everyone on their roster updated.
Touch base with your agent as well if you have upcoming bookings to find out if they will still happen as scheduled or if it'll be postponed/cancelled. If those assignments will be moving forward as planned, your agent will forward you information from the client with details related to the safety precautions you'll need to follow when you arrive and what to expect (i.e. temperature checks).
Your agent's job is to make sure you're properly prepared so if you haven't heard anything from them for whatever reason, drop them an email to inquire and take things from there.
It is important to keep the lines of communication open with all clients, photographers and other industry professionals you are currently working with or were in the process of working with. Review your calendar of appointments/castings/bookings and touch base with each person to find out what new arrangements need to be made, if any.
Make sure to have everyone on the same page and don't be afraid to ask those you're working with what safety precautions they'll have on-hand when you arrive to work together. In the event that they cannot provide or do not have access to basic safety resources, you might want to reconsider working with them until a safer environment can be setup. In this instance, your health, safety and peace of mind (along with everyone else who would be involved) should be priority.
Depending on your comfort level, it is entirely up to you to decide when you want to get back into modeling. Clients and photographers who value you and are reputable will understand wanting to reschedule or postpone things until you feel ready.
If they decide to go with a different model, that is their decision and you shouldn't take it personally. There will be other gigs. So be prepared for either outcome and respond professionally at all times, even if things don't go in your favor.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
In the beginning of the pandemic models and photographers/clients were much more hesitant to do business but these days more people are getting comfortable with shooting indoors and outdoors, as long as the proper precautions are taken.
If you fall under that category and are ready to start working again, it is important that you take personal stock in your safety by equipping yourself with basic PPE (personal protective equipment). These items should be with you at ALL times: in your car, bag/purse, etc. so you don't run the risk of being without in the event that PPE cannot be provided for you:
- Masks (cloth masks are ideal due to comfort and the ability to toss them in the laundry for reuse)
- Gloves (they come in bulk so it's easier to stock up on, while leaving enough to go around for other customers...opt for the kind without powder inside)
- Hand Sanitizer (in the event that you aren't wearing gloves, hand sanitizer and frequent hand washing are known to be very effective in keeping yourself safe against COVID)
- Disinfecting wipes (these are still out of stock in many places but definitely try to grab some if you can)
Never assume these materials will be provided for you, just FYI. It is everyone's responsibility to be accountable for themselves. It would be nice for PPE to be on-hand at every shoot but sometimes that isn't possible and isn't necessarily the fault of the photographer/client. As long as you have what you need, you'll always be in a winning position.
The same goes with not having the proper equipment to do temperature checks. Bigger budget shoots tend to have these but they can be pricey and in short supply so don't expect them to be available at every gig you book.
When it comes to doing shoots, talk to your photographer about expectations. It's entirely okay to ask them to wear a mask while you're shooting or ask them what their policy is when it comes to PPE and how they do their shoots.
I've asked many photographer colleagues of mine about this and the majority of them said they have no problem wearing a mask to ensure a model is comfortable--especially considering that the model him/herself wouldn't be wearing one while the shoot is happening.
Others said if the shoot is outdoors and they are six feet or further from the model, then they likely wouldn't wear the mask but would immediately put one on in between shooting or if they needed to get closer to the model. For indoor shoots, a large majority said they wear masks.
If you have a photographer who doesn't believe in wearing masks or who has an opposing view of the precautionary measures that should be taken, it is up to you to decide whether or not that is someone you want to work with. It is important that you shoot with photographers who are on the same page as you and will respect your comfort level and health concerns.
WAYS TO STAY PREPARED FROM HOME
As agencies and clients work to adapt to doing business during a pandemic, you might find yourself dealing with new approaches to submitting for castings, such as self taped submissions. Actors have already been diving into this new normal but for models it might not be quite as familiar.
Whether this will end up applying to you or not, it's still helpful to get an idea of what you might expect should you be asked by your agent or a potential client to send in a self tape.
As the name implies, a self taped submission is a video of yourself that you put together at home. That doesn't mean anything goes, however. It is your responsibility to create a professional looking, good quality video to the best of your ability.
The basic guidelines are very similar--if not identical--to the ones you'd follow when creating non-professional snapshots aka "digitals" to send to an agency:
- Shoot against a plain background.
- Make sure you have good lighting. Natural light is ideal but make sure you aren't standing in front of a window or you'll be completely dark.
- Film your self tape in a quiet environment (i.e. no TV noise in the background, dogs barking or people talking).
- You should be the only person in the video from beginning to end.
- Unless told otherwise, shoot your video horizontally and make sure you're properly framed (your head and feet shouldn't be cut off).
- Use a tripod or stand to hold your cell phone if you use your phone. A friend or family member with steady hands will also do.
- Unless told otherwise, dress in fitted clothing (swimsuits usually are not necessary and you should NEVER send self tapes of yourself in underwear, semi-nude or nude...EVER). Clothing should be solid in color with no graphics, logos, brand names or tight patterns like stripes or polka dots.
- Hair should be worn the way you normally have it, unless told otherwise, and makeup should be natural.
Exactly what you will need to do in the self tape will vary from project to project so follow exactly what each one requires. Some might ask you to do a closeup of your face and introduce yourself by stating your name and then turning to show both profiles. Others might ask you to do this but using a full body frame.
For requests to showcase your runway walk, you'll need to get creative and identify a spot in or outside of your home that will give you the proper space to demonstrate this. I'm sure the client/agent requesting this will give much more detailed instructions but a YouTube search is a good resource to give you an idea of how you can tape yourself doing a walk.
In the instance that you don't have someone to help you put a self tape together, that's when taking initiative and setting aside time to do trial and error will benefit you greatly. Don't simply give up and decline to send anything in because you can't do it by yourself. You can! I've done last minute self taped requests where I was in the middle of traveling between airports and let the client know I would get them my submission once I touched down and checked into my hotel. And, yes, I made that deadline and shot my video in the hotel bathroom!
If you really want to get booked, taking the steps to learn these new approaches and master them so you can be a strong contender (whether you have extra hands to help you or not) will show resilience and make a great impression on the client/agent and show you're the type of model who is not afraid to do whatever it takes to send in your materials on time.
Instead of letting the pandemic scare you out of working, embrace the change and learn to adapt so you become a stronger and more competent model than you were before this all began. Your career will thank you for it in the long run. If this all sounds like too much "work," then I'm sad to say, this may not be the career for you.