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All About ProScout

April 18, 2006

ProScout's President Brian Marcus sums it up best. "There are upsides and downsides to ProScout. The upside is you're going directly to meet the agents. The downside is, if you're not ready and willing to play ball and give your best shot to get to the big time, it's not going to work for you."

It's easy to find negative judgments of ProScout - especially online - but much more difficult to find a balanced, thoughtful review. I wanted to hear from Marcus before I wrote anything of my own, and recently I had that chance.

ProScout, to their credit, allowed me full access to the agents in attendance, and let me observe the competition and callbacks without restriction.

The following insights are not meant as the final word on ProScout. This article is merely intended to shed some light on the event, based on research and my knowledge of the industry.

If you don't have what it takes to be a model, ProScout can't help with that
This is a tough industry to break into and if you aren't willing to do the research to find out what agencies are looking for, that isn't anyone's fault but your own. Sorry if that sounds blunt, but I've come across far too many people that won't accept the truth.

The fact is, good agencies understand what types of models their clients hire, and don't string along people that don't have potential to make money under their management. ProScout will introduce you to good agencies, but that doesn't guarantee those agents are going to want to introduce you to their clients. Do your research before you spend your money.

ProScout is geared towards newcomers to the industry
There are a lot of investments when you are a new model. ProScout believes they can help you cut some of those costs by giving you realistic information from some of the top people in the industry. In theory, if you hear what is required from industry professionals, you won't waste your time and money on things you don't need.

Furthermore, they are bringing together agents representing dozens of markets. If you aren't sure which markets are best for you, having a bunch of international scouts in one room makes it more likely your market will find you.

Most scouts are happy to deal with mother agents, but that isn't why they come to ProScout
I was shocked to see an established model at ProScout, whose respected Toronto agency was actively promoting her. This girl has worked in Milan, and probably could have done fine without ProScout.

If you only want to work in the city you live in, you probably don't need ProScout
Agents come from long distances to find models for their market, and if you aren't interested in travel, ProScout probably isn't worth the money you will be spending.

ProScout DOES deliver on their promise to have top scouts and agents in attendance
Brian Marcus' words: "Read our materials and listen to our staff. Nobody's promising fame or fortune. We're saying 'Hey, you want to meet the agents? You got it!' And we deliver on that."

Not every top agency is represented, but a lot are. If you have the potential to be a top model, you are going to be seen by people that can get you there.

Canadian agencies support ProScout
That isn't to say they don't support other events too, but ProScout does pay for the agents' flights, meals and accommodations. It makes for an excellent opportunity to network and meet potential models they might otherwise miss.

The best example might be Ontario's Elite finding B.C.'s Bobbi Wiens at a ProScout event in Alberta. ProScout makes relationships like that possible.

Unequivocally I believe Canadian models should find a good Canadian mother agency before they look elsewhere, and although dozens of international agencies were represented at the Toronto event, at least 15 agencies from Vancouver to Montréal were also in attendance.

International agents support ProScout
Not all top Canadian models have Canadian mother agencies. ProScout discovery Ingrid Schram is from Kelowna and placed with Elite, but her Mother Agent is J.J. Cortez of mgmt.first (New York & L.A.).

Even if you are attending ProScout (or a similar event) with the intention of getting a Canadian mother agency, having the chance to meet with staff from IMG, Code or even American arms of agencies that have offices in Canada (like Next) is a huge bonus. How far you progress in the industry depends on your willingness to learn and make connections.

You should know that if you are attending a ProScout event in Canada you will be sharing the stage with American hopefuls as well. It isn't a competition however, and any agency will be happy to sign ten models if they believe they can find work for all of them. Don't worry about who else is there.

ProScout has evolved
To be honest, what I first witnessed in 1997 left me feeling uneasy. At the time there wasn't much of a talent component to support aspiring actors. That has changed.

In 1997 potential models had no opportunity to interact with the scouts, unless they were requested to do so. That too has changed.

Some questionable personalities (I'm thinking of one Cleveland-based agent in particular) figured prominently a decade ago. With this year's group I saw nothing offensive.

Agents don't require a lot of time to assess a model's potential
One of the biggest complaints I've heard about ProScout is that potential models don't get a good chance to be seen. The fact is, it doesn't take a trained eye very long to see what they're looking for. If agents are even remotely interested in a model's potential they will request a callback to learn more.

There is a distinct advantage to meeting several agents at one time
Agents do sometimes (rarely) sign a model just from photos, but they are far more likely to take someone they have met. At ProScout, as Marcus states "If one agent loves you, every other agent knows it. That critical mass is here." In other words, when you get a lot of agents in one room, interesting models start to look even more interesting, and that isn't going to happen over e-mail or at an open call.

ProScout can't make you come to their event
I've heard from people that felt pressured to make a quick decision about their attendance at ProScout. If you're uneasy, walk away. If you aren't sure this is the right event for you, and can't afford to spend a few hundred dollars to find out - don't stress about it.

There are other ways to get discovered
If you are more comfortable visiting agencies at your own pace (and on their open call schedules), it might save you some money. It will definitely take a lot more of your time however, and limit your exposure.

ProScout has a lot of their own expenses
If you're wondering where the registration money goes, according to Brian Marcus:
  • Each weekend ProScout pays for between 75 and 80 staff, scouts and speakers to fly to the event, and covers their meals and accommodations.
  • ProScout, not surprisingly, is also required to pay for the meeting rooms, and has to provide a substantial upfront deposit to secure the space.
  • Then there's the cost of sending the advance teams across North America to do the initial screening.
  • Of course there are staff salaries, and physical office expenses as well.
  • The biggest cost, however, is one Marcus feels most people wouldn't even think about. ProScout advertises its events on radio stations all over the U.S. and Canada (and I can tell you as a former radio announcer, those ads are not cheap).

    The million dollar question... would I endorse ProScout?
    For certain people I would. It isn't the only event I would endorse, nor do I feel it is for everyone, but I didn't take exception with anything I saw at the recent Toronto session.

    The agencies were stellar, and the scouts took their work very seriously. The only thing I found disappointing was the number of attendees that made little or no effort to figure out what agencies were looking for before they showed up. But that isn't ProScout's fault.

    If you are serious about modelling and brand new to the industry, ProScout is a legitimate, effective way to be seen and pick up some valuable information.