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Observations from a Casting Call

February 24, 2006

You usually aren't going to know what to expect when you go to a casting. For the models that attended the Pink Tartan casting over the past two evenings that was indeed the case.

Paola Fullerton, who runs the casting, knows about models; she knows the difference between a Stella Tennant stomp and a Jacquetta Wheeler stride. She knows Pink Tartan's clothes - she knows Pink Tartan's customers. And despite the fact Pink Tartan has direct-booked the likes of Lisa Cant, Agnieszka Wichniewicz and Yasmin Warsame in the past year, Fullerton isn't afraid to book a brand new girl if that will help the customers relate to the clothes.

Last year I spoke to James Scully, who has cast shows for the likes of Stella McCartney, Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Carolina Herrera and Derek Lam, to get a sense of what makes his shows successful. "There are certain girls that I really like, that I like all the way through," he told me, "but I like to create casts for designers rather than just booking a girl."

For Scully if he sees a brand new girl that would work well in his cast, he's willing to take a chance. "I tend to fall in love really quickly and get really inspired. I want to be inspired."

That's exactly what Pink Tartan is going after as well. This collection (which I'm not going to say much about before the big show itself) is different from seasons past. As a result, Fullerton threw open Pink Tartan's doors to 145 new and established models to try to get an inspirational cast. Seven other models were already put on hold, which means less than 10% of these models will likely earn a spot in the prestigious show.

Jessica Weinstein is another top casting professional in New York. I spoke to her backstage at the Cynthia Steffe show. "I always like a couple of new, up-and-coming faces," she told me. "And depending on the designer - some designers prefer newer girls to the more established girls. Some like girls that are more established. It all depends on how it works together. I think that's all part of the casting process."

How it all works together is what it comes down to. And when you're competing against close to 150 other models for a handful of spots you have to know how to take advantage of the opportunity to be seen.

With that, here are some observations (my own, and some overheard from the others around the casting table):

1. It is extremely important you look comfortable in heels. Don't wear slingbacks, don't wear hooker heels. Both are going to make your walk more awkward and impress nobody.

2. Have a clean, organized portfolio. Don't shove a bunch of stuff in the back that isn't meant to be seen. When the book lands in front of me nothing is off-limits and I look through everything to get a sense of the model. Loading the back pocket full of old photos that aren't good enough to be in the rest of the book is a bad idea. The only things that should be in the pockets are comp cards, vouchers, or items related to the current casting.

3. Edit your portfolio before you get to the casting. The not-so-artful nude shots you did for the Athens market aren't going to impress Pink Tartan. Some nudes are fine if they're tasteful, but your booker should know the difference.

4. Pull yourself together. As nervous as you may be standing around a bunch of other gorgeous, confident models you only get one chance to impress the client (and if the client is Paola Fullerton, she remembers girls from season-to-season). Make eye contact, smile when you're told to smile, and listen to instructions. Modelling is a lot like acting and if you can't play a role for the three minutes you're in front of the client you aren't going to get the part.

5. Show off your style, but don't hide your figure. It used to be that models wore a simple black dress to castings. Although you still want your best features seen, clients tend to be fashion-conscious people and are more likely to remember you if you put yourself together well.

6. Show the client you are serious by asking a few questions like "Do you want Paris Hilton, Charlize Theron or Joan Jett?" or "do you want a slight, sexy smile, or a big, glowing smile?" Remember, the client WANTS you to do well, because it puts them in a more confident position at decision-making time. If a client is willing to take the time to watch close to 150 models, they will be happy to take 15 seconds to answer questions for those that are serious about doing it properly.



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