Testing is a great way for a young model to build her skill set and experience, but it isn’t without it’s pitfalls. Like anything in life, the knowledge (or lack thereof) you take with you to each opportunity will either protect you or send you running for the hills. Using the safety-nets you have around you will help you avoid those unfortunate experiences and keep you on track to your goal of success!
One safety-net is your agent. If you set up a test shoot, let your agent know the details of your plans. Most agents are happy for talent to be busy building their careers, but there are some things the agent might be aware of politically or when it comes to the fine print that you as the talent may have never known. One common test shoot mistake is signing a release. Unscrupulous photographers may ask you to “test” with a purpose in mind other than building their books. If they have a release that allows them to use your likeness and image at their will, you could be agreeing to allow them to sell those images to a paying client. Not only does the model lose out on monies they should have been paid for their work, but that image could be sold to a client marketing products that could ruin your career. If you don’t know what the release should include, be sure to ask your agent before signing it. A photographer hoping to test with good intent wouldn’t put pressure on a model to sign away rights without consulting their agent or lawyer.
A casting director once shared with me the situation a colleague of his found himself in related to this subject. His colleague, as a commercial talent, had agreed to do a “test” shoot as a doctor and signed the released he was handed at the set. A few years later, this talent was offered a principal role in a national SAG commercial for an aspirin product. On set, he signed a contract stating he had no analgesic conflicts, thinking there were none. Although he may not have done any pain-reliever spots to conflict with the aspirin product, he had done a test shoot. Oddly, a few days later he was shocked to find his image in a junk mail advertisement for a competing company. This performer was legally liable for the cost of the shoot up to $100,000, despite the misunderstanding on his part. And now he’s stuck thinking about where else those images might show up in the future that could cause conflicts.
No one wants to find him/herself living in fear of the unknown – especially when it was not intentional! Be smart, read the fine print, and consult with the partnerships you trust to be sure you are setting yourself up for a long successful career!