After years of watching New York agencies skim the cream off of each new crop of models, Greg Shortt began something called ‘The Network’, a group of smaller agencies in more obscure markets. These types of places make the initial discovery, do the initial grooming, get a young model up and running – only to lose her to larger agencies with more industry pull. While these ‘mother agencies’ are happy for their models to achieve the success that have been working toward – and why not, since the agency looks good for making major discoveries – but they often get the short end of the stick once the new talent leaves.
While I understand Mr. Shortt’s contention that the “Small agencies are the industry’s farming system”, as he told W magazine, I don’t agree that mother agencies necessarily deserve a cut. In the smaller markets, there are only so many jobs, and they will probably not be big contracts. The catwalk gigs might be for small local boutiques, and not in the tents for Fashion Week. If a model has the look, the drive, and the ambition to make it big, they should be able to walk away to another, larger agency in a bigger market and get better jobs without owing the ‘mother ‘agency anything.
For example, if I have a job and work hard, learn, then rise up in the ranks, then I have the right to leave for a better opportunity later on, and I don’t have to keep paying my old job when I leave. Why shouldn’t it work that way for models? Modeling is still a job, right? And don’t the ‘mother’ agencies still have lots of other models to get fees from, since not everyone makes it to the big leagues?
The Network can work fairly if it gives new models a chance to find out where a reputable agency is in her area, especially if he or she is from a small town, or a remote region. The Network can make a difference by making sure that agencies draw up honest contracts and are being realistic about what happens when very young people start to want more success than a small agency can give them. I think that if they find a star, instead of drawing up a contract that ties them down, they should make sure that they can go to a bigger agency with the confidence that no one is haggling over their money as soon as they make it.
The Network features an advisory board made up of industry professionals such as Michelle Pommier, Paul Fisher, and Carre Otis. The former Calvin Klein model is the director of the Modeling Community. The Network is online at www.thenetworktalent.com.