News & Runway

Closed Set with Julie Bensman: Model Behavior

model behavior

I've developed an ingenious way to get our tech department's attention. Send an email? Swing by their desks? Child's play! When I need login help or a new keyboard with a space bar that works (can you imagine?!), the most effective way to reach Rich, Mohammad, and Alberto is simply to hold a model casting. It's a funny thing: line up a bunch of Amazonian, long-legged ladies and the male colleagues come out of the woodwork.

Closed set: model casting

A simple survey of the girls gathered in our lobby might suggest any one would be a good fit for the 2-3 stories for which I cast during any given month (with ten magazine titles , it's a LOT of castings). But each editor is different, each title is unique, and each fashion editorial has a specific storyboard for which we need the perfect girl. The model is often the last addition to a story, so by the time the casting occurs, I’ve already chosen the location, photographer, stylist, glam squad, and overall aesthetic. Finding the last puzzle piece (albeit an incredibly important one), can be a frustrating process, to say the least. And as heartless as I feel when a perfectly sweet girl comes into the room and I immediately cross her name off my mental list because she's, well, just not what we're looking for, I know everyone knows it's not personal.

model casting

Last week, I held a re-casting for a fashion story for the May issue of Capitol File (the first one, we held a day before Fashion Week began, let's just say the casting was over within five minutes). This time, however, photographer Mark Gong and I were quite pleased with the look of the crowd gathering outside. We were searching for an icy blonde, tall and statuesque, with amazing bone structure and a look that screamed Lara Stone. Before we got started, I quickly chatted up Mark about a process we've done all too many times in the past:


Mark GongJulie Bensman: What qualities are most important to you in a good model, physically and personally?

Mark Gong: The first thing I look for in castings is how a girl enters the room. First impressions are important, especially when we only have few minutes to gauge if they’re the right fit. A big warm smile and confident entrance goes a long way. In terms of physical qualities, it comes down to personal or individual editorial preferences. While a girl may not work for one shoot, it doesn’t mean I won’t shoot her for another project. There is no perfect look for a girl, only a perfect fit for a project. 

JB: Why are castings so important to the success of an overall shoot?

MG: Many of my shoots are done outside of New York and require traveling and hanging out with my team and crew. Castings let us see if a girl has the right attitude for these trips. In addition, some girls look completely different than the lightboxes their agents send. A casting puts any worries to rest.       

JB: Which model we’ve shot really blew you away?

MG: The one that stands out the most is Gate Haile. We photographed her in the dead of winter on the coldest and windiest day of the year, outside in spring dresses and gowns. The location was so vast that we couldn’t use portable heaters during the shoot. Not once did she complain, throw a fit or otherwise be anything more than a complete professional.  


From a gorgeous Ethiopian to an icy blonde…did we find what we were looking for at this particular casting? Flip through Capitol File's May issue when it hits newsstands to find out…



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Editor-At-Large Julie BensmanThe Fashion Spot's Editor-at-Large, Julie Bensman, is also the Entertainment Editor for Niche Media, whose titles include Gotham, Hamptons, Ocean Drive and LA Confidential. Closed Set is a collection of her musings on all things fashion, from an editor’s desk to your desktop.


image: Mark Gong