Casting call: Modeling ain't easy

I sat in on a model casting today in preparation for a November fashion editorial we're shooting on Friday. In case you haven't seen the "go-see" episodes of America's Next Top Model, a casting happens when the photographer asks agencies to send a certain type of model to a brief audition so we can find one with the right look and feel to fit the story.

In this case, we're doing a movement-heavy, propless editorial in which the model and the clothes she's wearing will completely drive the story. She'll basically be told to stand in front of a plain backdrop, all dolled up, and just ... model.

Think about that for a minute. What an intimidating situation! You're 21 years old, wearing four-inch heels and a crazy-expensive outfit, with a photographer, wardrobe stylist, art director, fashion editor, makeup artist, hairstylist, producer and a slew of assitants and interns staring at you, waiting to see what you do. They all have their own personal vision of what could make an awesome story, and it rests largely on your shoulders to produde something that will make them happy, something you can all be proud of and add to your respective portfolios.

Basically, it takes major guts.

Needless to say, a casting is partially intended to weed out the women from the girls. We're looking for someone who doesn't clam up and freak out in that situation, but thrives in it. She's got to love being the center of attention. Love showing off clothes. Love contorting her body into funny shapes. Love standing in one place for long periods of time as the entire production crew scrambles to complete their various tasks.

I hadn't been to many castings before this one. It was an overall pleasant experience, if a little awkward. The photographer, stylist, my intern and I sat in a room upstairs as, one by one, models entered the room, handed us their portfolio (if they had one) and posed while the photographer took some shots. Then we let them go. It often took only a couple minutes.

We were looking for several factors:

  1. Does her overall appearance fit with our story? Some girls look like all-American, barbie dolls, some look like cute, girls-next-door, some look like exotic seductresses, some look older, some look younger, some are curvy, some are rail-thin. We were able to tell pretty quickly who fit our desired aesthetic.
  2. Is she tall enough? Several of the girls fibbed a couple inches — it was obvious when they walked in the room. Sometimes it's fine for a model to be 5'7" or 5'8", but for this particular story, we were looking for height.
  3. Can she move? Weird question, but it comes up a lot. When you say "go" does she immediately launch into the same tired, cliché poses every girl learned to do after Madonna's "Vogue" video came out? Or does she pull out some creative shapes, maintaining full awareness of how it's making her body look?

Here are some examples of boring poses:

Interesting poses:

See the difference? A good model won't be afraid to lunge forward, randomly hunch her shoulders or jump straight up in the air, no matter how funny it feels. Of course, it helps that the "good poses" pictured above featured way better fashion and styling than the bad ones, but you can still catch my drift. Setting your hand on your hip and popping it outward is plain peanut butter in an industry that needs gourmet sandwiches.

We ended up casting one girl out of 22 models we met today. She and one other girl had the right combination of the aforementioned factors, but the girl we chose clicked with the photographer a bit more, which is super important. I'm excited to work with her! Look for some behind-the-scenes shots next week. And I'll also be sure to tweet from the shoot.

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