Commercial Talent Agency Hollywood
Model Talk Radio Interview
Hollywood Commercial Talent Agent Rebecca Brunson
Rebecca Brunson is a Commercial Agent with Hollywood’s Commercial Talent Agency, one of the most well-respected agencies in the business. She represents clients ages 18 and up from all ethnicities and focuses on print and commercial projects. She’s booked clients with big-name brands such as Levi’s, Coca Cola, Target, GQ, Maxim, Men’s Health and many more.
In this episode of Model Talk Radio, Rebecca explained the ins and outs of working as a commercial print model or actor in LA, including contracts, unions, pay rates and how to get ahead
What’s the best way to get started as an agent?
Rebecca grew up in a small town near Madison, Wisconsin. When it was 5 below in Madison and 80 degrees in Los Angeles, she decided it was time to pack up and move west. When she went to Los Angeles, she knew she wanted to do something behind the scenes. She went to school for communications and primarily focused on production, but decided to reply to an ad for an assistant at a talent agency. She got the job, and the agency taught her everything she knows and promoted her quickly.
Like Rebecca, most people in the business start off as a receptionist, assistant, mail room clerk or even a volunteer. That way, they get great on-the-job training and hopefully move up the ladder!
How many models and actors does Commercial Talent Agency represent?
Commercial Talent Agency has several hundred clients, from 2 years of age to approximately 90. They represent all ages and ethnicities, but some people are more specific to a special skill group.
All clients sign a one-year contract for the LA area—they can be represented by other agencies in other cities. Commercial Talent doesn’t expect clients to sign across the board (be represented in all areas), so the contract is specific to whatever they’re signing up for, such as commercials, commercial print, hosting and children’s theatrical.
Can clients get out of contracts?
Commercial Talent doesn’t want to keep people who aren’t happy, so if a client wants to leave, it’s pretty easy. There’s also a clause in the contract that says they can legally leave if they don’t make at least $4,000 in the first 91 days.
How long does it take for someone to actually get work?
It varies from person to person and can be anywhere from a week and a half to 6 months. But clients need to remember that agents aren’t the ones booking them—they just get them the auditions. Agents do their best to promote clients, send them out and negotiate when they actually get booked (contracts quite often need to be adjusted and revised), but they can’t get them jobs.
It’s a team effort, so to help agents out, make sure you have the most up-to-date resumes and headshots (agents have a list of recommended photographers) and take classes whenever you can. Sometimes you might need to tweak your appearance depending on what role you’re going for (for example, mid-length hair or shorter is best for moms). Also, network as much as possible with casting directors. If agents are confident in your abilities, getting booked is just a waiting game.
How much do clients earn for a TV spot?
A SAG commercial spot pays a guaranteed day rate of $592.20. If the commercial runs, the actor will also earn residuals (pre-negotiated by the union) based on the market and how often it will run. The average regularly-run commercial could make you around $10,000, but it could be as high as $70,000 or more. Also keep in mind that non-union rates are generally much lower and clients don’t receive residuals for non-union jobs.
Commercial modeling rates vary because there’s so much competition, and also because there are so many variables. Will it run nationally or internationally? Will it appear in a brochure or on a billboard? Clients don’t receive residuals for print work, but the average rate is about $2,000-$3,000 for up to a 10 hour shoot day, including 1 year print usage.
What do agents do when a model isn’t paid for a job?
When this happens, the agent becomes a collections agent and follow up on a daily basis. They have relationships with casting directors and don’t want to burn bridges, so if they call enough times and follow up with the right people, they’ll eventually get the cheque.
In the LA area, how much are commercial models paid?
Most commercial print work is usually a flat rate for a 10 hour work day, plus usage. It varies from about $1,500 to $2,500 depending on what it’s used for and for how long. Stock photography, which is not something Commercial Talent recommends their clients work on, usually pays an hourly rate of between $50-$150 (closer to $1,000-$3,000 per 10 hour day, plus usage).
What are stock photos?
Stock photos are beautiful shots that look like ads, but they’re “rented” by ad agencies (it’s cheaper than producing their own unique shot). Stock photos can be dangerous because you have no idea where your image is going to be used—your face could be the poster child for drug abuse, child abuse or all kinds of diseases that you don’t want to be associated with. It can also put a limit on the types of jobs you’ll be able to book. If a bank uses your photo on a billboard, for example, you probably won’t be able to work for any other banks.
In LA, how long does it take for a model to be paid?
Generally, it takes 30 to 90 days. For print work, larger ad agencies usually have a 60-day turnaround, plus a couple of extra weeks for the payment to arrive and be processed. Union jobs have to pay within 12 business days.
Does commercial modeling have strict requirements?
Not at all! Commercial print ads need to be a cross-section of a country. Certain types get more work at certain times of the year, but agencies look for all ethnicities, ages and sizes.
How do agents deal with actors or models who refuse to work certain types of jobs?
If a client doesn’t want to do ads for alcohol, fur, meat, gambling or anything else that goes against their beliefs, it’s not a big deal. When they sign with Commercial Talent, they fill out paperwork that includes a section about what they will and will not do. Agents try to remember not to book them for those types of jobs, but if they do, they just cancel it.
When is the right time to make the move to LA?
Before you head to Los Angeles, try to get some experience on your resume and some decent headshots. You’ll also need a car and a nest egg so you won’t immediately have to get a day job!
In the last part of the show, Aaron demystified the complicated world of unions.
Aaron’s Modeling & Acting Tips:
What are the different unions?
There are 3 major unions: Equity, AFTRA and SAG.
Equity covers theatre.
SAG, the Screen Actors Guild, covers feature films, TV commercials, TV shows and training and educational films.
AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, covers soap operas, TV commercials, newscasters, disc jockeys, reporters, radio commercials, various television shows and training and educational films.
What does “vested” mean?
If you earn a certain amount of money per year for 10 years (not necessarily consecutive), you become vested. When you’re vested, whenever you work a union job, the producers of that project will pay a certain amount towards your pension based on how much your earn. You need to earn a minimum amount per year for it to happen, and if you earn a specific amount, you’ll also get insurance.
What do unions cover?
If you’re a non-union working as an extra in a feature film, it’s not uncommon to get anywhere from $60-$75 per day, plus overtime. If you’re a SAG member doing extra work (in a 250 mile radius of NYC), you will earn $139 for an 8 hour day, plus time-and-a-half for the 9th and 10th hours and double time for the 11th and 12th. Anything above 16 hours is considered Golden Time—$139/hour.
Unions have many benefits besides fair overtime pay: If you’re not fed every 6 hours, there are meal penalties. If you’re doing a scene with smoke, you get smoke pay. If there’s rain, you get wet pay. And if you’re paid unfairly, the union will go after it.
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