Sample of Casting Couch Confidential
THE PEOPLE WITH THE POWER
AGENCIES are the lifeblood of models and actors. If you have a bad agent then you don’t work; if you don’t work, you don’t eat – and if your people aren’t doing lunch with my people then you don’t get famous. They are also the piggy in the middle with all the power, the scapegoat for both client and model to whinge to and about.
Since the agencies are the confidants for both client and model, they are also in a position to paint the world the way they want it, thus perpetuating and encouraging the ‘I’m too sexy for my shirt’ attitude that plagues the industry, all in the interests of being ‘fabulous’. They make it impossibly hard for any outsiders (and a good percentage of the insiders) to find out exactly what is going on.
Unfortunately, without them, the good ones at least, you are left to the mercy of the rest of the lowlife bottom feeders who prey on the starry-eyed little people who have been told by Grandma that they are so beautiful they should be on TV. For every legitimate individual, there are at least a thousand leeches shattering illusions with outrageous promises of fame and success designed to rip off your money, your clothes, your affections, or all three.
The point of an agency is to act as the middle ground between the busy ‘high-powered’ client and the unbusinessminded and/or naive model/actor. It’s a position of trust, which is where it all comes undone. I remember when we were looking to purchase another agency, we were informed by the owner that his company was a great buy because for years he had been quoting half the actual rate to the models and taking an additional 20 per cent of what was left of their dwindling pay packets. This, he thought, was a great selling point and a strategy worth bragging about. We gave that agency a miss.
In this scenario, a model who is paid $4000 by the client only receives $1800, while the agency pockets the rest. After tax she’s lucky to get a grand for her efforts, which then has to last her until the next job – possibly anything up to a month away. It wasn’t a small, two-bit company doing this either. Despite the fact that in Australia the Department of Industrial Relations decrees that an agent may take no more than 10 per cent, they all seem to make their own rules. An agent’s cut can often range from 20 per cent to, in Europe anyway, more than 60 per cent. Commission has always been a sore point between talent and agent, and one should not play down the grinding costs of phone calls, staff and premises, but still, taking up to 70 per cent of a person’s fee, just because they trust you to tell them the truth about how much the client has actually quoted, is outrageous on any level.
Of course, some agencies are better at bargaining and pricing their talent than others, even for doing identical jobs, but models talk, and agency or client indiscretions often come out in the wash. For example, chances are that two bored models waiting for lighting to be fixed and film to be loaded will start bitching about their agents. More than once, in fact, models have called from a set to say that Joe Blow next to them was getting $1000 more for the same role. In cases where the client had told us that the price quoted was fixed for all, we’d simply order the model offset until the client agreed to fork out the extra grand. Often, though, it goes unnoticed especially by new and naive talent, and everyone but the client or the greedy agency loses.
Love them or hate them, agencies play the largest role in creating ‘you’ as a product, so they can afford to play God when the mood takes them. And they do!
The telephone rings in our office. I pick it up. One of my staff on the other end says, ‘I think you’d better take this one.’ As soon as the call has been put through I hear the sobbing of yet another distressed model. What is it this time? Has a photographer stepped over the mark and flopped out his dick on her shoulder? Has a boyfriend threatened to bash her if the pictures taken in that string bikini are printed in FHM? Or did she simply lose a nail at the gym?
Barely a day would go by when I wouldn’t be forced to reflect on the utter absurdity and detachment from reality we would call a ‘normal’ day at the office. Today was no exception. The sobbing voice on the end of the phone was a beautiful brunette named Marcy. She had been with us for almost a year and we had represented her quite successfully as a body/swimsuit model.
Marcy had come to us desperately needing money, having spent two years with a big fashion agency that had put little time into promoting her. We had suggested that if she needed money, she should cover all bases and remain with the fashion agency in case things picked up; we even agreed to give her ‘mother’ agency first right to any joint castings, to put her mind at rest. This arrangement had worked fine – up until we started to get her much more work than they did. Whether we thought more of her and put her up for jobs more often, or whether we just received more appropriate castings, I don’t know, but next thing, she’s summoned to appear in front of her pretentious bully of a booker at the other agency and asked to explain herself. At age nineteen, struggling to pay the bills, and without another job, this all seemed, to say the least, a little intimidating to Marcy.
‘I only want to work to pay the rent,’ she explained as he glared at her over his chaotic desk covered with headshots of the next batch of wannabe fashion slaves. ‘You haven’t got me anything for a while so I thought it would be okay.’
‘You thought? You thought?!’ he yelled, standing up menacingly (no doubt to compensate for his inability to scowl at her due to the vast quantities of Botox pumped into his otherwise motionless facial features). He flicked his hand dismissively and sat back down, adjusting his Armani polo-neck knit around the neckline to cool off.
‘Stop thinking!’ he continued. ‘You’re a fucking model. Thinking is our job, and if I see you accept one more job from that opportunistic blonde bitch [i.e. me] and her agency-whore husband, you will not only not work for me but I will make sure you never fucking work for anyone!’
To her credit the nineteen-year-old, now faintly giggling down the phone, had mustered a last vestige of dignity. ‘But how can I pay the rent if you aren’t sending me for jobs?’ Marcy asked him, with admirable logic. The booker, who by now barely even acknowledged her existence, replied, ‘Well, if you lost some weight, darling, I would feel less embarrassed putting you up for jobs.’
So here I am, at the end of the phone on a Wednesday afternoon with twenty other calls waiting, jobs to book, models to see, having to pull a little girl’s self-esteem back together, and knowing all along that the bully tactics used on her will ensure that she does in fact leave us, lest she be banished, as her booker threatened. In the end he will have won: he’ll have enjoyed the momentary power trip and she will end up another dejected ‘nobody’ with no work, her recent sins ensuring that she will be even more overlooked than before. No money and progressively less chance of success with each passing year.
So now you should be getting the picture of what so many young hopefuls have to deal with. E.G.O – Eat-me or Get Out – an attitude that is rife and can make or break any budding star unless you have the drive and motivation to keep your chin up and play the game. So forewarned is forearmed. Go into the jungle and play with the animals but know your poisonous snakes and always carry an elephant gun. Let the experiences of others prepare you, then put on your party frock and enjoy the ride . . .
Everyone is fascinated by glamorous, cut-throat industries like modelling, but most of us could never even come close to guessing what really goes on behind the scenes. Now it’s time to find out.
Bessie Bardot and Geoff Barker, former managing team behind the highly innovative modelling agency Bardot’s Bodies and both models themselves, have lifted the lid on an industry where beauty is often only skin deep.
Using their own astounding experiences and anecdotes, as well as the accounts of a host of models, photographers and industry insiders from around the world, Casting Couch Confidential is a collection of the most mind-blowing real-life stories imaginable.
This is the book that tells it like it is a warts-and-all look at what it’s really like to put yourself on the line for fame. These are confessions from the fast lane: out-of-control shoots, sex and drug filled parties in the modelling capitals of the world, and the insane lengths the beautiful people will go to to stay that way.
But Casting Couch Confidential is more than just the expose of a very private world. It’s essential reading for anyone interested in a modelling career, as those who’ve made it to the top share their cautionary tales about the many pitfalls and traps of the fame game.
This is the book that redefines model behaviour.
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Bessie Bardot was brought up in Mullumbimby near Byron Bay, Australia. Her life changed dramatically when she moved to Sydney’s North Shore after her mother separated from her ‘hippy’ father and married a preacher. The diversity of Bessie’s upbringing led her to develop a strong passion for free will and free speech. Upon finishing her HSC, she went on to work in advertising, journalism and fashion with labels such as DKNY, Guess and Calvin Klein. Since Bessie and Geoff met, they have focused on building their careers together, putting all their energies into joint projects combining these skills. Bessie has featured in numerous ad campaigns, including hosting several TV and radio shows. Christened ‘Australia’s Queen of the Body Bits’ by the press in reference to her unique physique and highly publicised ventures in the modelling world both as an agency owner and controversial model, Bessie now writes columns for several publications. She has designed her own lingerie range and remains a sought-after consultant to corporations involved in modelling and image promotion and events.Find out more
Born in Plymouth, England, in 1968, Geoff Barker joined the UK Marines at age seventeen. After four years as a British Green Beret Commando, he moved to Australia in 1991. Pursuing a career as an actor and personal trainer, he co-authored two best-selling books on exercise and nutrition, and moved into the public eye as ‘Trainer to the Stars’, lecturing, writing articles, and advising many publications and companies on body shaping and health. Later starring in the Australian series of GLADIATORS as Commando, he has also appeared in numerous other TV shows and ad campaigns. In 1997 he met and married Bessie Bardot. He now puts all his time into managing Bessie, and continues to write columns, books and press releases for many companies through his PR agency, Bubble Media.Find out more