Saturday, April 10, 2010

Em's big break

Em's big photo shoot was two weeks ago, and I swear this post took longer to write than the shoot itself. Sheesh.

Over the previous weekend Em's agent sent us the details for the shoot -- when, where and what to bring, including some clothing options for Em to supplement the wardrobe they'd have on hand for the kiddos.

Our calltime (that's official showbiz lingo for "the time you show up," in case you were wondering) was 1 p.m. We arrived just as the previous group of kidlets was finishing up. I wasn't sure how many kids would be at the shoot, although I know there were a few others picked from Em's agency. It appeared as though they scheduled kids in groups of four.

So, after we arrived, we settled into the waiting area of the photographer's studio where the shoot was being held. I made small talk with the two other moms while our kiddos played with the toys in the waiting area. Then a woman came out to check Em in -- collect her work permit and the voucher from Em's agency. The client fills in the voucher with the start/end time as Em was to get paid for each hour she was there, and we submit it to Em's agency so the client can be billed accordingly. Then Em's agency takes their cut of the fees, deposits 15% into Em's Coogan account and sends the rest to us. (CA law requires all child "talent" must have a Coogan account, which only the child can access when they turn 18. It's designed to protect them from spend-happy parents, although in our case *all* of Em's remaining earnings are going into her college fund.)

Shortly after Em was checked in, the wardrobe gal came out to see what we had brought for Em. She chose an outfit and then took the outfit to make sure it'd work with the outfit she had for the "model mom." It came back approved.

We waited a while longer while another kid got prepped and took her turn in the studio area with the photographer. Then it was my turn to get Em dressed and ready.

I realized after the shoot that the kids' calltimes were grouped by similar appearance to the model moms they had scheduled. I was excited to see what kind of "mom" they'd pair with Em. She shares some of my features, but her fair skin and lighter hair throws people off. In fact, I recently overheard some elderly ladies say to one another after seeing Em and I, "She must look like her father." (And I don't think she was being polite.) Gee, thanks.

They called us back into the studio, where a "wrangler" was ready and waiting with balloon animals, stickers, bubbles and other tricks in his toolbelt. I held Em while he had her bursting with giggles from all his wild antics. Em's model mom introduced herself, and she was exactly what most people probably envision Em's mom to look like -- a younger Nicole Kidman. Reddish hair, peaches and cream skin. It was quite a nice pairing, if I do say so. She was also quite pleasant, which is not unlike Em's real mom. Heh.

Having no idea what to expect, I relied on the cues from the photographer and other staff. When they gave me the OK to pass Em to the model mom, I did and backed away. I think they snapped a couple of good pics before her face started to crumble into a meltdown similar to the Easter Bunny Visit of 2010. The photographer encouraged me to go get Em, and then we took a break while the wrangler cheered up Em.

I tried to get Em more comfortable with the model mom because Em's recent bought of separation anxiety has less to do with being around strangers (she loves interacting with everyone) and more about being held by them and separated from me. Em blew the model mom kisses and they took turns pointing out each others' noses. The photographer started to take more pics while the wrangler ran up and placed teeny tiny stickers in Em's tiny hands. Those distracted her enough to get her to smile for some good pics before she started to panic again. The photographer also suggested I stand next to Em, behind part of the set, to help with Em's comfort level.

Em got more antsy, so they gave her another break while they brought in another kid. I got along fairly well with another mom there, whose son had done a few other jobs prior to this one. She felt comfortable venting to me about the shoot -- about how long they had us wait, about how fast kids lose their attention span after the novelty of a new place wears off, about how no one can really control a baby/toddler, etc. She was in the studio during Em's shoot as they were prepping her son to go next, and she noted how frustrated she was that the photographer was distracted when Em was super engaged with the wrangler's antics and that the photographer should've been capturing more of Em's happiness on film. I was too preoccupied to notice, but she could be right. My hope is that they got some usable stuff.

I think the photographer/brand managers realized that the model moms and the kids needed more time to play before their shoots, so by the time we were done they had started introducing them before they got in front of the camera. In an ironic move, Em was cheerfully waving and blowing kisses to her model mom as we all headed out.

All in all, I think it was an interesting experience. If I were a full-time working mom, the effort wouldn't have been worth the pay. (Print jobs like these don't pay much, although something is better than nothing in Em's college fund.) Since my time is flexible as I work part-time from home and make my own schedule, it wasn't bad. Also, Brent and I agreed from the start of this that we would only do this "modeling" thing until Em was old enough to know what's going on (instead of just thinking silly people are wanting her to smile for pictures). The shoot was like a lot of our playdates with other toddlers where they play nearby but not with each other and the moms chitchat. Playdates have also been known to include a meltdown or two from Em, so really, minimal difference here.

The mom I mentioned previously said that clients overbook these shoots, which makes total sense but hadn't occurred to me until she mentioned it. Whether it's on product packaging, a website, a print ad or a catalog, I'd love if Em's pics are used somewhere.

As much as I'd love to share the name of the brand that hired Em, I'd hate for them to stumble across this post in case it somehow impacts their photo decisions. (I know, I'm crazy, but still...) I will say that it's a big brand with various baby/toddler products. I've regularly purchased its products at Babies R Us and Target. It recently acquired another product line, which is what the photo shoot was for.

Em's agent will check in with the brand in a couple of months to see if her pics made the cut. If they do, I'll be happy to share the results with you here!

In the meantime, you can be on the lookout for this toddler pictured somewhere. It's the outfit they chose for her shoot -- green shirt and jean leggings (aka "jeggings"):
Her modeling outfit

Don't fence me in

"You may laugh because every time I sign my name I put a gold star after it. But it's a metaphor, and metaphors are important. My gold stars are a metaphor for me being a star." - Rachel Barry, Glee


  1. that sounds fun & hectic! And the pictures are completely adorable :)

    Nanette @rocknrealty

  2. All I got out of that was the word "JEGGINGS."

  3. So you're saying, I need to bring a wrangler next time I do pictures of kids. I think Em is the only person who can make jeggings work. Hope to see Em's face on this product soon!

  4. bethany10:34 PM

    she's adorable nanette :) and fun to read your write-up!

  5. Sounds like quite an experience. Love the outfit!

  6. Adorable! Good luck!

  7. Sounds hectic, but fun. I hope her picture gets used. :)

  8. so jealous of em's big break! we'll just live vicariously through you :)

  9. Wow- what a day. I'm exhausted just reading about it. I can't wait to find out if they pick some of her pictures!! I really want to see what the model mom looks like though because I think that's funny that she looked like Nicole Kidman. Finally, that old lady does not sound very nice. Just because you've been around a long time does not give you the right to say whatever is on your mind- you still need to be nice!!

  10. I love that Em is on top of trends! I love jeggings (but can't pull them off like Em).