Open calls are very common in the modeling industry, and often are the best option for you to actually get in front of an agent or client. While it’s great to have the opportunity to get in front of a human being instead of getting lost in the countless online submissions, as with anything there are downsides to it too.
In this post I explain what open calls and how they work so you can get a better idea of if they’re beneficial for you to attend or not.
So, what is an open call?
In a nutshell, an "open call" is a type of casting call that agencies and clients host in order to sign or cast models. It is a designated day and time frame where anyone and everyone is allowed to come to be seen by the agent or client. They are free of charge and no appointment is required; you just show up anytime within the allotted timeframe.
Pro's of Open Calls
As I stated above, open calls get you directly in front of an agency in-person. This is probably the biggest perk of an open call. It's much easier to make a great first impression and showcase your personality during an open call. With emailed and online submissions, all the agencies see are photos and info, which can make it tough to stand out among the rest. Oftentimes you have to wait weeks to hear back from online submissions, if you even hear back at all.
Usually, open calls are held in the agency’s office, so it’s a great opportunity for you to be able to go in and check the place out. You’ll get a small glimpse of the vibe and energy the staff and potentially other models with the agency have, which will give you a good idea if it’s a good fit for you or not. If any of the staff are rude or seem like they don’t want to be there, maybe that’s your tip to look elsewhere.
They're free to attend! Legitimate modeling agencies do not charge people to attend an open call, unlike some casting or networking events.
It’s usually a regular occurrence. If you can't make the date of one open call, there's typically another date the next month. This makes it easier for you to plan ahead and see which date you want to attend.
They don’t expect you to have a portfolio or professional images to bring with you. Agencies usually prefer to see non-professional, current snapshot of you, and will usually take a couple the day of an open call.
It gives you a chance to network with other models. While you wait for your chance to get in front of the agents, it’s a great time to strike up a conversation with some of the other models around you. You never know what good friendships or opportunities may arise out of the situation, so it’s good to be open to conversation and not just keep your nose in your phone the whole time.
Con's of Open Calls
Agencies only hold open calls on specific days and time frames, not daily or even weekly occurrence. Very few agencies allow any type of walk-in, so the only opportunity to see someone in person is to attend an open call. If their specific day/time doesn’t ever fall at a time when you’re available, it can be very frustrating. They are also very strict on their timeframes. If you show up late, you won’t get seen. Sometimes, if the attendance is really high and there’s a huge line, they'll only see the models up until the end of the listed time frame. So, even if there still may be models waiting in line, the agency will still cut it off and suggest that those who weren’t seen come to the next open call.
Sometimes agencies or clients only have an open call where they’re looking for a specific type of model (i.e., runway models) and will have very strict height and size requirements for people that want to attend. Do not think that you will be an exception to this and they’ll be happy to see you if you don’t fit their specifications and try to show up anyway- it will be a waste of their time and yours, and gives the impression that you don’t follow direction well.
Just because you get to meet the agent/client and they say they like you, that doesn’t mean that you’ll get offered a contract. Even if an agency tells you at the open call that like your look and they'll be in touch, there's a chance that they might not ever get back to you. After they reviewed all the other attendees that day, they may have decided that you weren’t quite the right fit at the moment.
There is usually a LOT of waiting involved, so make sure you bring a snack, water, and something to keep you occupied. If you’re lucky and one of the first in line, you could be in and out very quickly. But if you arrive well after it has already started, your wait time could easily be an hour or more. Since open calls rarely have any type of restrictions, you get all kinds of people that attend, not just other models. Because of this, it’s hard to predict how long you may have to wait to be seen.
Sometimes you don’t actually get to meet with the agent or client. An assistant may simply ask for your comp card or portfolio (if you have one), and take that to a separate room for the agent or client to review privately. If they’re interested in seeing you in person, they’ll then invite you into the room as well to ask you questions and possibly take some digitals. If they’re not interested, the assistant will bring you your materials back and you’ll be free to leave.
Many experienced and aspiring models get nervous about open calls, but it’s really the best opportunity you have to show your personality and skills. It’s much easier to sell them in person than it is to try to catch their eye through online submissions!
Make sure that if you plan to attend an open call for a booking or an agency, you thoroughly read any guidelines or instructions for attending, and do a little research on the agency or client beforehand so you know exactly what you’re showing up to and can answer any random questions they may ask you.