Your kid is cute, really cute, not just apple of your own eye cute, and you're thinking-I bet he can get some modeling gigs. But where to start? There are, unfortunately, so MANY people out there to rip you off that you may find it difficult to weed out the scams from the real honest-to-goodness agents. Well my friends I have THE agent for you! Marni Maroof who owns Munchkin Stars. She works hard to get your cuties into the modeling biz. But who is Marni? And why should I trust her? I am glad you asked! Ms. Maroof has a full resume of experience when it comes to working with children and casting. She has been working in entertainment and advertising most of her adult life and even did a little acting as a kid herself, top that off with a Master's Degree in elementary education and she is well rounded in working with children and getting them seen. Where did her real inspiration come from though.... your going to love this....HER MOTHER (see we do count!) Marsha Rosenstein has recently retired, but worked for thirty years as a New York Talent agent and successful manager. She is a consultant as well as inspiration for Marni's budding business.
Munchkin Stars Management represents infants to five-year-olds for television commercials, film, and print. They work with casting directors, production companies, modeling and talent agencies, commercial photographers, and advertising agencies. Marni and her staff PERSONALLY oversee every aspect of your child's career. Now here is the best part-Munchkin Media expects no money up front, they get paid if your child gets booked (fifteen percent of your child's money would go to the Marni's Fee), so other than traveling expenses you don't have to shell out any cash unless your child books a gig.
Honestly I think this whole thing is kinda awesome. My son has been on three casting calls and has even had a callback (he didn't get it, but that wasn't a problem). Marni walked me through the whole process, telling me what to expect, when to be there, when NOT to be late, she followed up after the call and was always cheering us on! My son and I went through the whole process of going to casting calls with no experience and no expectations. The locations that we went to which were really close to Penn Station (but can be ANYWHERE in NYC and even NJ) made it easy for us to commute. We made a day of it going on the train, getting to the casting calls, talking to the agents and getting a chocolate milk for the way home. It was a HOOT. I loved it, and my son loved it too. I mean what kid doesn't love getting a bit of attention and in some cases a cookie afterward. I also loved the part where they told me my son was polite and well spoken as well as adorable, I mean who doesn't like to hear that you are doing a good job. That alone was worth the train ticket! I look at it as an adventure, and in adventures you never know how it will turn out, you may get the job, you may not, but that is not what's important, as long as you enjoy the adventure you will never be disappointed. I knew that Marni is placing my son in a safe and appropriate environment suitable for my child's age and look and trust the company to have my son's best interest at heart. This is VERY important when you are going into something that you know nothing about and your child is involved. I would never put myself or my son in a position where I did not feel comfortable and with Marni and her staff I know that won't happen. That alone is well worth her cut of the money!
So how do you apply? All you have to do is email Marni at firstname.lastname@example.org for an application and she will guide you along the way. But don't stop reading now, I asked Marni a range of questions that you yourself may be thinking of this very minute. Learn everything from why she loves what she does to what is expected of you as a parent. So without further ado, The Mommy's Guide would like to introduce you to Marni Maroof of Munchkin Stars Management; get to know her and if you decide you want to take your child on this adventure, remember to enjoy the ride!
MG: What made you strike out on your own?
MM: I have grown up in this business. My mother was a manager for over 30 years. After I graduated college, I worked as an assistant agent at Innovative Artists, casting director at Saatchi & Saatchi, acting teacher at Madelyn Burns Studio, and consumer products at WordWorld on PBS. I also got a masters in education and taught third grade. Last January I had my own child and took him on an audition when he was a few months old. Some people I knew wanted to take their new babies too. At that moment, I realized I had connections in the entertainment/advertising world as well as knowing many babies and children, moms groups, and community groups. I also got advice from a past colleague, that there was a need for a new children's manager, so I jumped on the chance. I opened up Munchkin Stars shortly after and am now able to use all my business connections and social networking to grow big.
MG: What do you enjoy most about working in this industry?
MM: I am very personable and I like interacting with people. I especially love children. This is a fast paced business, very competitive, your goal is to submit the right children for the job. The feeling that you get if your client books the job is a great sense of accomplishment and drives you to want to do it again and again. Seeing our clients on television or in print brings me so much joy.
MG: You have been running for a little under a year, what do you think have been some trials about starting not only a new business but a business in the industry of show?
MM: I have very little control of what happens. There are so many people that are involved in the casting process. Munchkin Stars sets up the audition and manages your child's career. We don't choose who books a job. It is based on whether your child fits the criteria the company is looking for and how cooperative they are. Also, this is not a business of convenience. Most of the time, we can not change your time, auditions are not going another day, and castings are usually not on weekends. Understandably, most parents don't realize what it takes to be the parent of a child actor. It takes a lot of time, commitment, and a thick skin.
MG:What advice would you give a parent that would like to get their child into the commercial industry?
MM: We believe 50% of this business falls on the child's shoulders and 50% of it falls on the parents' shoulders. If a parent is difficult to work with, we won't call them again. Also, you must have a very flexible schedule. You don't usually get that much advance notice because auditions are usually the next day, sometimes the same day. If you are on our roster, we expect you to be available for auditions unless you or your child is sick. If you always have an excuse not to go, we won't call you anymore. There are many children who would love the audition time. Being the parent of a child actor is a commitment. You are the one who has to take your child from audition to audition. If you or your child doesn't enjoy it, do something else. We never want the parent to force the child to do anything.
MG: Behavior wise, what do these companies expect from your child?
MM: They expect a well behaved child, that makes eye contact and can follow directions. They also expect them to be able to separate from the parent. For babies, you can't expect too much. Of course, bringing a happy baby is best, but that is hard to control. Most of the time they book two babies for a job, because they are unpredictable.
MG: How do you pick what child in your catalog goes to which casting?
MM: Agents and casting directors tell us what they are looking for and we go through our files to match it. We of course want to book the job, and we get limited time slots for the audition. We give priority to our signed clients and then to our freelancers.
MG: What are your expectations from the parent of a child you represent?
MM: We expect a parent to be available, on time, and cooperative.
MG: What do you think are the biggest challenges you have experienced since opening Munchkin Stars?MM: When we first opened, the industry was busy. Then we hit the slow season. We had all these great children and limited auditions. Business should pick up in February, but it is unpredictable The economy effects advertising. Also, you of course want to book every job you send a child to, but unfortunately, the business is competitive.
MG: How can one contact you to have their child represented by Munchkin Stars?MM: Please email email@example.com for an application. Send the application back along with 2-3 photos of your child, head facing the camera, no hats, no distractions. You can also check us out on Facebook and www.munchkinstars.com. Not all jobs are posted on facebook. If we have enough kids to fill the audition slots, we don't need to advertise the casting, so don't wait until you see something that fits, contact us before.
MG: How large is your staff?
MM:We are a boutique company with a staff of 3. I am the one who handles the children, parents, agents, and casting directors.
MG: Many casting company's or agencies out there for children "encourage" up front costs, personal investments from the parents along with the fees. Your company is completely different, you get paid if your child gets chosen. Why did you choose this business plan? How do you feel about other companies that have upfront fees?
MM: Most legitimate talent agencies and managers do not charge upfront fees. We strictly work on a standard manager commission of 15%. No agency can guarantee that your child will definitely book a job because they aren't the ones who make the final selection.As a manager we can send you out through many different agents. We work with the best in town. Not all agents work on every job, so it is favorable for you to know we as managers are hearing about most jobs casting in the area. Also, talent agencies usually do not sign or work exclusively with little children or babies, they call managers with the castings.
Thanks for all the great information and good luck to everyone who are going on this adventure with your kids.