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Getting into the Entertainment Business as a Fitness Model

Part 1---Getting started

By Kenny Kassel

Photography by Lori Smith

So you have worked hard for years honing an outstanding physique and you would really like to use your looks and physique to start a career in the entertainment industry. There are opportunities performing as an actor in films, television series, and appearing in commercials and print advertisements. You will notice that I said you would really like to start a career as an actor and model, because if you want to be successful in these endeavors, you have to really want to do so. In fact, you have to want to do it more than the thousands of attractive people who arrive in New York and Los Angeles every week to "make it" in the entertainment industry. If you are not absolutely positive that you want to do this, then don't get started. It is a very hard thing to do. I wish I had a dollar for every person from the fitness industry who told me that they are going to be the next Arnold, or women who told me that they are going to be the first "female" Arnold. There is only one Arnold, but you can make a very good living as an actor or a commercial actor. Please, for your own sake, make sure that you REALLY want to do this. If you REALLY do want it, then at least give it a try, so that you won't live your life and find that you are unhappy when you are 65 years old, wondering why you didn't at least give it a chance. You must be very focused, and goal oriented. If you live in Montana, and you want to stay there, find another line of work.

A Bit of History

The Motion picture industry has been around for over 90 years, and television broadcasting began in 1948. Up until the end of 2001, there has been approximately
800,000 hours of network television that has been aired since 1948. For the first 25 years there were basically the 3 major networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC) however now we have a few hundred networks available, and we are rapidly approaching 500 channel capability. When we have that many channels, there will be between 3 and 4 million broadcast hours needed to fill those 500 channels, each year.. That will provide many more opportunities for actors, not to mention approximately 14 minutes of commercials for each hour of broadcasting for commercial actors. In the Motion picture part of the industry, there are hundreds of films that are being produced these days in all genres of films (Comedy, Drama, Horror, etc.) Eventually there will be thousands of films made each year.

How to Get Started

If you want a career in film, television, or in commercials, you really need to be where most of them are filmed, which means Los Angeles or New York. If a career as a film or television actor is what you desire, Los Angeles is really where you need to be. I meet many fitness models who live in other parts of the country who have done some modeling in their hometowns, and that is a good for training purposes, but if you really want to make a career out of this, you must be where the majority of the work is done. The first thing you need besides ability, are great photos of yourself. For acting or commercials, you need an 8 X 10 inch black and white head shot. This shot is the most important thing to have. The first step in finding work is to submit your head an audition. If your head shot is not really good, you will never get to the second step. Your head shot has to be properly lit, and your hair and makeup need to be done perfectly. The photo should showcase your looks and charisma. Charisma and presence are what casting directors notice. The people who have charisma and presence will stand out. If your photo is not good, it generally means either you are not photogenic, which obviously is a problem, or that you are not professional enough to get good photos done. A head shot for acting is different than one for commercials. Most models who are going to pursue acting, will also pursue work in commercials, so if you plan to do both, you will need a head shot for each area. A good photographer will be able to shoot both photos for you, but there are photographers who specialize in each area. The acting head shot tends to be more dramatic than a head shot for commercials. The next article in this series will get into more specifics about each type of photo. I will also address doing a zed or comp card to submit at auditions or to provide with the help of your agent..

Step # 2 Finding an Agent

One of the most common things I hear from fitness models is that they have think finding a manager is important to them. What they really mean, is that they need to find a good agent. Let me explain the difference between an agent and a manager.
An agent's job is to find work for their client (you) doing commercials, or in film or television work. Many agents specialize in one area. Agents who specialize in film and television are called theatrical agents. Those who specialize in finding work in commercials are called commercial agents. Many agencies have a number of agents, one or more of each in all areas. It is not uncommon for successful actors to have 3 different agents, one for theatrical, one for commercials, and one for print advertisements. An agent in the entertainment industry will earn 10% of the gross earnings you receive for each job they get for you. If you do not earn money, the agent does not receive money. Any agent that tries to get money from you without getting you a paying job is someone you do not want anything to do with. Talent agencies must have a license to operate, and each agent must have a license as well. These licenses are issued by the state government. They come from the Division of Consumer Affairs of your state Government. If you are approached by an agent, or agency that is doing something that you think is fraudulent, you should contact the Division of Consumer Affairs of your state Government to find out if they are licensed, and if they are, you can and should report them. Your agent can also negociate contracts for the jobs that they get for you and may also collect payment for work that you perform.
A manager is someone who guides and directs your career. They dont get the work for you, but they should work with your agent to make sure that you are doing the work that is best suited for your talents. They can also help you manage your finances, and assist you with publicity. A manager will receive a percentage (it could be anything from 10-20%) of everything you earn. You will notice that they earn a piece of everything you earn. What this means is that you really only need a manager if you have a successful career. If you are working all the time, and have a good working track record, then you need a manager. If you are first starting out, and are not a working actor that gets work all of the time, then you do not need a manager.

In part 2 of this series, I will get into more specifics about agents, such as Union agents versus non-union agents and exclusivity. I will also explain what happens at an audition, and what you should and should not do at an audition. Another area that I will discuss and explain is how actors and talent are paid when they do theatrical jobs, commercials, and print advertisements. Another topic I will address is training, such as acting classes. Finally I will address web site agencies and some of the more common scams that victimize talent who do not yet have an agent.

Kenny Kassell has been a promoter of fitness and bodybuilding events since 1987, including the world reknowned Women's Extravaganza Championships (WSE). He is also president/owner of KIK, Inc. a multi-faceted company that acts as a fitness consultant to the entertainment and advertising industry. He also owns Beauti-Fit Talent Agency, a full service, licensed Model and Talent Agency that represents many of the best women in the fitness industry. Kenny also functions as business manager for Don "The Dragon" Wilson. You can reach Kenny at