Ask any casting agent why they got into the business, and quite often you’ll hear great stories about mums or dads of child models who sort of fell into the industry. You might even hear the odd tale of a child model-turned agent but for our managing director Adam Jacobs, his story is a little more personal and something of a family legacy. We’ll let Adam take it from here.
First things first, let me just say that taking over as managing director of Bubblegum Casting was one of the best decisions of my career. And trust me, I’ve had a pretty ‘interesting’ career to date. One that has encompassed everything from owning a mail order sock subscription company (yes, people do buy that many socks) to overseeing digital marketing campaigns for some of the country’s biggest banks. But unsurprisingly, Bubblegum Casting has been the single most enjoyable job I have ever taken on, and I can’t see anything topping it.
Spending every day with awesome kids, talking to their eager parents about the steps they need to take to make the most out of their fledgling careers, and pretty much just having fun is the best job you can get.
I love meeting with teens eager to make their mark in the industry, and learning what it is that makes them tick. I have so much fun with the younger kids when they pop into the office for a chat or to get their portfolio shots done. And don’t get me started on the cuteness of babies or I’ll be here all day.
For me though, there’s a little more to it than seeing the happy faces of our talented kids in national magazines or on TV. You see Bubblegum Casting is a bit of a Jacobs family legacy.
As you may know, Joanna Jacobs (my mum) was the head agent here at Bubblegum but what many of you likely don’t know is that my younger sister Jessica was one of the agency’s biggest stars before she passed away in 2008. Jessie was with the agency from the age of 7, and so you could say that the Jacobs family was heavily involved in Bubblegum Casting for quite some time (18 years to be exact).
So when I found myself in a position to invest in the agency, the decision was a no-brainer. Here was the chance of a lifetime to work in an amazing job and to do something in honour of my little sis. Of course, I was in.
Now I get to spend every day working with fantastic kids who want to be just like Jessica. Kids who want to model or act, and dream of someday having their own TV show or starring in a movie. My dream is to make them all as successful and happy as Jess was in this agency. And we’re getting there.
Since I took over Bubblegum we’ve more than quadrupled revenue, increased the size of the team three fold and revitalised the agency back into its top tier status. The expression I use colourfully in the office is “we didn’t come here to take part, we came here to take over”.
But while the job is incredibly fulfilling, there’s one aspect of it that I can’t get used to and never will; I hate disappointing kids (or mums and dads for that matter).
Now, I’m not a candy thief or the guy who won’t share the office toys with the kids. We’re talking about a different kind of disappointment; we’re talking about rejection or a lack of opportunities.
At Bubblegum Casting, we are very selective about the kids and parents we choose to work with. A few weeks ago, when we talked about what an agency looks for in baby models, we mentioned that we sometimes turn down the opportunity to sign kids if we’re not a good fit, and that is absolutely true. The below image is an extract from our website showing that we’ve had 1098 applications to the agency in the last 6 months. Want to know how many kids we’ve signed? Less than 150, and that’s across 3 states. And by the way, ignore that bit about unread forms. We actually read them in our emails and not in our database and so yes, every single one of them was opened!
While other agencies may prefer to have a larger pool of talent, we prefer to limit our numbers so we can offer a more personal service to each and every one of our kids. Of course, we’ll be signing more, because we have have to and you really can’t stop looking. Kids lose interest, what’s in fashion changes, kids change in appearance. We need to take all that into consideration and keep up our search for the next star.
But although we select the kids we feel have great potential, it often takes time before they get their first opportunity to shine in front of the camera. And even when that first opportunity comes along, there’s no guarantee that the next one will be just around the corner. I literally feel like I’m letting people down when we miss out on a brief, I feel like I’m letting down the legacy of my family.
We get our kids a lot of work, we work with some of the biggest brands in the country for modelling, and there is rarely a TV, film or musical brief we don’t know about or have talent in contention for. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always our kids who land it. I make no secret about the fact I wish my talent were all working all the time. Hell, we get paid when our talent do, so it’s in our best interests.
Unfortunately, this is how the industry works, and it kills me to see kids not getting their chance even when I know that they would be awesome for a shoot or a role. Casting directors and even marketing execs are often looking for one thing and one thing only, and any of our kids that don’t fit the bill, aren’t chosen. It’s as simple as that. I HATE that some of our kids don’t get work. I HATE knowing that 20% of our kids get 80% of our work, and that’s not due to favouritism, it’s due to the nature of the business.
Now just because the majority of our kids don’t get too many opportunities doesn’t mean that we sit around Bubblegum HQ all day twiddling our thumbs waiting for something to happen. If we did that, then none of our talented kids would get any work at all. We are literally the hardest working agents in the country, ask anyone where I am at 9pm most nights they’ll tell you.. Adam’s in the office, Adam’s at work, Adam is flying somewhere for work. And if it’s none of those reasons, then you can be sure it’s something pretty similar.
The team and I spend a lot of our time searching for suitable opportunities, staying in constant contact with the movers and shakers in the industry. So even though your child may not be getting their chance right now, we’re trying our best to make it happen as soon as possible. And for the most part we are successful, but sometimes we’re not.
One last thing I’d like to say is that parents (and older kids) need to be patient. Your time will come, but even the biggest child models and stars sometimes go months on end without work. If I could somehow guarantee a steady stream of work for every one of our models and actors, then I would. But as I said earlier, this is the nature of the business, and yes, it drives me nuts.
Having said that, when it comes off, and one of our little stars-in-the-making gets their opportunity, it’s so rewarding. When we hand parents a copy of their child’s first catalogue, or we all sit down to watch their TV commercial for the first time … wow! There’s no greater feeling. And we’re pulling out all the stops to replicate it as often as possible.
Yes, the work can be tough from time to time, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Best job ever? You better believe it.