Friday, February 19, 2010

Memory Runway: Magdalena and the politics of bookers

Many of us photographers, designers, pr and production afficionados like to rant about model bookers. Considering that they deal with dozens of girls at a time, their respective schedules and clients, it's safe to say that they do more good than harm in the realms of industry chaos. Sure we all had our days where the model shows up late two hours as her agent forgot to tell her she's got a job to go to. I say: Nobody is perfect.

However, ever so rarely there will be a moment where a booker needs a major bitchslap right in his or her face. Prefereably with a diamond studded glove: a few years back a model by the name of Magdalena arrived fresh off the boat from Poland to start what was about to become a rock solid career. Only in New York City for a couple of weeks, a client of mine - while giving her a 10 second elevator look - booked her for our two day shoot after having gone through thirty to fourty girls that day.
On the first shooting day, things went splendidly well: Magdalena, with the looks of a slender Savannah cat, knows how to move in front of the camera and has the attitude of a professional killer. Then my phone rings. It's her booker of her New York agency, let's call her D.: "I'm calling you as nobody else's phone seems to work in your studio. Magdalena needs to go back to Poland. Her mother agency called and notified us that there is a family crisis. Don't tell her though, you should just finish the shooting day and send her over to us. I don't want her to worry at this point. We can send you other girls to replace Magdalena tomorrow." Not questioning what I've just heard I update my client's assistant who seemed more worried about the model's well being than the second shooting day. But once the initial little shock settled it became quite clear that it was all a lie. We called the client who gave us specific instructions as to how to deal with this: "Have the booker provide a copy of Magdalena's passport with US exit and re-entry stamps and we'll pay for the first day she worked for. Show us nothing and we'll pay nothing as the agency jeopardized our production and we'll hand it over to legal." And that was the end of that. Naturally our newbie girl never got paid as D. failed to prove she was speaking the truth. Moments later she appeared all over the Ralph Lauren website.

Good for Magdalena I say. And too bad for D. who is on my and any of my colleagues sh*tlist, if you don't mind me saying so. I don't have a problem whatsoever for a booker to do what's best for her models. But the way D. did it is something I and all others involved have a serious problem with. Trying to make us all feel bad, fuel drama into a false story while yanking her away from us. As if it was that hard to say: "We're so sorry but we can't have you keep the girl for another day due to high ranking demand. We'll be more than happy to replace her at no costs whatsoever." It's called good customer service. Unfortunately there is a severe lack of such from many vendors and service providers in the fashion industry. Too bad for them. And good for me, as good service comes quite easily to me.

But then again...nobody is perfect.