To Be Or Not To Be A Model Agent – By David Charman, BMA’s Founder
When you are born you have no ideas, and through life cross roads come over the horizon, and which way?
Life goes on from the womb to the tomb, what influences you to go one way then another?
Born in 1951. Average to normal lower/middle class family. Reasonably good at all sports, and interest? All have butterflies over exams, 11+ in my day, Christmas day presents, etc. etc. big ups and big downs, you get through. So a normal upbringing, lucky? May be. Not really a stand out at anything, just reasonably good. So where from here?
You are influenced, not your fault, but you are. This gives directional answers but may not be the true answers. You do things because others have done so and you just seem to follow, seems like the way ahead at the time. So leaving sports aside, because I was influenced at school and academic subjects was the answer. My peers were doing so the same So on I go. Now what, well in my day the days of the summer of love – 1967- was the first push, seems and answer here. Consequently Sociology and Psychology degrees were the next step, a university was a must.
Degree in Psychology followed by a Ph.D. from the Dept. of Psychiatry at Southampton University Hospital, this was the way forward with all around me, similar types, doing the same. So now on to teaching, and then the first question, is this really me? What have I done?
Asking the question
I am not truly happy, happiness is measured in fewness of wants, and I want something, but what? I will have to leave teaching, I have met a friend who has just spent a month skiing, how does he do this? he works. An answer here, he trained to be a drilling engineer in the USA, and works on and off oil rigs, with money to spend, sounds good. There is a demand to train engineers too; science A levels is all that is needed. He introduces me with no background questions asked. I am in and off to the USA to train. Again influenced by the good life, well so you think. Texas is like a cream and chocolate cake, you cannot get enough of it, and then you become sick. All bars, cars, and stars.
2 years have passed and am working in the North Sea now; money is incredible, time off to do what you want. To do what you want, this is starting to answer my question of why am I doing what I do.
The end of the beginning
Time for change, what and where is my goal, what am I looking for? I get introduced to a marketing company; they want diverse thinking persons with a real multi-disciplined background, me all over. I am in, now what
The company is heavily into car launches, mentioning no names all the top manufacturers used them. So I am here to control the launch: celebrity invites, top venues, music and lights, stage show, food and drink, yearning business men, and of course a troop of young promotion girls serving and servicing.
One car launch after another, life is good, high pay, sports car, expenses and girls girl’s girls. The girls do as I tell them, I am the grand overseer, I am there life line to the next job, do as I say, and they want to keep in with me, yes indeed.
Another launch, I stroll out on to the country hotel’s grand patio, sunshine and business is booming, another bonus payday guaranteed.
Sat on the wall is Helen, the head promotion girl. Her tanned legs are as long as the tight skirt is short. Her big eyes match her mouth; a white teeth smile greets me.
“Hi Helen” and “so what is the state of play with you”
She smiles a bit more and flicks her dark hair to show in full, those once in a life time, green eyes.
She sips her champagne, “Real busy launch, it is full in the state room, the girls are working their high heels off” she says.
“The way I have ordained it to be” I reply.
“David, I have been thinking”
“I am getting older, but I am not fully in charge of my life, I am told what to do by the owner of the promotions agency and or you, do you get my drift”
Good grief, she has answered my searching question, I am not fully in charge of my life either. I am always answering to somebody else who ultimately holds my purse strings and my freedom to do what I want to do. She has just opened the door.
The beginning of the beginning
“You have an idea then, yes?” I ask
“Ok David, listen up. You know all the right people in this promotional business. You know when where and why they book the girls. I know all the girls, better than you do. Now your employer charges around two hundred pounds per day per girl, my agent gets paid a hundred and twenty five pounds per girl per day, and the girls get paid seventy five pounds a day.”
“Meaning what, Helen”
“Meaning, I want to set up my own agency, but I do not have the money, office space, or a working partner that I need to make it a success.” She beams at me with a knowing look.
She is asking me, and lady luck shows her hand, run your own business, yes, this is what I am looking for but cannot see it because it is so obvious. I have a large house, a drawing room and linked study. All we need is to input 4 telephone lines, a circular table and 1 employee to start the ball rolling.
I put my arm around Helen, “you are a genius”. I can do this with you, dead easy, listen to my ergonomics now, our modus operandi.
Within weeks we are in business. I was playing Cricket in those days, and the Bodyline series was on the TV. Bodyline promotions it is and Bodyline is borne. I phone my contacts, can save you fifty pounds a girls per day, so ten girls is five hundred pounds, you know Helen well she is running the show. They love it, we are in
Charging a hundred and fifty and paying the girls a hundred, not seventy five, means we have the girls too. We are making for starters fifty pounds a girl per day. Rock and roll. The business becomes everything to me.
The middle of the beginning
And then, one of the girls drops in to the home / office, she has just made three thousand pounds in one day. What. The answer is she did a poster campaign for a leading hair product, well she does have nice natural hair, I guess. She explains she has a commercial and photographic agent
We are missing out; we need all types for all types of modelling assignments. We need to expand. The photographic model agencies have model cards and some have a photographic book of their models. We need a name. Bodyline Model Agency evolves, BMA. We need models. The Creative handbook lists all the creatives. We are nowhere. This is going to be real challenge. Where do we start?
Moving on from the middle
Research shows we need models that can undertake the main stream assignments, forget high fashion. We have contacts, we ask models to join us.
We now have to cold sell, we are based in Hertfordshire, so we start with the north London media and photographic agencies, as well as the surrounding ones, surprisingly there are many of them. A start. Phone call after phone call, and the introduction of BMA. BMA model cards are sent out. Cold call after cold call is made to introduce BMA.
Inch by inch we are gradually accepted, We do not have the astronomic overheads of our main rivals, the London Based agencies. Models join us as word spreads, more and more work.
Time is on our side, we move to larger premises, an office, not a home office. Two more bookers are employed, and after the setup, plus another booker, ten years has passed.
Then the leap forward, the internet and email, faxes have gone. In 1997 we built a website, a linked data base, and company email. We are now ahead of our competitors. All is so much easier and accurate, we are sailing.
Moving to present day
With a massive investment of funds the business moves to larger and bespoke cabled offices over two floors, many more bookers are now employed. Growth has meant acknowledgements, meaning the rise of TV commercials, film parts, and major campaigns. The model diversity allows clients to make one shop stops at the agency.
This has been a long road that has required dedication and sacrifice for many, many years, only now has resting become possible with some time to relax as old age creeps on.
To start any form of agency today, would be a bridge too far, requiring a master of all trades, computers, websites, knowledge of commercial litigation, a data base of models and clients that are dedicated to you. The time line would be too long, technology would be unfolding against you as well, just as you mastered a necessity, this would now be redundant and require re-mastering, and you still have not earned a penny yet. Starting a business is a big achievement but maintaining one is the much larger challenge and the hours, the work, the mental drain and the constant pressure wears on even the most brave.
My motivation was one of self-determination. Carving my destiny was one of bravity and choice.
Moving to the start of the future
The story will continue shortly after this intermission