Model and Talent Search Canada
(MTSC) - Questions / Complaints
To Whom It May Concern:
I stumbled upon your website through sheer happenstance,
and after having perused it, I felt that it was absolutely
imperative that I respond to a lot of what I have read.
I am (or was, I have since retired) a free-lance, contract
modeling scout. I contracted out to various agencies
and organizations to go to shows, etc. (on a professional
level) and, on the amateur level, Model Search conventions
like the ones that are being (in some cases, justly)
vilified and slammed on your website, to scout, gauge,
and in some cases sign prospective models.
I started in the business when I was 16 and have found
and placed models with over 120 of the agencies that
I had contracted out to, and have been fortunate to have
been pretty much all across the world in the nine years
since I started, to when I retired (I am now 27).
I have worked with all the "big-name agencies" (for
whatever that's worth), but really liked and specialized
in working for boutique agencies who marketed primarily
overseas —Korea, Japan, and Milan were specialties
I attended, and for the most part quite enjoyed attending
the Model and Talent Search conventions (some more than
others), and attended with varying frequency IMTA, MAAI,
Model Search America, BAM, Visions, Connections, and
MTSC, among others.
After reading the angry letters about MTSC, I felt that
I must respond to the biased opinions of what are generally
laymen (when it comes to Model and Talent Searches),
so as to offer a dissenting opinion, but one that is
equally valid, and a lot more experienced.
Due to a number of circumstances, I retired from the
business when I was 24. However, MTSC is the only model
and talent search that I still choose to attend, and
I intend on doing so this year as well.
The reason why I do so is simply that after having been
so immersed in that industry for so long, I know unequivocally
that it is the best of its kind.
I know that the CEO and the organizers are reputable
and honest people, and ones who created MTSC as a foil
for all the gouging, overcrowding, false-hope-giving
model searches that are out there.
When I first contemplated attending MTSC as an agent,
I wanted to know what I was getting into, so, as always,
I asked to be a part of the screening process (strange
as it may sound), but I operated this way so that I could
determine if it is just a money-grubbing scam, taking
money from whomever wants to give it) or not.
(The scam conventions are a painful time for the scout/agent
at the convention, because we really don't like having
to say 'no' to people all the time!)
What I found was that MTSC's screening process is much
more thorough than the others. In addition to a simple
all the people whom they decided had castable potential
then must go in for a private interview with one of the
Parents are always invited to attend, and in the case
of minors, it is mandatory. This interview takes 15 minutes,
and from what I saw, can be a little intimidating for
the prospective contestant.
A lot of questions are asked of both the model and the
parent(s), and a lot of things are explained, too.
Happily, the screeners seemed to welcome questions,
no matter what, by anyone hesitant or unsure of something
about the convention or MTSC itself.
I asked the Head Screener (sort of the boss) afterwards
why they operate their screening process in such a way,
and she told me it was so that they can make absolutely
sure that the convention is suitable for the prospective
model/actor, and what he or she really wants, and also
so that the screener can be absolutely sure that the
prospective client stands a chance of getting the most
opportunities available at the convention itself.
This was delightful for me to hear. I don't know how
many conventions I went to where I'd see 5'2" fat
girls with moustaches who wanted to be runway models
in the runway competitions, and I'd think to myself: "I
wonder how these organizers can sleep at night, preying
on these girls' dreams like this!"
The screener echoed my thoughts by further telling me
that they do all this because they want to make sure
that the calibre of contestants is of the highest degree,
so that the agents won't feel like it's been an utter
waste of their time, and so that everybody —agents
and prospects —can hopefully go home with something
a little more than they had before they came to the convention,
or even more hopefully, a lot more.
Another thing that impressed me was anachronistic of
its kind: MTSC puts limits on their attendance.
Upon my asking they told me that they limit the conventions
to 300 contestants in order to ensure a fair actor/model
to agent ratio. No more.
This is something relatively unheard of. A lot of the
conventions out there have so many contestants in them
that they literally have to produce a book of all the
people entered for the judges to consult simply so that
they can keep up.
In some competitions 2,000-4,000 contestants is certainly
not unheard of, and, sadly, in a lot of cases that appears
to be the norm.
This means a life of utter hell for the agent. Imagine
500 people all lined up to see you on Go-See Day, perhaps
only five of whom you feel you could actually take on.
It's tiring, discouraging (disappointing so many people),
and infuriating as you wonder why it's been left up to
you to burst so many bubbles while the organizers are
counting their money.
Also, for the prospective model/actor, it's not only
intimidating, but patently unfair. Imagine waiting in
line for four hours to see one agent, who is probably
already just wishing he or she could go home.
With 2,000-4,000 contestants, that doesn't leave a lot
of time, hope, or much of anything for the prospects,
except to wait and hope that you're in a line that goes
Which brings me to price. The letters on this website
complained about the $600 tariff to attend the convention.
I almost swallowed my tongue.
MTSC brings in some of the best agencies in the business.
There are absolutely NO schools, NO agencies that charge
upfront for representation, NO agency that sells picture
portfolio packages. They ensure this.
These agencies (and I know, because I worked with many
of them) are international agencies who market their
models to agencies in different markets, thus becoming
said models' Mother Agency, therein maximizing the models'
exposure to varying markets, and ensuring that they are
not just going to be sent to repeated local bookings
for the local mall fashion show, or the latest department
store catalogue, but will get international exposure.
MTSC charges $600 to attend the (weekend) convention.
Canadian. I say to you, quite emphatically, that you
will be hard-pressed to attend another Model and Talent
Search for under $1,000.
Prices anywhere from $1,500 - $4,000 are commonplace
with a lot of the bigger, grandfathered conventions.
And that is in American funds.
The question as to why the price has to be whatever
it is at all is quite simple if you think about it.
The hotel doesn't rent its space out for free, and there
is staff to consider, but, of course, unquestionably
the greatest chunk of it is for flying in and housing
the agents. They don't pay for their own tickets or hotel
rooms, and hotels and airlines sure don't let them fly
or stay free.
I always wondered why it seemed that nobody noticed
that, in the cases of the conventions held in New York
City or Los Angeles, for instance, the conventions that
advertise "over a hundred" (two hundred, or
however many) agents, that an incredibly disproportionate
amount of agents were from that very city where the convention
was being held.
Of course, the answer is simple: their attendance is
cheap. They've just got to drive a few blocks and they're
there. Which is great for the convention. They can now
advertise their huge amount of attending agents (thus
seemingly boosting their prominence in the eyes of the
contestants), and pay said number of agents at no cost
or effort to the event's organizers.
This I always found to be somewhat unfair —no
matter how shrewd.
Ideally, each market city should be fairly and equally
representated... 'the look' agents are looking for varies
from city to city, and indeed, the fashion industry in
each city is sort of a world unto itself.
There just seemed to me to be something patently wrong
about a convention (held, say, in New York) advertising
100 agents in attendance, 80 of whom are New York agents.
It left me wondering: "Where did all the money go?" But
that's another matter altogether.
There are also no schools attending MTSC, unlike a lot
of others which quite proudly and unabashedly do this
for all reasons financial, and which give the schools
a facade of legitimacy and respectability, which, for
the most part, I do not believe they deserve.
They will take money, money, and then more money from
people, some of whom have absolutely no chance of getting
anywhere in the modeling industry (see the aforementioned
5'2" fat girl with a moustache who was in the runway
competition after weeks of classes), enroll them in what
are really —and they are —totally redundant
and useless classes, and basically string them along
to a convention (that they have to pay thousands of dollars
to attend), so that it's left up to us (the agents/scouts)
to break their hearts after they emptied their wallets
to these people!
I vividly remember attending one very high-profile convention
in New York City (that shall remain nameless, ahem),
and, as usual, I was the very last agent at the call
This was mainly because I insisted on seeing everyone.
I figured they paid their thousands of dollars to be
there, so who the hell am I to skip out on them?
And after a while, it became more colloquial, and I
had a whole group of people come, one or two or three
at at time, just to come by and hang out at my table.
What each of them expressed to me they expressed in
"Why didn't they tell me?"
"Why didn't they tell me I'm too short?"
"Why didn't they tell me I'm too heavy?"
"Why didn't they tell me I'm too hairy?"
"Why didn't they tell me I should have waited till
my braces came off?"
"Why didn't they tell me I should get my rosacea
attended to first?"
And so on and so forth.
These kids had shelled out $8,000 to attend this convention
including hotel, food, cost of the convention, and (frequently)
the classes their schools had them take, and frequently
airfare as well, and they sure deserved a hell of a lot
better than to be strung on that long, or even to be
strung on at all.
Oh, and on a side note... I asked the owners of some
of the schools why they put (forgive the bluntness) ugly
people, or overweight people, tiny people, people with
limps, whatever, in classes when they know there's not
going to be much we (the agents/scouts) can do for them.
They told me they enrolled those people in classes such
as runway, swimwear photography, etc., to give them "confidence" and "social
I wondered if those ugly, tiny, limping, or overweight
people knew that, because judging by how they acted when
they were at my table on Go-See Day, picture portfolio
in hand, they sure seemed to have the dream of being
Whatever confidence or social skills they may have found,
I wonder how many of them would much rather have been
given their $8,000 back, instead of being told "No,
sorry" at the convention.
It is true that with agencies in this business one should
never have to pay, or feel forced to purchase (pay to
take, attend, etc.) something up front.
If an agency feels they can make money off you, they
will foot your first few bills (photo shoots, portfolio,
etc.), and then just take their money back once you start
Model and talent searches, however, are not agencies.
They are an opportunity to introduce "a" to "b",
to see what, if anything, can happen from there.
Through no other venue can an aspiring actor or model,
no matter what your lack of experience, see assembled
in one room such a variety of prominent people in this
business, from all over the world, and talk to them in
an attempt to get the proverbial ball rolling.
Go ahead, think it's a scam and save your $600, send
your pictures off to agencies in far-away cities that
don't even know you, like a great many other people do
(many of whom couldn't get past step one of the screening
process), and that just wind up on a big pile or in some
dark filing cabinet somewhere.
Perhaps someone will look at it and say, "Yeah,
great, but what the hell can I do considering she's in
Green Bay, and we're in Los Angeles," before putting
it in the trash.
Or maybe go to your local agencies —that certainly
won't cost $600. Perhaps they can book you for a J.C.
Penney runway show at the local mini-mall. But is that
really what you want?
At MTSC, also an anachronism, the contestants get what
they should get, and nothing extraneous. There are no
Best Smile, Best Legs, Best Eyes, Best Figure, or Best
Lips nonsense competitions.
A bunch of us agents always thought they were solely
designed to give the contestants a feeling of having
received something, so that they wouldn't be absolutely
furious on spending their thousands of dollars without
getting anything tangible or substantive out of it.
MTSC has about four or five seminars, runway and swimwear
competitions for modeling, commercial and tv script competitions
for actors, and child runway and child tv commercial
for children. Then the awards dance, and the most important
open go-sees and call backs.
That's it. No pep rallies. No gift stores with shirts
that say "Yes, I am a model" for $30. No corporate
shill actors telling everyone how great it is.
These things should be about giving these kids (and
grown-ups too!) the opportunities they so need to help
I realize I have been somewhat loquacious and long winded,
but I did want to write a response to much of what I
read on this website today.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I would hate
to see the bias of one or a couple of people, no matter
how well- or ill-founded, ever stop or even dissuade
someone taking a chance that may help them get closer
to achieving their dreams.
Especially if those are the dreams of children. I find
that unconscionably wrong. Life is about opportunities
and we're only alive once, and then we're a long time
As such it is always a shame when opportunity knocks
and someone doesn't answer the door. Nothing will come
of nothing, to quote Lear, and skepticism won't ever
get you closer to your dreams.
I, for much of the reasons stated above, no longer do
the convention circuit, or really that much at all in
the industry anymore.
I now know MTSC. I know its owner and its senior staff.
Now that I am out of the business, I consider them friends,
and the reason why they are my friends is because through
watching how the organization works, and the service
it offers, I came to see it as an anachronism of its
kind, and its organizers honest and decent people who
offer a good service. In this industry, those kind of
people are really nice to find (however rare).
I found in my experience attending as an agent that
the vast majority of agents leave MTSC happy with what
they saw or got, and a lot of the contestants do, too.
Not everyone goes home happy. Not everyone (hardly anyone)
gets whisked away that night to sign a million-dollar
contract or star in the latest Hollywood Blockbuster.
If anyone thinks that, they're being totally unrealistic
to the point of being delusional. What everyone does
go out of it with (if they let themselves) is a greater
understanding as to how the business works, a little
more experience, and some contacts as well.
Remember that because the agents are there to help you.
You paid the money. Take their card. Ask questions. Stay
Maybe there's nothing they can do for you, work-wise,
but even a little advice in the right direction is a
lot more than you had before you showed up.
And, if it's to go towards your dreams, or the dreams
of your child or loved one, isn't that absolutely invaluable?
Good luck, and try not to let any of the jaded cynicism
that appears to be legion out there prevent you from
striving for your hopes and your dreams.
In truth and sincerity,
Thanks for writing at length and in detail.
Tried to let your letter stand, as is, without a rebuttal,
because there is so much of it which supports the comments
of industry leaders and commentary on this website, but
there are a few issues you raised which can be challenged.
There is basically no difference of opinion between
what you said about the modeling industry in general
(upfront fees, modeling schools, conventions) and the
commentary on the site. There is however a possible difference
of opinion on MSTC.
Even if the MTSC screening is better than the rest of
the modeling convention industry, as you claim it is,
based on your experience and conversations with the "Head
Screener," it is not good enough if agents don't
screen potential models using photos before payment and
before the convention.
Do they do that?
Limiting the number of contestants is all well and good;
so is spending time in an interview with the potential
contestants and their parents; avoiding upfront-fee agencies;
agencies tied in with schools; silly competitions and
cheesy T-shirts. But it is not enough.
There is another convention which claims its standards
are higher than the competition, but they are not high
enough. They still do not properly check the conflict
The leaders of two of the more well-known modeling conventions,
Millie Lewis and Manhattan Model Search, have both been
asked the same question about screening. Neither one
Do you want to give it a shot? As a scout, do you have
a problem with reviewing potential models using sharp
snapshots submitted to you by the screeners and Head
Screener of MTSC before anyone makes a payment or goes
to the convention?
You said you asked the owners of some of the schools
why they put people unsuitable for modeling into modeling
classes, and they said it was to give them "confidence" and "social
Apparently this is not the focus of marketing for modeling
schools. The focus is modeling. They push and sell the
dream. They don't emphasize confidence to the girls.
The girls aren't raving, "I'm going to be confident,
yay, and have all these social skills, yay!" It's: "I'm
going to become a model!"
But on the subject of confidence, what is it going to
do for a young woman's self-esteem when she finds out
she has been duped, she was recruited for either classes
and/or a convention just for the money?
One girl already wrote and said her self-esteem took
a beating once she discovered she had been tricked.
How is a girl's self-esteem not going to be affected
after she is led to believe she is model material, and
therefore she should attend a convention, only to be
told at the convention she is not model material?
A girl can be affected on two levels, firstly her looks,
and secondly, her intelligence. "I was unable to
see it was a scam."
The entire social skills and confidence claim could
be in the same vein as the awards you mentioned, which
you and other agents thought was designed to make the
aspiring models feel less like their money was completely
Confidence and social skills are important, but they
don't have to be sold in a package (school) for models.
Think of what being offered representation by a real
agency is going to do to their confidence!
Your argument against photo submissions is not convincing.
You said: "Perhaps someone will look at it and say, "Yeah,
great, but what the hell can I do considering she's in
Green Bay, and we're in Los Angeles," before putting
it in the trash.
How is that different from all the reports of potential
models who attend modeling conventions, only to be told, "If
you move to Los Angeles, we will offer you representation," or, "If
you are ever in New York, we'll send you on go-sees."
These types of comments were made by people who attended
MSA and IMTA.
One of the most ridiculous aspects of modeling conventions
is the issue of location is not fully explained by the
organizers or understood by the aspiring models. The
plucked-from-obscurity fantasy is not going to happen.
Very few agencies are going to do that.
How many reputable and ethical agencies in New York,
for example, are going to tell teens who have never done
any modeling to drop out of high school in Anytown, USA,
and follow them to New York in case they might find work?
Model and Talent
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