How (Not) to Be a Model in Tokyo

1. Always Be Tardy

And by this, well, we know the opposite to be true. Never. Be. Tardy. Ever. I’ve been to one too many auditions or photo shoots when a “talent” is late, therefore delaying the filming, angering staff, and losing credibility in the eyes of agents. As my dad always says, if you’re in such a rush, leave 5 minutes earlier. (I took the courtesy of removing expletives from that.)

2. Complain

Work days can vary from a few short hours to an endless overnight stay. No matter how much time passes (or how unproductively that time is spent), honestly try to make the most of it. Bring a book, chat with others (at a human, not barbarian, level), or simply observe. It can be a great learning experience to see what goes on behind the scenes. The better behaved you appear, the more staff members will appreciate you. While that doesn’t guarantee you another job, it may result in extra snacks. Who am I to complain?

3. Act Entitled

You’re a big shot. You’ve gotten this far right? Realistically though, regardless how large your ego has been inflated, you’re not above anyone else. Float on back down to earth and remember your please’s and thank you’s. Momma taught you better than that.

4. Stick to One Agent

Japanese “talent” agencies aren’t like many contract based ones elsewhere. When you join an agency, you’re not restricted to working solely with that agency. There is much freedom in this regard, and you would be wise to take advantage of it. Join many agencies but always use the same name (this will make selection easier for clients). Never double-book a job with two agencies. Accept jobs on first-come-first serve basis, even if one agency pays more than another for the same job. It’s not physics, just common courtesy. If you respect your casting agents – all of them – they’ll value you more. Furthermore, all agencies know one another in Tokyo, and contrary to its physical size, it is a small town and people do gossip.

5. Always Double Book – The More Commitments, the Better

Here is where models, actors, singers, entertainers (etc) can go very, very wrong. During busy seasons, it’s easy to get a bunch of different (potential) offers on the same day. If you submit to a job, write it down! I can’t stress this enough. I haven’t always been great at this, but I’ve been lucky to never get accepted to two jobs at the same time (this is more from clumsiness on my part, not greediness). Once you have committed to a job, you’ll create unnecessary stress, expense, and inconvenience for your agent and the client if you drop out to accept a different job. Needless to say, it will affect your future casting opportunities. Luckily, there is a system in place in which you can have a #1 job preference and a #2 reserve job if the primary doesn’t work out. This lets you be flexible and reduces friction among agencies.

6. Show Up Unprepared

The jobs are generally not very tiring or demanding. If you are asked to bring props, bring them. If you’re asked to look over lines, practice ahead of the audition. If you’re told to bring a change of clothes, what do you do? That’s right. Bring it. Simple, right?

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While some of these “tips” are really common sense, we can all forget our manners or responsibilities from time to time, especially under conditions of stress or even excitement. At the end of the day, entertainment in Tokyo is more competitive than we imagine it to be. There are far more foreigners in the big city than we’re aware of, which means agents won’t be knocking on your door, begging you to take a job any time soon. With someone in line to get the job whether you show up or not, it’s important to be on your game and show them how it’s done. When all is said and done, even if you don’t get the job, you’ll be able to say you kept your cool. And your mother will certainly be proud.

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