Casting Agent

model_becca

Tammy Theis, Founder and Creative Director of Dallas-based Wallflower Management, a talent agency, talks to ILTP about Texas fashion photography, Erin Wasson, and great shoes.

How did Wallflower sprout?
I was a fashion writer and stylist for The Dallas Morning News/Fashion for 21 years. I always had in the back of my mind this wish to do something that had my stamp on it, that was completely my creation—and I always wanted to use the word Wallflower. I left the paper to freelance in 2006 and then met Brenda Gomez who had been a stylist and booked models for Neiman Marcus advertising—we worked together at another agency and had great working chemistry. I kind of hit the wall with what I could do at the other agency so I left. Brenda followed shortly after and we decided to open Wallflower, a boutique agency, similar to small, selective agencies in New York. We opened Wallflower Management July 6, 2009.

I believe in including the staff in lots of creative decisions—I think that’s how you get the best results.

What is the role of a Creative Director at a talent agency?
Well, basically I oversee all the creative aspects of the agency—scouting, model development, photo editing, design decisions, etc., but I am not an autocrat. I believe in including the rest of the staff in lots of creative decisions—I think that’s how you get the best results.

When I was in Los Angeles a couple years ago I saw Erin Wasson walking down the street, pretty much owning the sidewalk on her way out of Fred Segal, how did you discover her and how does Wallflower go about finding new talent?

Erin was this curly headed, gawky 15 year old, skinny as a rail, all legs and arms—but her face was undeniable. The shape of her eyes, lips, nose—perfect.

I was at the newspaper when I first saw Erin. Fashion!Dallas was doing a model search with Kim Dawson Agency, and I asked our receptionist to see the entries that had been mailed in so far. She handed me a box and I dug through and came across these snapshots of Erin in her Irving home—taken by her dad, I found out later. Erin was this curly headed, gawky 15 year old, skinny as a rail, all legs and arms—but her face was undeniable. The shape of her eyes, lips, nose—perfect. Her smile was gorgeous. I remember calling Lisa Dawson and saying, I found our winner—because we were a bit worried with our first search that we wouldn’t find anyone. I remember doing her first shoots—she was so cute and like a sponge.

How much of your time is still spent styling? Do you still get to go to the big fashion shows in NYC, Paris, Milan, etc.?
My styling keeps getting less and less, though I hate that because I feel it’s important to my creativity. I stopped going to the shows when I left the newspaper—the budget for that was pretty much done anyways. I do miss the shows, but not the grind of covering them! Brenda and I are most likely going up this fashion week to see our models on the runways and visit agencies.

Does Wallflower plan to keep growing and representing more of other talent such as make up artists and stylists? Any plans to expand beyond Dallas? (Austin could use the help!)
We have been slowly growing—we want to stay boutique so we can continue to give that one-on-one management and attention. We rep one makeup artist/hair stylist, Shane Monden who is extremely talented and we rep two stylists, Uel White and Graham Cumberbatch (Graham is in Austin and featured in a previous ILTP interview). We chose them because they are very Wallflower. Not sure if/when we might expand to other markets. We do have ideas about our expanding our brand in other ways.

Texas is full of amazing photographers! Dallas has a community of talented photographers, and young shooters pop up every day.

What is your opinion of Texas photography and photographers?
Texas is full of amazing photographers! The Amon Carter Museum commissioned Richard Avedon’s In The American West. Noted Dallas photographer Laura Wilson, who assisted Avedon, is a great photographer in her own right. Keith Carter lives and works in Texas. Dallas has a community of talented photographers, and young shooters pop up every day. I’ve been amazed at the work of Lauren Withrow, who started shooting for Wallflower around the age of 16—but she was no novice—she was directing and seeing things in a very advanced way. Kids amaze me these days. I do wish there were more photo/art galleries or shows that focus on photography.

What are the benefits of working in Texas/Dallas?
Well, the cost and ease of living here makes it viable. Studios are affordable. There are great models, great scenery, though sometimes you have to travel a ways and/or battle the heat. Most importantly, there are clients.

I prefer artistic photographers—I don’t necessarily look for someone who is just technical but whose photos have no soul.

What traits do you think talent agencies and models appreciate most in photographers?
I like photographers who have a style, a point of view. I don’t want to see a group of work that is all over the place. I prefer artistic photographers—I don’t necessarily look for someone who is just technical but whose photos have no soul. I love black & white photography and I still love film. I think as an agency creative director, I give photographers a lot of latitude—I don’t like to dictate what photos I want them to shoot of a model—I want them to shoot their concepts and what inspires them—it invariably results in better photos.

How has the demise of print and the surge in digital publications changed the way you do business? 
Well, I am not sure about the demise of print. It seems like there are more magazines every day—mostly out of Europe but beautifully printed publications—I love visiting Book People in Austin to find lots of my favorite magazines—I’m an addict for sure. There are plenty of on-line pubs too though. It really doesn’t change the way we do business—we of course love being able to send our models’ portfolios by email and handling so much of work efficiently through technology.

What is Wallflower’s take on social media for your business? What platforms do you use?
Well, I’m proud to say Brenda and I were the first agency in Dallas to have a blog (we were with another agency at the time but we started it). We have a blog, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for Wallflower.

What is Wallflower direct?
That is for models who have other “mother” agencies, meaning they are out of town and we rep them for our clients who have budgets to pay for travel.

I love the latest issue of the Wallflower zine, can you tell us more about that?
Thanks! When we opened I thought a zine would be a great idea for several reasons: it would scratch my itch of always wanting my own magazine (watch out what you wish for!), provide a creative forum for all of our talented photographers/stylists/hair and makeup artists/models as well as provide tear sheets for our models’ portfolios. It’s been well received—as soon as we publish one all of the photographers are emailing about the next one. This last one, the beauty issue, was our biggest yet with over 80 pages.

Favorite place to shoot in Texas?
That’s hard. I loved shooting in Palo Duro Canyon. I used to love shooting in Venus but it’s not as small town as it used to be. I’ve shot in Marfa and that was fun. I do love desolate open spaces, which there are plenty of in Texas. Of course in the summer, a nice air-conditioned studio is awesome—and I love simple studio photography.

Favorite Texas food?
Sonny Bryan’s BBQ in the old location on Inwood Blvd. I love Stoneleigh P burgers too.

Favorite pair of shoes?
My new Acne blue suede ankle boots from V.O.D.

Favorite place to shop for fashion?
V.O.D., TenOver6, Urban Outfitters and lots of other Dallas stores, but I buy a few really great things a season and wear them to death. I am a minimalist and pretty much wear a uniform of black skinny jeans or trousers and T-shirts. I love Acne and R13.