Meet Bettina Petrone
Top talent agent tells all.
As the director of Australia’s leading talent agency for kids, Bettina Petrone is well versed in all aspects of the entertainment industry. Bettina Management has been a well-known name in the children’s entertainment industry for almost 30 years, and have been through quite a journey over those years. When Bettina sat down with Aspire Magazine, she discussed her journey, and the agency’s and how it has been so successful, and still is 30 years later.
How and when did you get your big break into the industry?
Bettina: I started in the industry when I was 17, and entered a beauty contest. I won the competition, and one of the prizes was a modelling course with the one and only Suzanne Johnston. That was the beginning of it all. From there I joined Cameron’s modelling agency and then began my career as a professional model.
How did Bettina Management come about?
Bettina: While working as a professional model, I was also a dance teacher for younger kids. During my classes, the kids would ask lots of questions about modelling. They wanted to learn how to walk a catwalk and how to pose for the camera – generally just wanting my advice.
So, after I realised how much of a demand there was I decided to run modelling classes, alongside dance classes. This eventually grew to such a large demand, that Bettina Modelling and Deportment School was created.
Then while I was working as a model, the clients I was working for found out about my modelling school and then asked if any of my kids would be interested in actually doing some modelling work for their brands. So from there, I started helping these clients with their campaigns, and it slowly grew, eventually leading to the decision to start an agency.
In the early days of the agency I was interviewing new talent and working from my home office, then when we got bigger we moved to the heart of Melbourne in the Docklands. From there I got some other people on board to help with bookings and running the agency, and then everything fell into place.
What were the first couple of years like when starting the agency?
Bettina: Every job we got was exciting, they were all firsts for us, so it was a very enjoyable time for the kids and everyone working with us at the agency. Our first campaign was for Run Scotty Run, a kids clothing label, and seeing one of our kids in print was an amazing moment for the agency.
Of course, there were challenges along the way, the overhead prices, creating structures and hiring staff and taking that leap was a huge step for us all.
The agency grew very quickly and eventually, we opened up interstate to keep up with the demand. We always wanted to have a local presence everywhere that we had kids working which was also a big ask, but we managed to do it. Then we began booking a whole range of jobs, not just catalogues and print but TV commercials, feature films, TV Series and all kinds of work.
What were your original goals when starting the agency?
Bettina: When we first began the agency it was just to keep up with client demand. I enjoyed helping out the clients and providing them with the absolute best children for their campaigns. However, once we really got going our goals were to help our talent grow and become little professionals, and continue finding more talent. We just loved helping them break into the industry and watch their skills and confidence grow through the industry.
How did COVID-19 impact the business?
Bettina: It was tough, however, mainly for our Melbourne office. Because we are national our interstate offices kept going and picked up more work as a result of the Melbourne shut down. We worked consistently with clients to try and fill any gaps they had from not being able to use our Melbourne talent pool.
As a result, we are seeing gaps in our categories of Victorian talent, and we are always looking for new talent to continue to fill these gaps and it’s likely it will take months for these to all fill up again as they were pre-COVID.
How do you see the future of the industry post-COVID?
Bettina: Very positive. A lot of clients are doing more online auditions which is great for us. Parents don’t always want to be dragging kids to auditions, so being able to do them at home with less travelling is great for parents, especially working parents. We have also seen an increase in work for real families, as a result of limited contact being allowed between everyone on set, which ended up being great for the children’s industry.
Also, Australia as a whole is seeing an increase in international work making its way to our shores, mainly from the United States, due to our huge difference in positive cases. Clients are bringing in more jobs, which means more work is coming our way. The future is looking very bright for our industry.
What has been the highlight for you, since the agency began?
Bettina: It has all been a great experience. I have loved seeing the agency go from strength to strength, and then continue to grow over the last 29 years. We have premises’ across four states and are the only national exclusive children’s agency with locations across the country, which is an incredible feat in itself.
One of the best things to see is our talent star in huge blockbuster and Hollywood movies with a range of stars. They are learning and starring alongside the absolute best! All of these moments have been highlights for us!
I also pride myself on seeing the actual agency we have built, with many of our staff having amazing personal success within the industry. They are all passionate about what we do, and many of our employees have been with us for over ten years, bringing that depth of knowledge and stability in support to our parents and clients.
Ultimately, seeing the great team that we have built across Australia and the continued success of our talent, is something I take great pride in.