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There are some distinct advantages to being in this business for 40 years. One is simply experience. The other is an awareness of evolutionary changes in marketing. In other words – the way head shots have changed over the years and what is current.
One simple fact is that very few actors really understand their chosen art form is a business. Very few actors are able to look in the mirror and OBJECTIVELY figure out how to market their product because their product is themselves. For all of us, seeing ourselves objectively is difficult at best.
Also, this marketing has evolved over the years.
The internet has hugely influenced the way head shots are done nowadays. Since your image will be relatively small and on a page full of other head shots, it is important to make you photo stand out.
Remember: This is the size of your pic Casting Directors would see when they are looking at submissions:
This is Cute – but it would get “lost” in the pile:
One way to do that is wear very colorful clothing and have colorful backgrounds in your image.
Another way is to be as high profile as possible and have a Twitter account, Facebook, a personal web site, and any other social media.
My friend, Jim Beaver, is great example.
Another GREAT example is a great stage actor Bill Oberst Jr. (Google him!) His Website is VERY ENTERTAINING.
The internet is a wonderful thing but it also requires actors to put time into their careers more than ever.
Look at lots of other head shots. Make sure what you are about to shoot isn’t dated but is current.
Your photographer should also know what is current, how to shoot your head shot so it looks professional and marketable, and give you at least 3 “looks” to work with.
Be aware… all things evolve… even head shots!
Message from Squicken. He thinks he wants to go to college … eventually.
I have been a professional photographer in Los Angeles for 35 years. The thing I hear most when actors come to my studio is, “I just want a photo that really captures ME and who I really am!”
While this may sound good, it tells me there is a very basic lack of understanding of how this business works and how to carry out a strong marketing strategy. As harsh as it may sound, not ONE casting director in all of LA concerns themselves with who you really are. It is their job to CAST you not analyze you.
If you are a 30 year old female, you will get “Mom” roles, business women, nurses, a wife, or a host of other characters seen on TV and in movies. It doesn’t matter if you REALLY ARE a Mom or not…that’s why it’s called ACTING. If you are a curvy girl, don’t shoot sexy photos because you’ll get called in for an audition and find yourself in a room full of skinny models. Conversely, if you are a lovely young woman and you have a nice figure, understand that this is a business driven by money. What sells on TV and in movies is sex and violence. So make sure you have a sexy head shot.
Danny DeVito is a sexy leading man to Rhea Perlman because she is married to him, but it is not his casting. While “type casting” may not be right or fair, it is what it is. Get used to it.
Research, research, research to find the right photographer. The guy in your acting class who has a camera and will do your headshots for free or for fifty bucks is NOT a working professional. An actor who does head shots on the side is NOT a working professional photographer and if he has an audition the day of your shoot – you will be out of luck.
If you want this to be your career – invest in it. Go to a professional photographer. Look for someone with a studio (who can shoot natural light OR studio light), who has been in business for 10 years or more, who has a GOOD web site.
GO SEE THEM! Don’t go to someone who shoots out of their apartment. Simply put, go to a pro. Beware of Agents or managers who INSIST you go to their photographer. An Agent should give you a list of known working pro photographers that you can choose from.Get plenty of sleep the night before your shoot. Don’t get involved in an argument with your significant other.
Don’t bring “a friend” to your photo shoot. Don’t bring your family or Mother or your dog. This is YOUR day. Most of all… ENJOY your photo shoot. I often hear actors say how much they “hate having their photos taken”. This is your career…learn to love it. ALL of it. Taking headshots is an acting job just like any other acting job.
If someone tries to tell you “film is better than digital”, just walk away. You should expect to shoot, look at the photos on a computer, get them retouched, and have them burned onto a CD, and walk out with them done all in the same day.
Basically, it is a business. If you treat your acting career like a business, you will have a much greater chance of success!
A little more on Minamisanriku before I move on. It is impossible to describe what I saw there. Standing in the middle of such mass destruction is overwhelming to the point you just go numb. More than anything, what I felt was confusion. My mind could not comprehend houses in this place, I couldn’t hear children playing, smell food cooking, or touch the texture of a building… it was all scraped clean down to nothing but concrete slabs.
We had hired a cab driver to take us around. It felt invasive so we asked the cabbie if it was OK. Not only was he OK with me taking photos, he knew all the best spots because he had shuffled many people from the press to various locations. He told us that his Father in law was in the hospital when the earthquake hit, so the nurses took him up to the third floor where they thought they’d be safe. The tsunami took them all.
As we drove into the center of where the town used to be, I just got out and started walking. My gf couldn’t bring herself to even get out of the cab, she was completely heartbroken. This is her home country. I walked through meaningless piles of debris…pipes, shattered wood, chairs, tables, blankets, roof tiles… everything that constitutes a a deconstructed home. They have pushed out roads through the debris and made piles 50 feet high and half a mile long. Pile after pile. A few buildings still stand but are completely gutted and stand soulless like skeletons on a movie set.
Because the scale of things was so massive, I was a bit uncomfortable for not having a stronger emotional reaction, until I saw a little girl’s shoe. I lost it. I could hear her laughter, see her smiling little face, and could not bear to think what her final moments might have been like. I read once about a photo journalist who was covering the starvation in Africa, when asked how he dealt with the horror of what he was seeing, he said,”I am doing all I can to help. Maybe my photos will make a difference, but every now and then I just have to put my camera down and weep!” So it was for me, I shot til I couldn’t see through the lens, then I’d take a small break and just sit and look. I still can’t get it through my head.
The day of the destruction, our cab driver had dropped off a fare and was headed back into town when he looked up and saw the tsunami coming right at him. He slammed it into reverse and backed up as fast as he dared. He got away and drove over a hill. There were cars everywhere from people evacuating, so he just left his car where it was and started running back to town. He knew of a hiking trail through the woods, so he hiked all night, and when he broke through the forest the next morning, all he had known was gone. He couldn’t find his house, his neighbors, or his loved ones. His family, with only the exception of his Father in law, had escaped but it still took him two days to find them.
Some people had raced to the top of a hill where there was an old folks home miles from the ocean shoreline. They thought they were safe but tsunami took them all.
As I walked around that shell of a building, there were gurneys and wheelchairs twisted into death sculptures. A soccer ball with a kids name written on it sat on a window sill, carried up from the town below. Inside there were big piles of debris. One thing that caught my eye was a paper with hand prints on it. It was the kind a kid makes when they dip their hand in paint and then make a print on a piece of paper, then sign it as a gift to an elder. I had visions of an old lady cherishing the hand print of her grand daughter until the ocean came for her. Time to set the camera down again.
Our driver took us back down closer to the water where a new fishery building has already been erected. It’s a huge structure right in the midst of all this destruction. There was a salmon run going on during the time we were there and that is a large part of what used to be Minamisanriku’s livelihood, so there were the fishermen, back to work, doing what they have done for years and years. I watched as Salmon came en mass up the river to spawn and die. I’ve seen lots of Salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest but this was different because it was here, in this place, in the river than runs through the destruction. Dead Salmon littered the river banks and took on a whole new and deeper metaphorical meaning. Perhaps it is as simple as a “cycle of life” vision but somehow it all goes mad when mankind gets involved.
The town will be rebuilt but this time up on the surrounding hills while only a few boats in the harbor and a few buildings that HAVE to be near it, will venture there again. Some of the fish farms in the bay have been reconstructed and I saw fishermen motoring here and there in what must be numb routine.
As I stood up on a boat that had been torn in half, I shot photos of the fishermen going about their duties. I failed to look where I was going and stepped off the boat onto a nail, and drove it through my shoe. The nail stabbed through the rubber of my tennis shoe and luckily went right between my toes without even a scratch. I climbed the rest of the way down, looked at it, stepped on the back side of the board the nail was in and pried my foot loose. I shrugged,”Whatever”… and kept shooting. I honestly believe had it driven through the dead center of my foot I might have had the same reaction. It was a perspective check. After all, what is a stupid little nail wound in a place like this?
A young man we met is in charge of the first festival in Minamisanriku since the tsunami. We met with him and his business partner in the Hotel Kanyo where we stayed. As we sat in this luxurious place, amusingly named “Blue Line Tea Rounge” (yep they spelled it with an “r”), we asked uncomfortably if there was any way we could help. “Just let people know”, he said. The Japanese are unaccustomed to asking for help but give it graciously and abundantly when a need arises.
There is a custom on New Years in Japan where children are given decorated envelopes of money from relatives and friends. It’s called “Otoshidama”. A while before we left for Japan, my gf came up with the idea to give as many envelopes as we could to the children of Minamisanriku. Her idea was to put a $5 American bill in each envelope with a paper listing all those who donated. While it isn’t a great deal of money for each child, it is the idea that someone in America is thinking about them and that those people do care, that means more. The 5 buck bill is worth more in metaphor than in reality… especially given the exchange rate. I suspect the children in Minamisanriku will keep those bills for many years.
My gf handed them over $3000. in Otoshidama envelopes. The young man and his business partner got teary eyed and literally sat and stared at us not knowing what to say or how to say it.
Money had come in to the area through the Red Cross and other agencies but very very little of it had been distributed even all these months later. But here in this room there was a direct gift from a few in the US to them, with no strings, no red tape, and 100% going to the children. I was happy to be part of it.
We slept that night uncomfortably comfortable with images in our heads of hope amidst devastation, peace in the middle of chaos, and people resuming their lives surrounded by shattered pieces of what it used to be.
Tomorrow we are off to Fukushima. The dead nuclear power plant is on the other side of the mountain from where we will be.
It has started to rain.
Nov 13, 2011, 8:58:37 AM
Got up early for a short meeting…admittedly a bit hung over. The meeting went well and after a couple cups of coffee, I was fully awake and the aspirin had kicked in. My gf, my friend Jim, and I, LITERALLY went to Denny’s for breakfast. Our curiosity was killing us. We HAD to know what Denny’s in Japan might offer. Well….I can tell you this… you can’t find natto in Denny’s USA but you can here. Although I like natto, I had a more traditional fare.
So what better way to spent a morning then to take a nice walk to Harajuku. It’s about 2 miles or so from where I am staying at the Tokyo Hilton. HOWEVER, the way I went , it was about 4 miles. I literally took photos on my way there so I could find my way back. Tokyo isn’t an easy place to navigate. I FINALLY found it and walked around just loving all the people watching. I gotta say, Harajuku girls are hot. They look like little dolls. I looked all over to find a Tshirt that said Harajuku” on it. I thought it might be a good one to auction off here on DA to support the Japan relief efforts. But all I could find was T shirts with “Los Angeles” or “New York” written on them!! Geeeez.
I bought my gf a cute set of pink “Hello Kitty” chopsticks. While it baffles me why a grown woman would be so enamoured of “Hello Kitty” stuff, I have no idea…but whatever. Back at our room, we were having a drink with friends when I gave them to her. Since I can’t read Kanji, I had no idea they were personalized and had name on them that was NOT hers. It would be kinda like buying your wife a coffee mug with “Mabel” written on it when her name was Fran. NOT good. It was made worse by the fact she knew a girl by that name and DID NOT like her. It was compounded by the fact she didn’t like the color. How was I to know that pink EVERYTHING is FABULOUS….EXCEPT for chopsticks. Needless to say, the teasing I had given Jim the day before about not having enough money to pay for his meal, was returned today.
I strolled around and took a few photos but not everyone likes having their photo taken, so I mostly shot places and crowds.
I had to be back at the Hilton by 3:30 for another meeting. I arrived at EXACTLY 3:30 exhausted and sore.
Then I had another speaking engagement to dash off to, so there was no rest for my weary legs. Jim and I were the guest speakers and the studio where we were to speak was only about a mile away. We got lost…. again.
We had the foresight to rent cell phones for our stay in Japan, so after 3 phone calls we arrived half hour late. Part of Jim’s talk also involved him doing a monologue from “King Lear”. He played Edmond convincingly. Of course, after the applause died down I had to say,”WOW…that was amazing Jim. I had no idea Edmond was gay!” He did a double take, then burst out laughing.
We had a wonderful sushi dinner after the studio stuff was done. We found a lovely little hole in the wall resteraunt with AMAZING food. We ate til we were about to explode and then toasted Sake. Thankfully, we made our way back to the hotel without getting lost.
Jim retired for the evening but my gf and and I went to Shinjuku Hanazono to an annual festival held at a huge temple there. It was amazing. We had been there last year and remembered it was being held this time of year. I was amazed at the things you could buy there. When I get back to LA, I might post some of the photos. There was a wall of lanterns about 150 feet long and about 40 feel high and priests performing lots of rituals for luck, for family, for friends…and I think pretty much anything you could imagine.
I bought some spices to bring home. Can’t wait to cook with them. We walked up this BIG staircase, tossed some coins in a fountain, rang a bell, and clapped three times. It was charming.
Tomorrow we are off to Osaka. Sake anyone!????
One of the things I hear the most from actors who come to me for a head shot is,”I just need a photo that really captures ME and who I REALLY AM!”
As harsh and cruel as it sounds, I really want to say,”Why? What casting director cares who you REALY ARE??”
If I go to the beach, I dress very casually. If I go out to dinner, I dress up a bit. And if I attend a formal event, I wear a tux. It’s still “me” at each event but I dress differently and perhaps even behave differently, and hopefully appropriately, for each occasion.
To have one head shot that captures who and what we “are” is impossible because we so many different people depending on the situation. For actors, it is imperative they identify their “casting”. It is vital they know how they are seen by casting agents, not how they see themselves or are seen by their friends, loved ones, or relatives.
A tall lanky model type girl walked into my studio one day for head shots. She was really beautiful and had a sort of “Playboy” look with blonde hair, blue eyes, slightly oversized breast implants, and rather obvious lip injections. She said,”I’m so sick and tied of getting sexy roles and always being asked to take my clothes off. I’m a GOOD actress and I want to do more serious roles!”
All I could think of to say was,”WHY?”
While not an understanding or compassionate answer, it was painfully obvious she had invested in her physical looks, her body, and her skimpy wardrobe.
She told me she could play a “lawyer” and “here’s my suit jacket” for the shot. Indeed she did have a suit jacket but it was a plunging neckline and she chose not to wear anything under it. When I suggested she wear a blouse under her jacket to “look a little more official”, she said she didn’t want to because it “didn’t feel sexy”.
Oddly, the very next day I had a sweet and charming young lady come to the studio who was sort of the opposite. She was rather plain looking and I thought about all the wonderful roles she could get as a farmers wife, pioneer woman, or dust bowl maiden. She said,”I want some photos like these” and handed me magazine photos of Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and other top models.
Acting requires one thinks of themselves in third person and remove ego from the equation. It requires an actor to look at themselves objectively as possible and ask what roles are right for them.
Who looks like you? What roles are they playing? You don’t have to BE a mom to play mom roles. You can be a full time mom and play roles as a judge, a sexy hooker, or a fighter pilot. It just depends on how you are perceived by casting agents.
While there are many classes available for figuring out what “type” you are, it really is a matter of basic homework and being honest with yourself.
Acting is a job and like any other job, it means you work at it. Figure out how to best market yourself because YOU are your product.