Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Audition Tips #2: Headshots

If you're an actor, then you've probably been told that your photos are the most important part of your resume, CV, portfolio, or what I simply like to call an actor's "stuff."

Your headshots are the most important part of your stuff because what you look like is usually a deal breaker for whether or not you get a part. "What you look like" does not mean pretty, or handsome, or gorgeous, or thin. It means what it means: what do you look like? Are you right for the part?

Some tips and thoughts on headshots. Most of these are thoughts I've had when I've opened an email and seen an actor's stuff. Note that I'm referring to headshots taken by a professional, and not headshots taken with a point-and-click camera in your living room.

1) Being drop dead gorgeous is fine, but not if the part requires someone who isn't drop dead gorgeous.

2) When you send your stuff in for consideration, know what you're applying to. Accountants don't apply for jobs in molecular biology. Don't send a glamour shot for the part of a tough guy thug.

3) I have an actor friend who hates her eyebrow. Just one of them. It goes up at a funny angle when she smiles. So she uses headshots that don't show the funny eyebrow. Me, I like her funny eyebrow and think it sets her apart. It isn't stupid looking, it just adds character. Something different. Remember that guy in Braveheart with the big scar on his face? That scar probably got him the part.

4) I like to see a headshot and a full body shot. The headshot should show both eyes clearly and have next to no make-up. Your hair shouldn't be too trendy. The framing of the headshot should be a close-up. Chin to the top of the head is great. The full body shot is used to see your body type. This doesn't mean how thin you are. It means, well, what do you look like? Are you right for the part?

5) The most irritating thing in the world is an actor that doesn't look like their pictures. If you do any of the following things, you need new headshots. a) Cut your hair. b) Dye your hair. c) Put on a lot of weight or lose a lot of weight. d) For men, if you grow a beard/mustache, or shave a beard/mustache, you need new headshots. I once had a frantic phone call from an agent who said, "That guy you want for the audition, I forgot, he's highlighted his hair! It's a little more blonde! I'm sorry!" Good agent. It didn't matter for the role and I said don't worry about it. The onus, however, was now on the actor to get new headshots. If you change your hair color or drastically cut its length, you owe money to two people: the hairdresser and the photographer.

6) The weight thing is always a bummer, because people regard it as a touchy issue. It isn't. If you have put on twenty-five pounds, and don't get new pictures, casting directors will be able to tell that you've put on twenty-five pounds. That simple. You aren't fooling anyone except yourself. It is very irritating to have a person send in pictures and a CV that say 120 lbs, then show up to the audition weighing 150. Not because casting directors hate heavier people, but because you're a liar, you're treating them like idiots, and you're wasting everyone's time. If you're wondering why I don't mention the people that send in pictures of themselves weighing 175, then show up weighing 130, it's because it never happens. Interesting.

6) If it's been two years since your last headshot session, you need new headshots. If you think you still look the same after two years, you don't. I sometimes receive headshots that are obviously scans of photos from the days before digital prints. Gimme a break. Get new headshots.

7) If you need to wear glasses all the time, and can't wear contacts, then your headshots better have glasses in them.

8) Don't send me a shot of your butt unless the breakdown specifically says it's an underwear ad. Have some self respect. Nothing - and I mean nothing - is more pathetic than bad lingerie and bikini shots. I suppose there's some scummy casting directors out there that will cast someone for a corporate promo based on a girl's butt, but I don't think they'll be in the business for long.

9) Stop plucking your eyebrows. That advice comes from a model friend of mine, and she's very successful. I showed her a shot of a woman I was thinking of using for a gig and she said, "Yup, looks great. Now tell her stop plucking her eyebrows. They're crooked. And eventually, they won't grow back."

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