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And speaking of pictures...
A Note about Headshots
Think of a head shot as a visual resume, just like your written, resume. Both have the same purpose: to get you an interview; or, after the interview to remind the interviewer who you are. Neither is for the purpose of getting you a job. You get that as a result of the interview -- for the actor that interview usually takes the form of an audition, but not always. Sometimes you're booked simply as the result of the interview. One important difference between a resume and a headshot: A good headshot will never do you any harm, and you owe it to yourself to get as good a one as you can afford. But, like the resumé, the headshot is for the purpose of getting you that audition. If you deliver it at the audition, then it's purpose is to remind whoever is doing the casting who you are.
But, here's the dirty little secret that neither producers, nor casting directors, nor talent agents, or nor managers will ever tell you: nobody in the history of show business has ever lost an acting job because of a bad headshot -- because the lighting was bad or focus was off, or you were looking in the wrong direction, or you had your chin on your hand. (No matter what anyone may tell you there are NOT tons of people who were not hired because of a bad resume.) What headshots do is give a producer or a casting director a strong visual impression. At a glance he can tell if you fall generally within the artistic limits he has in mind for the roles he has to cast. A good casting director can tell instantly whether you are someone he wants to talk to. It has nothing to do the texture of the paper your headshot is on or whether it's in color or black & white. Or whether it's a finished photo or a laser print.
Don't underestimate the importance of having a good, professional photographer. He or she can give you an edge by creating a striking picture that calls attention to itself, that commands a casting director to look, even though you are slightly outside of his parameters. Any advantage in a business as competitive as acting, puts you ahead of the game.
Fortunately, Florida is singularly blessed with some of the finest headshot photographers in the country. And the best of the bunch are not the most expensive. That's the good news. The bad news is there are also a bunch of bozos who don't know one end of a camera from another. A lot of these seem to have worked some kind of kickback deal with some Florida talent agents, or worse yet, are directly employed by the talent agent. Not only is this against Florida law (widely ignored by the Department of Business and Professional Regulations -- the DBPR), but talent are uniformly victimized by such arrangements. These photographers are, by the way, the most expensive you will encounter. Better you should go to Olan Mills or get your pal to shoot a roll of 35mm, black & white head & shoulder shots of you against a neutral background. Maybe you'll get something to use in a pinch.
Under no circumstances should your talent agent have any say or involvement in your headshots. Remember, the agent works for you. That's why they are called "agents." You are the one who is supposed to hire the photographer, not your employees. Never, under any circumstances, ever have your headshots done by a photographer recommended by your agent as the only acceptable source. Most agents (and it's true throughout the country) have no real concept of what a good headshot is. "Photography services" provided by agencies are simply just one more profit center for the agency. In Florida they are illegal if they are a condition of representation.
So here are some simple guidelines. Pass them around:
1. Never buy photos through a talent agent.
2. Never buy photos from a company owned in whole or in part by an agent.
3. Pay no attention to anyone who tells you that you need better headshots.
4. A good headshot can help. A bad headshot generally won't hurt you.
5. If you see them in The Blue Sheet, they are good photographers. Use them first.
6. When your agent presses you to buy photos through him, remind him he works for you. If he won't shut up, fire him.
- Gersh Morningstar
Reprinted from The Blue Sheet