Just as you would attend a job interview with your credentials in hand, you should carry your portfolio with you to every audition you attend; be it for a modeling, acting or voice over project. Even if you lack experience in the entertainment industry, the least you should have are two headshots and/or a comp. card (composite card) displaying your photo(s), stats and contact information.
Your package, like your credentials or high school certificates, speaks volumes about you as an actor and professional in the industry. I advise you to be as thorough and detailed with its contents as you can; bearing in mind the types of projects you are applying for. In this first part of a two part discussion, we will cover the Headshot – the primary image that portrays you as you are.
You should have at least two colored headshots. A colored headshot gives an idea of your complexion, skin condition, hair color and texture. You should vary your look to the extent of dressing semi-casual in one, and casual in the other. Printed on 8 x 10 photo paper, the headshot should display at least from your shoulders and up. It is expected of models to have full body shots as well, however, but for the actor, a close up of your face is what the director really needs to see. You should be prepared to also supply full body shots if requested.
- Background – Your background should be as neutral as possible. Solid backgrounds are appropriate because they do not distract from the actor’s face. Avoid backgrounds/backdrops like beaches, paintings, the bedroom décor (posters, a bureau, etc), the outside of a building or palm trees. Such backdrops say ‘amateur at work’ and show that you did not make the effort to contract a professional photographer, or lacked creativity in creating a professional backdrop.
- Your Pose – Your pose should be the common, shoulder slanted to the left or right, face straight on ‘pose’. This provides adequate view of your torso while delivering on the view of your face. The ‘passport’ look is not the best option. You should smile on at least one of your photos; the other should carry a casual straight faced look (not to be confused with stoic or ‘dreamy eyed’). Your photographer should be experienced enough in these types of headshots to assist you in delivering the right kind of look. Needless to say, inappropriate, nude or barely dressed photos won’t do. They may tickle the fancy of the director for a while, but in most serious acting circles, won’t get you the respect your acting talent deserves.
- Your Clothing – For the semi-casual photo, a solid colored top is fitting. For males, this may mean wearing a one colored shirt under a blazer, or a simple long or short sleeved casual dress shirt. Avoid hats, head bands, head ties or anything else on the head. If you wear glasses, take your photo without them. If the director wants to see you in glasses, I’m sure he/she will let you know. Bear in mind that you want the same ‘look’ at the Casting that you have in your headshot; so if you can, wear contacts at the Casting or at least take off your glasses for the few minutes you’re reading. If you don’t wear contacts and can’t read without your glasses, let the Agent know. Your casual photo should be happy and friendly. You should smile (not grin or laugh) in this photo.
- For the ladies, a brightly colored top that doesn’t reveal cleavage but presents you as comfortable in your own skin is suitable. Males - unless you are a rapper trying to get on the cover of a hip hop magazine, avoid the sleeveless, muscle bearing look. A t-shirt will do that’s either solid colored or at least not extremely busy or offensive. Avoid t-shirts with phrases that everyone will not find amusing.
- Make-up – Both males and females need to actually look like the photos they carry to an audition. Steer clear of heavy makeup. A light, simple application to mask pimples or dark spots will do. Heavily applied eye-shadow is more suitable for glamour shots, with modeling in mind. Remember that headshots are like your business cards. They don’t represent a fictional character or someone trying to sell a product. They represent you and should be as close to seeing the real thing as possible.
- Hair – Again, present a realistic picture similar to how you always carry yourself. Guys, if you took your photo when you sported braids, curls, dreadlocks or an afro but now brag a clean, bald look, take new photos quickly. Similarly, ladies who always worked the long haired image but are not showing off the famous ‘Halle Berry’ cut should make an appointment with a photographer right away. So what if you’ve already printed 1000 of those headshots. You will do greater harm than that by giving them out as though you still look that same way. A while back I wore shoulder length dreadlocks. I took photos and placed them on my business card, which I printed 5,000 of. Because my look has changed, as it often does, I now find the cards mostly useless, and will only give them to old friends wanting to connect. If you wear extensions on your headshot, it’s probably advisable to do so at your audition. Consistency in appearance is more important than showing the director that you can flaunt a variety of hair styles. It’s safe to wear a different color in your hair than what’s on your photo, but the length, texture and volume should be pretty much the same.
If you are like me, and like to change up your look at least once or twice a year, you should be willing to update your headshots at least once or twice a year as well. Face it, you’re likely to have gained or lost at least a little weight in a year, your skin may be better, or worse, your teeth may be straighter (or due to unforeseen circumstances, more crooked), your complexion may be lighter or darker, especially if you’ve relocated to a different country and climate. Besides these points, a casting agent or director will be impressed that you take the time to constantly update the first tool that projects your image. Do not take this for granted. Be willing to invest the time, effort and money into your career by producing quality headshots that may travel farther than you have. You won’t regret it!
In our next newsletter, we will cover part 2 of this topic ‘The Actor’s Resume’. I welcome your questions, comments or valuable insights on these topics as well. Feel free to email topics that you would like to see covered in these newsletters or points you think readers really need to know. As always, thanks for reading. See you next time!
© Sharma Entertainment 2009
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