Headshots that Book (Or At Least get Auditions!)

As an agent, my first job is to get an actor “in the room” for the audition. For the vast majority of actors, the only physical tool I have to use to accomplish this is your headshot. I can spend multiple hours talking to casting directors about how great you are; how grounded your acting is; that you have incredible emotional range; how the role was made for you! But, in the end, your headshot will seal the deal. Yeah, it’s that important.

1. Print 8×10 (non-negotiable)
2. Print Your Name on the Front (nothing else)
1. Print multiple photos on the page
2. Print any other size than 8×10
3. Print Landscape/Horizontal Photographs

What does it look like?

8x10 Headshot

The Southeastern Market

Specifically focusing on the southeastern market (Hollywood East), headshots have taken on an even greater importance. Typically, day player or supporting roles are often filled extremely quickly – straight from your first taped audition! No callbacks, means no second chances. You have to nail it the first time around. Casting Directors have the awesome power and responsibility of simply supplying the network executives with one headshot and one taped audition. That means you better gain their trust very quickly.

What makes a good headshot in this market? Gone are the days that an actor could get away with one good Theatrical headshot and one good Commercial headshot. Now, you need Character headshots. As an actor tackling this as a business, you need to truly consider what roles you want to target. Also, you MUST know your environment. Georgia, Louisiana and all the surrounding areas have definitely attracted certain genres to the south. There is a common theme with major productions like The Walking Dead, The Hunger Games, The Divergent Series, Under the Dome and many others … Survivor, Gritty, Supernatural, and Dramatic.

Why take the chance of letting another actor beat you to the audition simply because their headshots sell a better story? Make it easy for the casting director to pick you … better yet, make it impossible for them to ignore you!

Character Headshots

So, what should you focus on in this market? Here are my suggestions:

1. The General Theatrical

Yes, you still need this one. It’s the staple that fits those common breakdowns calling for the: 20s – 50s, any ethnicity, any build, … basically we need a talented actor that can fog a mirror. We really have no clue what we want, but we’ll know it when we see it …

2. The Survivor Look

This is your post-apocalyptic look. Apparently, nothing says end of the world like the southern landscape, and with that comes in influx of survivor style episodic and feature films like The Walking Dead, The Hunger Games Series, Under the Dome, 12 Years a Slave, and many others. This shot is as far from a glamour shot as you can get. These are your low/no make-up shots (maybe just foundation):

3. The Supernatural Look

Are you the hero? Are you the villain? Either way you better have a supernatural power to make it through this script. Vampire Diaries, The Originals, American Horror Story, and the lot of other dark fantasies love the south also. These shots need to channel your inner superhero/super villain. Dark and sultry, mysterious … do we cheer for you or are we scared of you. Pick one and go for it. You know your essence as an actor (if you don’t, you’d better figure it out).

4. The Cops & Robbers Look

Again this goes to knowing your essence as an actor. Are you the Authority or the Law Breaker? This is your opportunity to show that you can play the Police Officer/Chief/Detective, the lawyer or high powered Business Executive. Or, show your thug, drug dealer/user, or shady side.  These shots make it easy to show a casting director your range as an actor!

5. The Commercial Look

Of course we need this one. Commercials help pay the bills while you wait for your next big audition. So, say CHEESE and smile.
Am I really saying you need a minimum of 5 headshots? Yes. Yes, I am. In an increasingly competitive environment, actors must use any marketing tool possible to stand out from the crowd. And lets be honest … you don’t have to print out 400+ headshots at a time anymore, because we’re in the digital age now and virtual submissions are the norm. So what extra cost are you looking at with this? An extra $15-$45 spent on your Actor’s Access Profile maybe? Yeah, that’s a horrible cost to further your acting career (sarcasm…)

The Wrap

So to wrap this all up, character shots rock from an agent’s perspective. They help sell you. They are the first step in selling your story and showing your range as an actor. So, go grab your favorite headshot photographer and start shooting!

– Patrick Ryan

July 2014

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