How your headshot and resume can give you an edge with casting directors.
Stay ahead of the competition by using common sense, honing personal and professional skills, and investing wisely in your headshot and resume. Your headshot is your first impression. That’s why it is so important to have them done properly. Whether you are going in for a first headshot session, or to update changing looks (haircut, hair color, beard, a clean shave, Botox injections, etc.), getting the most bang for your buck is a top priority.
No second chances with first impressions
The actor has to ask, “Am I confident in my headshot and resume?” This is primary. Also, is your resume up to date? Does it represent you as well as you want it to? Does it include enough pertinent information? Or is there too much or too little? And your headshot, the bane of every performer’s existence, is it up to par? Is it ultimately going to get you the attention you want? As with any profession, your first impression is key. You must use your headshot and resume as the ultimate marketing tool.
Avoid The Circular File
The thorny part of the acting world is attempting to determine what exactly the people in the field are looking for. Tastes and needs vary, expectations are diverse, and the acting industry can be particularly fickle. No matter how high the quality your credentials or headshot, your materials finding a resting place in a landfill is an unfortunate possibility. Ensuring that the headshot and resume are of the best possible quality may just keep you off the scrap heap. Or, at least tucked away possibly to be seen again someday.
Why Quality Matters
When you have found a role you want to audition for, and you are preparing to send out your materials, you should also make sure that what you are sending is of the highest quality you can afford. Make sure the photo and resume reach out and snap the agent or producer to attention. What is that beleaguered casting agent or caffeine-laden producer or director seeking among the dizzying number of headshots they are bound to get? What do they want to see on your resume?
About Your Headshot
The resume is important, but the headshot is the first impression. Often with a single glance at that photograph, the person casting the project will generally know if you fit the profile that they are seeking. But what might make an impact, or at least draw their eyes back to the photo?
Don’t Sell Yourself Sort
So many actors go to sub-par photographers who don’t capture their features, or their selling features like eyes and mouth. You want a photographer who can coax something out of you, like a smirk or a glint in the eye, to help show your personality. It will put you above the countless number of smiling faces
Go Against The Grain
Not every casting person has the imagination to picture you as a different type. If you are a clean cut, All-American guy, take a photo with a 5 o’clock shadow so they can see you can look tough, too. Women don’t always have to be glamorous. Personality goes a long way. An actor certainly doesn’t want to look the same as every other beaming face in the stacks scattered across the agent’s desk.
Flaunt It If You Got It
You don’t want a sub-par photographer. However, some responsibility for the overall look of the photo also rests on the actor’s shoulders, too. One thing you can do is spend time at home in front of the mirror practicing expressions. Practice the smiles. Practice the serious looks. But nothing unnatural.
Keeping it Real
Making sure your appearance is as close to reality as possible is the best route. Excessive makeup or costuming is not advisable. A good headshot should look just like the person walking through the door. Your headshot should look like you.
What to Avoid
There are a few basic pointers for a headshot session. You should avoid textured backgrounds, to prevent distraction. Prints or patterns on clothing also distract, as does jewelry. Women should use simple, everyday makeup, not theatrical makeup.
Know What You Don’t Like
If you have had headshots done in the past, bring them with you. What you don’t like is also important. If you already know you don’t like it, you don’t want to duplicate it.
You Better Shop Around
Try to find a photographer that you feel will meet your needs. The costliest photographer is not necessarily the best. Finding a photographer you are comfortable with is a good way to get a great result.
What Matters Most
The border or font, or the background, isn’t going to make the difference. It’s how the picture represents you. In the end, simply shop around. See who’s out there. Scan the advertisements and check out examples of various photographer’s work. If a fellow actor has an impressive headshot, ask that person whom they used. A little research can go a long way, and can be one of your best assets in the end. The best asset, that is, besides a superlative headshot.
Plenty of You to Go Around
After your photos comes the matter of reproducing your headshot in a large quantity for your mailings. Make sure you are prepared when you approach a reproduction facility, so that the operation can run smoothly.
In Matters of Reproduction Always Use Protection
Prints should be a finished print with no cracks or damage. If the actor doesn’t put it in cardboard, it may come damaged. Damaged prints simply equal a lesser product when you are marketing yourself. Unless you have wads of money sitting around begging to be spent, you want to do it right the first time.
Take Your Time, Do It Right
Maintaining the highest standards possible within your means and not rushing the process will enhance the impression you make to prospective agents or producers.
Take a good look at the photos you are most pleased with. Study their nuances carefully. They may need improvement. Excessive shadow, deficient lighting, unsightly blemishes, a poor background, or that cowlick acting up might call for a retouching.
Getting Your Pix Fixed
If there are imperfections in the headshot, and you decide it requires a touch-up, don’t make it a guessing game. Try to have a clear idea of the retouching you want. Knowing what you want will save time and headaches.
Keep Contrast In Mind
It is valuable to keep in mind that the photo used for reproduction should be fairly soft in appearance. Creating a copy negative increases the contrast, and a high-contrast original photo will produce a final print that could appear too harsh.
Don’t Sell Reproduction Short
It is important not to underestimate the significance of reproduction. Though this may seem less important than the completed headshot/resume package, it is the central facet that will determine how you present your image. Always keep in mind that you are marketing yourself to potential agents or producers, and in marketing the quality counts.
What Do You Have to Say For Yourself?
Organizing the resume, knowing what to include, and not to include, can seem obvious, but could prove more irksome than expected.
You’ve taken classes, maybe acted in a short film or video, or done extra work or even landed roles in television or film. Weeding through this, what do you choose to include, and what is left out?
Keepin’ the CV Real, Too
For a longtime working actor, this should be easy, with prominent roles from major work immediately displayed. For those new to acting, possibly just out of school, it might be tricky. Some actors may have a propensity to embellish, or to put superfluous filler on their resume to make it look more developed. This is not always the path to take.
Quality VS. Quantity
Always list the most important credits. Any major work you’ve done. Quality almost always outweighs quantity.
Have You Got Class?
Resumes should include information about training. Sometimes it is the first thing a casting director will look at. A foundation of solid, reputable training is always an asset.
As expected, different agents have different needs as dictated by the medium. Some love to see lots of TV work, some like to see more theater. Therefore, a good balance of screen and stage is an asset.
Can Drive A Stick Shift
Training, versatility, and legitimate professional experience are the key points. But what about the list that usually appears at the bottom of the resume? The heading usually reads as “special skills.” Special skills often seem lost in the shuffle, but can be important. If you have a unique skill that can be a selling point, here’s your chance. Are you a black belt? A polyglot? An expert equestrian? By all means, say so.
There are common sense basics to adhere to. Your resume should be legible, typed, not cluttered, and easy on the eye, with a quality photocopy job. Scrawling in a recent gig is frowned upon and makes the resume, and its sender, look amateurish. It is also highly advisable that you include a number(s) that is always available. What’s more, having a service or an agent number will add to the level of professionalism you present.
The Personal Touch
A personal note or a cover letter can show you’ve taken the time to read the ad, and that you’re not just doing a mass mailing.
Without a high-quality photo and an organized, succinct resume, success will be non-existent. Marketing yourself properly, and selling what you offer in the best possible way, is crucial in this industry. Anything you can do to try to swing the balance to your side is a step forward.
Above all, A headshot that accurately represents your appearance, and a resume detailing what you are capable of doing, whether on the stage or on the screen, are two key weapons the actor needs to utilize. They are the key factors in receiving a response, and that is a fact that is difficult to dispute. Spend within your means, but if you are serious about attaining success in the field, the headshot and résumé cannot be neglected.
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