HOW TO GET THE PERFECT HEADSHOTS (PART 1)

2It’s amazing how often I see actors with terrible headshots. Sadly, nobody will tell you when you have a crappy headshot. Except me. I’ll tell you.

Part of the problem is that your friends and family don’t know the industry, so they see a pretty picture of you and they say, ‘Wow! Gorgeous!’. Little do they know that those shots are actually useless. What’s worse, a lot of agents won’t tell their clients either. I’m not sure why exactly – maybe they’re being polite or maybe it just takes up too much of their time to explain why they’re crap and what you need to do to fix them.

But it’s ok, I’m here to help. Here are the crucial things you need to know to get an amazing headshot:

1.  Your headshot must, I repeat, MUST, reflect your casting type.  There is absolutely no point having a headshot where you look like a sex goddess if you generally get cast as the naive wallflower.  If you don’t know your type, read my other post on this, do some research, or ask your agent. Once you know, you want to just gently suggest your type in your headshot. A naive wallflower might wear something in soft colours and textures, and the nerdy guy might wear a checkered shirt and glasses. Just be subtle about it. The main thing is not to play AGAINST type – so if you’re a naive wallflower, it’s not helpful to wear a leather jacket and black eyeshadow.

We all want photographic evidence that we’re sexy, intelligent and powerful. It’s ok to pursue this, just don’t use those shots for your headshot unless your casting type is sexy.  Even better – stop trying to be sexy and just be natural and your casting type should appear naturally in the photo.

2.  You CANNOT use professional glamour photos as your headshot.  Glamour shots (those studio ones that you got a special deal on for Christmas) are usually under strict copyright so they cannot be reproduced or distributed by you or your agent.  You need to go to a photographer who has specifically agreed to shoot actors headshots, because they will understand that they need to give you the right to reproduce the image.  If in doubt about copyright, ask your photographer before you agree to anything.

3.  Apart from the copyright issues, you shouldn’t be using glamour shots anyway – they’re not appropriate.  Agents don’t want glamour, they want an accurate but flattering picture of the real you.  If your shot looks like it came out of a fashion magazine, then you’ve gone wrong somewhere.

If you get to your audition and look nothing like the shot your agent sent ahead, you and your agent will be in big trouble.  So keep it simple – natural-looking makeup is best, natural lighting, minimal photoshopping.  You want to look like you at your best.

4.  The days of black and white headshots are sadly over.  As far as I’m aware, this is the case in pretty much every country, but you can always check with your agent. Colour is preferred now, but get your photographer to format your favourites in both B&W and colour so you can use either.

5.  It needs to be current.  Don’t submit a shot of you with an old hairstyle or hair colour or from two years ago, just because you think it looks better.  If it’s not current then your agent can’t use it.

6.  Full-length or ¾ shots are optional – some agents use them, some don’t.  If you have a smokin’ hot body, it’s probably worth getting one.  If not, I wouldn’t bother unless your agent requested it.

7.  You don’t need character shots.  Generally I think they’re not very practical – name me an agent who has time to shuffle through folders to find that ‘nerd’ shot of you for one random audition per year. Besides, if you are a nerd type then your headshot should suggest that – that’s step 1!

If you want to get one just for fun and it’s not going to cost you anything extra, no worries.  You may find it useful for auditions that you source yourself, or for websites that allow you to display multiple photos.  But personally I think your time, money and energy would be better spent on a ¾ shot.

Overall, I find it useful to keep in mind what headshots are actually used for.

Your headshot is the ally that works for you when nobody else can.

Whether it’s by you or your agent, your headshot will be sent ahead to your audition.  Your prospective employer may look at it before, during, and/or after your audition.  Before the audition, it may be your first and only chance to convince a prospective employer to actually consider auditioning you.  But you’re not there yet, so your headshot has to convince them for you.

After the audition, your prospective employer will look at it simply as a quick visual reminder of what you looked like.  They may have seen a hundred people audition that day, so the memory of your audition may be a little foggy, even if they liked what you did.  When they’re trying to decide who to call back or who to cast, they will probably spend some time looking at a bunch of headshots.  Again, you’re not there to remind them how awesome you were in your audition.  So your headshot has to convince them again.

No matter what your type is, no matter the role, your headshot is always basically convincing people the same thing:

“I’m professional, I’m appropriate, I’m worth it.”

That means you have to ask yourself:

1.  Does my headshot look professional?  Don’t lie to yourself… if it looks amateurish, you will look like an amateur actor.

2.  Is this headshot appropriate to my type?  Does it scream, “Yes, I can play the awkward smart girl, hire me!”?

3.  Does this headshot really look like me?

I like to think good headshots look ‘striking’ rather than ‘pretty, ‘handsome’, or ‘sexy’.  If your eyes sparkle and you look incredibly alive, that’s what you want, even if you don’t look classically beautiful.  We’re actors, not models… we’re here to play real people, so we need to look like real people.  Put your ego away and your best face forward…

…and go and read part 2 of this blog post.

How to make money as an actor

When it comes to working as an actor, possibly the biggest myths you’ll come across are about MONEY.

Ever heard the term ‘starving artist’? Ever heard it applied to you?

When I first told people in my family that I wanted to be an actor, my uncle responded, “Get used to saying, ‘Would you like fries with that?’

He was only half joking.

Most of us, at some point, will come against someone close to us who doesn’t think we should be an actor, and the primary reason is probably money. To be fair, people who care about you don’t want to see you starve. That’s fair enough, but unfortunately they don’t have accurate information about how people actually make money in this industry. That means their fear about you starving is based on misinformation.

This is actually good news! It means that you can a) actually make a living as an actor and b) convince any sceptical people in your life that you’re going to be fine. Phew.

So let’s talk about how you will realistically make money as an actor.  Read More

BOOKS FOR ACTORS: THE SLIGHT EDGE

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson is a self-development classic. If you want to learn how to get ahead of the pack, and always be moving on up without getting burnt out, this is for you. So if you’re an actor, this book is for you.

Just so you know, I’m not getting paid in any way for my book reviews. These are purely my own opinion and I only write about books that I think will truly benefit my readers.

This book will really ring true for those of you who are post-high school. If you’ve graduated from high school, you’ll know that life gets super hard to balance as you get older. You’ve got a job, maybe even two jobs, maybe uni or college, a social life, maybe some debt to pay off or maybe even kids. You are BUSY. Everyone’s busy.

The basic idea of The Slight Edge is that you need to ‘save a penny’ everyday in order to reap the benefits of compound interest. This seems obvious, but it’s contrary to what most people do. Most people either a) work super hard for something for a short period of time, like cramming for exams or crash dieting, or b) work consistently towards a goal and then drop it once they’ve achieved it, so they have to start from scratch again the next time they want to reach that goal. All of this results in a crazy stressful rollercoaster life, instead of a nice breezy stroll up a slightly inclining hill.

The concepts in this book are super relevant for actors because we’re always trying to balance heaps of things to get ahead. You’re trying to balance earning a living with having enough free time to go to auditions. You’re trying to find time to go to the gym, keep an eye on audition notices, maybe learn an accent or language, go to extra acting classes, schmooze with agents, directors and other actors, and write your own screenplay. Plus all the usual stuff that other humans do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and you might feel like something’s gotta give. Except it doesn’t, as The Slight Edge will explain. You can have it all! You just need to put that penny away. Every. Single. Day.

For an actor, applying the Slight Edge to your life might mean creating a rock-solid morning routine including a ten minute vocal warm up, ten minutes of creative writing and ten minutes of audition prep, plus a dynamite evening routine including a gym work out and sending three cold emails to new contact. Earlier this year, I decided I wanted to focus on skills development and strengthening my voice, so I looked at where I could fit in a vocal warm up, ten minutes French practice and ten minutes piano/singing practice. I realised I could find at least ten minutes every day while driving – so I do my vocal warm ups and listen to language-learning audiobooks  in the car. If I’m not driving much, I sometimes just listen to my audiobooks in the shower or while cleaning my teeth! Mr Olson is so right – it’s easy to find ten minutes every day. Thank you Mr Olson.

In all seriousness though… I’ve talked in the past about how we can’t really have it all. I still stand by that, because quite honestly, no matter how much you’re Slight Edging your life, there’s only so many spare ten minutes you can find in each day. Not because there isn’t enough time, but because I think any sane person will start to go a little mad if they’re trying to fit so many things into their day. And you’ve got to really want it – I’ll be honest, I haven’t managed to keep up with my piano/singing practice. But hey, two out of three ain’t bad. I’ll get there eventually.

Generally I just wish I’d known about the concept of the Slight Edge when I was younger. Imagine all the things I could’ve Slight Edged in the last decade… I’d probably be an Olympian or Prima Ballerina by now… (Pretty sure that’s how it works, right?) In all seriousness though, it would have been super useful. I would know French by now, for one thing, instead of desperately trying to learn it 12 weeks before I have to travel. Eek!

I’d recommend having a read of this book to get a much more thorough idea of how The Slight Edge works and how it might work for you. If you’re still in high school, maybe try Success for Teens: Real Teens Talk About Using the Slight EdgeI haven’t read this one (and I am slightly dubious of anything that has the words ‘real teens’ in the title, a bit like when comedians say, ‘true story’) so I can’t personally recommend it, but I believe Olson’s daughter was part of the team behind it, so it’s probably a fairly safe bet. These books are super cheap to get on Kindle as well, so why wouldn’t you? (If you don’t have a Kindle – did you know you can just get the Kindle app on your phone or tablet and read it that way?) Sold! Let me know what you think of the book once you’ve read it.

HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO GET AUDITIONS

43 copySocial networking is a big part of business marketing these days and since your acting career is a business, you should consider social networking as a helpful and effective tool as well.  As I discussed in an earlier post, I’m not a fan of setting up your own Facebook page or website, but you can definitely use them to help you in other ways. Read More

HOW TO TRAIN AS AN ACTOR WITHOUT GOING TO DRAMA SCHOOL

32Often when you start out in the acting industry, you have a vague notion of wanting to act, but no idea of the many and varied ways in which you can do that.  High school would have given you a brief introduction to Stanislavski, probably Brecht, maybe some Beckett and usually Ray Lawler (if you’re in Australia).  If you had a feeling this was only the tip of the iceberg, you’d be right. If you’re not at drama school, you need to be proactive in self-training. That means reading books, going to short-courses, and of course, researching online – like you’re doing right now. Well done you.

I’m going to tell you some uncomfortable truths now. Read More

WHY YOU DON’T WANT TO BE FAMOUS… YET

15This post starts off a little anecdotal, so please bear with me.  It’s something I really want you to think about.

I remember when I was first starting out I used to read a lot of ‘how to audition’ and ‘how to work as an actor’ books.  I remember they used to describe the acting industry as ‘tough’ and ‘competitive’ (der) and suggested that not many people actually ‘make it’ as actors.  I figured I’d just be in the tiny percentage that did ‘make it’.  I was pretty arrogant and fairly naïve… but that probably worked in my favour at times.  I never told anyone that I believed that about myself, which probably worked in my favour as well – people are often pretty quick to laugh at you or shut you down when you say you want to be an actor, so I can imagine they would have found it pretty hilarious if I’d told them I thought I’d be the next Nicole Kidman (these were the days before Cate Blanchett… I’m showing my age now). Read More

The #1 mistake actors make in auditions

43Recently I was asked for some feedback by someone who (unsuccessfully) auditioned for me.  It’s unusual for actors to even ask for feedback, so I was happy to take some time to write him an email. When I thought more about it, I realised his mistake was a really, really common one for a lot of new actors, so I thought I’d better share it with you here. Read More