Stonehenge Actor Tip: The Best Headshot, Period

Posted on September 3, 2010 by admin

Ready for some tough love? Welcome to the second in a series of tips for actors attending Stonehenge. You’ll find these blog entries are a bit snarkier than the exhaustive FAQ even though they contain a lot of the same information. Why are we doing this? Well, some of you actors seem to be doing your best to make Stonehenge a horrible experience for yourselves. We don’t condone this. So, if you want to avoid some of these pitfalls, read on.

Now that we’ve mentioned easy resume problems to avoid, we’d like to address a common question:

What’s the right headshot?

From a logistical standpoint, the right headshot should be the industry standard 8″ x 10″ (though Stonehenge does accept 8 1/2″ x 11″ or letter-sized headshots). You should also have enough of them properly secured to your resume (which we already covered).

“But what about aesthetics?” you ask. “What’s the right type of headshot–the best headshot–that’ll make me look good?”

As it happens, we have an answer to that too.

Moreover, this answer will never change. Princes come, princes go, and all that. This answer was true 30 years ago. It’s true now. It will be true far, far into the future.

Ready?

The best headshot is the one that looks like you look, everyday.

Yes, we see you out there saying, “but, but–” Hold on.

‘Good’ in this case means “recognizable” as in “ah, that’s the person who auditioned for me yesterday.” It does not mean, “My lord, that is the most attractive example of the human race I have ever seen.”

Nevertheless, too many of you fall into the glamor shot trap. Oh you may do it unconsciously, but it’s clear you take special care with your headshot. That’s fine. Headshots should be special, but they should look like you.

Unless you ensure that every day and every audition, you have the same glamazon or pretty boy look painstakingly achieved in that headshot, that headshot will not look like you look every day. And before you say, “Oh, of course I can repeat that” we know the truth. Whomever you got to do your hair and makeup for your photo shoot–even if it was you being extra careful–that person didn’t show up helping you prep for Stonehenge.

Every Stonehenge, dozens of you bear no resemblance to your headshot whatsoever. We can go along with it while you’re auditioning. We can note the difference between the person in the headshot and the person acting in front of us. But when we’re back in the comfort of our production offices looking at headshots trying to jog our memories about who to call in? Headshots that don’t look like you don’t help.

And by “don’t help,” we mean “don’t help you get hired.”

Is the definition of ‘good’ beginning to become apparent?

And guess what? It’s not as easy as taking some candid snapshot of yourself.

Because ‘everyday’ does not mean ordinary. It does not mean “blah.” The headshot is the 1/125th second audition after all.

As filmmakers, we want to see someone who is interesting, presentable, has energy in their expression, energy in their eyes, is telling a story, and is capable of telling our story. We want to see someone who is familiar and unique at the same time.

Because that’s who we want to hire.

That ‘familiar and unique’ would seem to be a contradiction doesn’t matter. We find people every audition who are familiar and unique, because you yourself are unique–even if you’re a twin. Mister Rogers had it right. You are special–and you can get a headshot that shows that.

Let’s repeat and amplify that: every single one of you reading this right now can have a fantastic headshot. (statistically speaking, some of you reading this probably do have great headshots and are just nervous).

So how do you do this? Go back to basics. This is a job interview. You want to be presentable and you want people to recognize you. This isn’t your friends and relatives identifying you. Imagine one of the casting directors had to pick you out of a lineup using only your headshot. They should be able to do it quickly.

You do not want them to say, “Oh, how long ago was this shot?”

You do not want them to say, “So, did you do the airbrushing?”

Makeup is fine. The last time we checked, women (and some men) do wear makeup everyday. There’s a place for comp cards (aka z cards). It isn’t Stonehenge. Remember, you can always show a different look on your resume side.

That also goes for you character actors who want to show some dramatic look. Let’s see the everyday you, the one that’s most likely auditioning, and on the resume side we can see you with the eye patch, beard, and dueling scar (for women, this is doubly true).

Remember, we’re going on about this because we want you to get called back in–and one of the number one complaints we hear from filmmakers is that actors do not look like their headshots.

You don’t have to have that problem.

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P.S. Photocopying your headshot is cheap and looks cheap. Remember, this is a job interview.

P.P.S. No one is going to curse you for your black and white headshot, but color is so much more affordable these days–and that’s what most of us plan to shoot in. While you’re asking your peers for good photographers, ask where you can get good color duplication.