Your Headshot: Bring It

I love sessions. There are many components to the casting process, but it really is the see-actors-read-for-every-role part of casting that I love the most. Having just completed a few days of sessions on a short film, I am recharged, in love with actors and their courage to take creative risks every day, in every audition. And I’m also really really really over a problem many actors seem to share: the inability to bring a headshot to an audition.

Now, when I use the word “headshot,” I do mean “headshot and resumé, ideally attached, hopefully current.” And, if the CD has requested that you bring two headshots, I’d hope you’d show up with two. I figure, if you got the information about where to show up, when to show up, and what sides to prepare, you also saw the request for two headshots. Okay, so here comes the rant.

Let’s assume you have received no request for headshots. You only know where and when to show up, and you’re going to prep sides at the location before your appointment time. Fine. You still have a headshot with you, right? And seeing as you’re an actor (which means you audition for a living, really), you actually have multiple headshots with you (or at least back in your car), since you could be going on several auditions within a few hours. Once you sign in and realize you’ve neglected to bring headshots, you can simply run back out to your car and get them, right?

You’d think!

But last week, when it came time to review the headshots of the actors we’d seen each day, there were a few problems.

Let me take you through the process from our POV. The director, producer, writer, and I are in the room for auditions. So is a camera. Of course, the producer and director will review tapes after the sessions, but before they do that, we short-list actors based on what we’ve seen in the room. We sit together and flip through headshots, discussing the notes we’ve made on the resumés, and decide which actors work on tape will even get a second look, after we’ve left the session. So, if you’ve not provided us with a headshot, what are the chances that we’re even going to remember you as we do this last flip-through to create our short lists?

What’s always funny to me is the way non-headshot-toting actors react, when asked for that headshot as they enter the room. “Hi! Thanks for coming in. Let me get your headshot.” “Oh. Uh. I’m sorry. I don’t have one.” “Do you have one in your car?” “Uh. No. I don’t think so.” Usually, at this point, I laugh, and then say, “Okay. Well… I guess I’ll make a sketch of you and make up a list of credits I think you could have, based on how your audition is going. Pardon me if I’m not paying attention to your read, as I need to make sure I have some hardcopy representation of you when you leave the room.”

Yes, I’m a brat. But I’m also trying to make a point. If I have no headshot from you, I really have no point of reference later. No resumé means you leave me with no clue where you’ve trained, what you’ve done, or even how to contact you after the audition, should you get a callback (much less a way to even discuss you with the producers, after the sessions, while we’re making that short list I told you about). When we need to put three or four headshots together on the table to match for family members, for example, how well-represented will you be, when all we have to hold your place is my piece of notepaper with your name, any notes about your read, and the notation: “No HS!” When the director says, “Which actor was that?” I can try to describe you, but who’s to say that my description will match the director’s memory of your look and type? How could any of this possibly help you get the job?

Basically, your headshot is your job application. If you showed up for a job interview in the “real world,” you’d fill out a job application and the interviewer would review the application while chatting with you about the job, making notes in the margins throughout your time together. Same deal here. And I can’t imagine anyone who goes around town doing job interviews every day showing up with nothing. That’s just crazy!

Now, let’s shift to what showing up with no headshot does to your mindset. To be fair, I certainly had a few actors come in for prereads who clearly felt really bad about having forgotten to bring a second headshot (which is a little different than not bringing one at all, although I can’t figure out why you’d not have a whole stack of headshots in your car at any given moment). It was heartbreaking to watch an actor figuratively kicking himself over not having followed instructions. What sort of audition do you expect to deliver when you start out feeling bad about anything you could’ve controlled? What happens to your read when your confidence is burned away? Well, you know. Look, there’s so little power that you, as an actor, have over the casting process. You know that. And that’s all the more reason to take care of the things that are 100% within your control. Showing up with more than enough copies of your headshot than you could ever need seems like a no-brainer. Seems like a no-brainer, but the stack of poorly-rendered drawings I made of no-headshot-bringing actors proves otherwise. Man, this one is just a real head-scratcher for me. I just don’t get it.

Oh, and that last fact is something that brings me to a question I’d like to throw out there to you good people. How can WE make YOUR job easier? By “we,” I mean casting directors, agents, managers, writers, directors, producers… any of us in the industry. I spend a lot of time each week talking about the things actors can do to help themselves, detach from outcome, make our jobs easier… but what about your needs? What are the “mysteries of our behavior” that I might be able to help demystify? What do you need to rant about? I’m ready to learn from you! Shoot me some email and I’ll do my best to help out!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000304.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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