Our first event at the SAG Foundation Actors Center felt like a definite success. Apart from my accidentally using the word “vibrator” instead of “vibrate” when I asked everyone to silence their phones, I mostly got away with feeling very little shame.
We had the honor of welcoming Laray Mayfield as our first speaker at the Actors Center. If you didn’t read my previous post about her distinguished resume, Laray most frequently collaborates with David Fincher, which means she’s cast some of the best projects of the last 20 years, such as Fight Club, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Gone Girl, as well as winning an Artios Award from the Casting Society of America for The Social Network and an Emmy for House of Cards. I mean, the woman is legit, so when she talks about headshots and honing your craft, a person is inclined to listen.
The overall message she has on headshots is that she wants to see you as you are, not as you wish to be seen. That means you should update your shot as you age and keep to your everyday look and style. The ladies shouldn’t get too glamorous. She likes a warm tone to the shot – meaning you should stick with muted, but warm colors and rich lighting. Again and again as she scanned through the audience members’ headshots, she was picking up the ones that had earthy colors and warm tones – black, burgundy, deep greens, etc. And she was quick to advise that she doesn’t think you need more than one shot. Being a theatrical casting director, she isn’t looking for someone who is showing they can wear a million different hats in their headshots. She can use her imagination on that. She’s looking for someone who is their own multi-dimensional person, someone who has a story going on behind the eyes.
So while you might want to invest in a good photographer, she’s not one to advise paying for additional looks (this is a personal preference of hers). Select the very best photo that conveys who you are and can play a happy medium between commercial and theatrical. And no tricks or gimmicks – don’t throw props or pets in your photo. But do convey who you are in your daily life. If you have curly hair, don’t worry about straightening it. If you wear your glasses on a daily basis and they’re a part of your personality, keep ’em on. But also don’t stress about trying to look a certain type for her. If you don’t wear glasses everyday, then wear your contacts. More than anything, she advocates looking like yourself.
Being as legit as she is, however, you’re only going to be able to reach her through your agent or manager. She doesn’t do social media and your postcards are better left unsent. That’s not to say she’s not out there seeing good theatre, movies, and television, but it’s not gonna be your postcard that gets her there. She’s a big believer in training. Her advice to actors is to take classes and if you can’t afford to, then be a self-starter. Do plays, do workshops, get your friends together to do table reads and cold reads. Always be honing your craft because, as she put it, agents and headshots are not silver bullets.
However, if you are at that level where you’re being called in to read for her, congratulations! But don’t smoke right beforehand, don’t chew gum, and don’t shake her hand. That’s just good manners.
Oh, also she loves the name Loretta and yes, the IMDB Star Meter is meaningless.
Lindsay Katai is a writer/performer/debtor who has worked at Casting Networks since 2010.