A multi-part series for the not-so-established actor hoping to improve their career.
I believe that when asking a veteran or novice commercial actor the single most important thing about a headshot, more often than not, they would reply that it must look like you. It’s “Headshots 101”. It’s common knowledge. Everyone knows this!! Why, then, would I spend an entire article on this subject? Because, I am flabbergasted at the amount of actors that don’t…. that simply don’t come into a casting looking like their headshots. I urge you to read on… even if you think I am not talking to you.
Commercial actors should never have a headshot that doesn’t look like them, or that they aren’t willing to look like at an audition.
I am asking you to take a moment to be extremely honest with yourself. Are you using a headshot that doesn’t look like you? And, by that, I could mean a headshot where you are 10 lbs heavier or lighter than you are now, older/younger, more/less dolled up than you would get for an audition, shorter/longer hair, too “touched up”… I can go on and on. And frankly, I can imagine all sorts of justifications for these things. I know headshots can be expensive, and I know times are tough. But honestly, I think a misunderstanding of the casting process mixed with ego or vanity is more often the reason for using headshots that don’t accurately represent the actor. The end result: a waste of time for the actor, Agent, and Casting Director.
Let me explain.
Commercial actors are called in by a Casting Director because of what they look like… and because of their known acting ability, resume, skills, etc., but for the topic at hand, we will stick to looks. You will be hired for your wrinkles or lack there of, for your beauty or quirkiness, for your age, for your weight… for who you are. Trends are constantly changing, but beautiful young Barbie people are not the only ones booked on commercials. I know you know this is true. But, yet, actors still fall into the trap of having headshots that portray themselves as better looking (younger, skinnier, more beautiful) than they are. What this means is you are missing out on the auditions that you are really perfect for, and perpetually going out on jobs in which you are not what is being asked for. If it’s a stretch, you won’t book the role. Or, it is dramatically less likely.
When you come in on an audition that you aren’t right for, based on an inaccurate headshot, the Casting Director looks bad for having someone in who isn’t right for the role, the Agent has wasted their time communicating information to you… and even pitching you because they don’t know you gained 20 lbs or that you refuse to get all dolled up for an audition. And YOU have wasted the time it took to learn the sides, get to the audition… all for a role you won’t book, based on your looks. Wouldn’t you rather go out on fewer auditions with a higher chance of a callback/booking the job? I will take this moment to point out, that your stats may still be the same, but if you aren’t willing to put on makeup or do your hair for an audition, that’s a problem too. Don’t have glamour hair in your headshot that you aren’t willing to do for an audition. Have headshots with the same hair you will walk into the audition with, ladies (you are the primary offenders). The client won’t take the time to imagine you all dolled up. They have to see it at first glance. No one has time or desire to imagine anything in this fast paced industry.
It does everyone a disservice to arrive at an audition not looking like your headshot. Be honest with your Agent, so that they can make notes to the Casting Director if you do look different… a little heavier, hair now short, etc. You will not impress the Casting Director with your dazzling performance if you no longer look like your headshot… they will be too busy stressing that a “different person” walked in the door from who they called in. If you have a lot of different looks, ask the Agent which photo was submitted on the job, so that you will have an idea of the effort you need to put into your appearance. Wardrobe is not the only thing that matters. Your face does too! Your hair, your weight…. Everything!
Be committed to looking like your headshot, or be committed to taking them often. Don’t try to be someone you are not. You will be booked for who you are, with a much higher success rate if you are honest with yourself and everyone else about it!