Video: Coffee With Anna: Part V - Headshots

Video: Coffee With Anna: Part V - Headshots

What makes a headshot stand out and what do managers look for in a headshot? Check out the next episode in the series "Coffee with Anna" as headshots Los Angeles photographer, Shandon Youngclaus, talks with talent Manager Anna Lewkowska. For more in-depth insights, check out Anna's blog at ActorsForLunch.com

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Pay to Play

How to Spend your Money in Hollywood

PAY2PLAY headshots los angeles.jpg

     Money isn’t everything, but it can sure help when pursuing a career in Hollywood.  Breaking into the entertainment industry is hard, and one of the biggest hurdles is funding your acting career.  The payoffs can be lucrative, but getting there can bankrupt you.  If you’re moving to Los Angeles from anywhere else in the country (with the exception of Manhattan), you’re going to be moving into a more robust economy, where everything is more expensive from food to housing, to transportation.  It’s important to know the best ways to spend your money, so you can optimize your time in Hollywood.

     Training—There is no better investment than learning your craft.  A pretty face might book an audition, but a talented actor will book roles.  Take the time and the expense to learn the ropes.  There are a few types of classes in Los Angeles that will help you in your acting pursuits.  Scene study should be a regular part of your curriculum.  If you’re not acting regularly, you're not an actor.  It’s great when you reach the point in your career when you are consistently paid to act, but until then, it would behoove you to spend some money on an acting class where you can regularly work and explore your craft. Great teachers will give you the tools to deconstruct scenes, find objectives and make strong and interesting choices to elicit emotional response.  If you aren’t regularly acting, your artistry will atrophy. When that great audition comes up, you need to be at the height of your conditioning.  If you’re not prepared, the opportunity is lost.  

     Marketing Materials—You have to cut through the clutter of Hollywood.  If you don’t have a professional headshot, do yourself a favor and hire a professional to give you one.  So many of our clients have been sent to us from their agents with similar stories.  The photo that your boyfriend took with his new iPhone looks good but isn’t making the phone ring.  If you want to look like a professional actor, hire a photographer that can make you look like you're already working.  A compelling headshot that reveals who you are as an actor and a commodity will pique the interest of the casting director and increase your odds of auditioning.  In an industry overwhelmed with hopefuls, you must find a way to quickly and concisely portray your uniqueness.  A great headshot is an investment that must be made if you want to succeed.

     Representation—it’s important to pay your representation, especially if you want them to work hard for you.  This might sound obvious, but there are so many actors who are resentful of their agents and managers taking their ten percent.  I’ve heard so many stories of actors cutting their agents out of deals and justifying it in a variety of ways.  You should always honor your contracts (and read them before signing).  Agents work hard to get their clients work, and even when you book a job on your own or through another source like your manager, it’s important to pay all of your team their share.  They only make money when you’re making money, and working around them will only sour your relationship and breed distrust.  Pay their share and use the current job to help you book the next.  Remember, it’s a team effort.

     Clothing—you have to look like a viable candidate to play the roles you're auditioning for. If you don't own an audition wardrobe, go shopping.  You’re being judged and considered from the moment you step into the audition room.  If you don’t look the part, or worse, if your clothing is distracting the casting director from your talent, you’ve done yourself a huge disservice. Great audition apparel helps cast you in the role you're auditioning for.  It flatters your body type and compliments your coloring.  It enhances your identity without distracting from your work.  It fits well and is properly cared for.  Make the time and investment in looking good.  It’s easier than you think to dress for success.

     Workshops—unlike acting classes, workshops are a great way to learn audition techniques and meet industry professionals.  The best workshops are classes taught by industry professionals who are NOT casting directors. Many of these workshops teach audition techniques for several weeks and end with some sort of industry showcase where agents and casting directors come to view your work and find budding talent.  Casting director workshops, on the other hand, have come under a lot of scrutiny over the years, but are a great way to meet people with the power to give you work.  Every now and then there seems to be a crackdown on these types of classes, where companies are fined and players are jailed because they are, in essence, selling paid auditions and work opportunities.  At their best they are a great resource to better understand the audition process and a way to meet industry professionals who can give you work.  

     If you are going to plop your money down to meet casting directors, make the most of it and do your research.  Take workshops from Casting Directors who are ACTIVELY casting.  Many feature casting directors use industry workshops as a way to make money between gigs.  If they don’t know their next project, the chances of them remembering you down the road isn’t that great.  Also, take classes from Casting Directors who cast shows that are appropriate to your talent.  If you're not a comedian, don’t take a class from someone who only casts sitcoms.  Also, make sure you are taking classes from the Casting Director or Associate Casting Director and not from an assistant at the casting office.  You can burn through a lot of money taking workshops with little-to-no results.  If you're going to spend your money to meet Casting Directors, have a plan and do it wisely. 

     It can be very frustrating when you feel like you have to pay to play in an industry,  and because the competition is so fierce in Hollywood, it’s inevitable that you will have to spend money to make money.  It can be a hard juggling act to stay solvent and continue moving forward, but if you learn to spend your money wisely, it won’t be long before you’re earning dividends.  

Video: Coffee with Anna: Part III - When To Push

Video: Coffee with Anna: Part III - When To Push

How far does a manager push to get their talent seen after submitting? Check out the next episode in the series "Coffee with Anna" as headshots Los Angeles photographer, Shandon Youngclaus, talks with talent Manager Anna Lewkowska. For more in-depth insights, check out Anna's blog at ActorsForLunch.com

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There’s no "U" in Team

Learning to Trust Your Representation

 Photo Source: Dreamstime.com

Photo Source: Dreamstime.com

     Recently we photographed headshots of a young actor in Los Angeles, whose dad was very concerned about a small serious of photos in his daughter’s proof sheets.  Frankly, he didn’t like them and found them unflattering of his child.  He called and requested that the photos be removed from the proof sheets before sending them to his daughter’s agent.  This doesn’t really happen too often and when it does, we’re a little baffled by it.  The whole point of a photoshoot is to take a bunch of photos and then choose the best of the best to help market you in the months that follow.  While we strive to shoot as many great photos as possible, it’s the nature of the beast that the vast majority of photos we take will wind up on the editing room floor (or the computer’s recycle bin).  Being fixated on a handful of bad photos instead of the handful of great ones, is a classic case of looking at the glass half empty, but the bigger take away is the need to trust the process.

     While it seems like a pretty straight forward process, I’d like to take a few moments to explain how it works to the unindoctrinated.  After you’ve chosen your photographer, you’ll typically show up to the shoot and collaborate with him.  You might want to bring your ideas, or talk to your agent to see what their needs are.  We shoot photos based on yours and the agents’ needs and then we post those photos online in galleries, or proof sheets.  The agent chooses photos that will best represent you and help get you auditions.  Once the photos are chosen, you’ll touch up the photos if necessary and then post them on casting websites for the agents to view when submitting your photos to casting directors. It’s a collaborative process and there are a lot of opinions.  You’re the boss and you’ve hired a team of professionals that you trust—your agents, manager, photographer, makeup artist, retoucher, and sometimes publicist.  And as the boss, it’s important to not micro manage and instead, trust the process and those you’ve hired to represent you.

     The happy ending of the story above, is that the agent did her job.  She looked through the girl’s photos and found some really compelling images to help sell her client to casting directors.  As predicted, she didn’t choose the “bad” ones, and didn’t drop her from the agency suddenly because she realized her client wasn’t perfect.  Your agent is on your side.  Your photographer is on your side.  That's what you're paying for.

     When we shoot celebrities, many times the artists never even see the proof sheets.  Either the ad agency or the artist’s representation will choose the photos.  The artist usually has photo approval, but in the end they are approving their team’s or employers’ choices.  They trust the people around them with the minutia, so they can concentrate on their craft.

     Trusting your representation is essential to moving forward in the industry.  We hear constant stories from our managers and agents about clients who have seen roles in the breakdowns that they want to be considered for.  They call or email their reps urging them to throw their name into the hat.  Usually the agent has already submitted them or they have a valid reason for not submitting them.  But the constant checking-in and micro managing result in an erosion of trust.  The agents resent the mistrust and relationships begin to sour.

     When there’s a dry spell in your auditions and you ask your agents advice, trust them.  They have insights and experience that have led them to their opinion. At the end of the day, if you really don’t trust that your agent is working on your behalf, it’s time to move on.  If you’re right, you’ll do much better with another agent.  If your wrong, you’ll know it soon enough and hopefully you’ll have learned from the process.

The Actor Reads

The Actor Reads

The entertainment industry is chock full of professionals who are willing to share their stories and expertise with up-and-comers. Many casting directors, managers, agents and photographers have blogs and books that give actors keys to opening doors in Hollywood.

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Acting Zen

Acting Zen

 Los Angeles, and California in general, has a distinct reputation around the globe.  Angelinos are seen as health-conscious, image-conscious, self-helping liberals who start or quickly follow the latest dietary, fitness, or spiritual trends (and that’s one of the more diplomatic categorizations).

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Who Am I Anyway?

headshots los angeles shoot

Five Questions to help define who you are as an Artist

     So much of being an actor in Los Angeles is knowing your type.  When you know and embrace your type, you help casting directors do their jobs more efficiently.  But type is a sort of superficial category only a few layers deeper than skin and hair color.  And while knowing your type might help you land your next job, if you want to get to the nuts and bolts of what gives you longevity in Hollywood and what transitions you from day player to lead actor, you’ll need to delve into the more nuanced attributes that make you your own special and unique brand.  Knowing who you are as a performer is the difference between a working-class acting career and star-powered artistic success.

     As photographers, our jobs are convincing our subjects to reveal themselves, and the more sincerely our clients behave, the better the photos are.  So I’ve had a lot of conversations with actors over the years hoping to scratch at what makes them unique as an artist, what makes them special to the industry, and what makes them a commodity worth buying.

     Here’s a few questions that every actor should be able to answer, but I’m constantly amazed at how often the actors I shoot can’t answer these very simple ice breaker questions.  While there are so many conversations that happen in our studio, the following are the types of conversations that help define who you are as an artist and what makes you interesting and unique.  If you can’t answer these questions, you're neither interesting nor unique.  I love knowing what an artist connects with—what moves them and why.  It’s a way to see what creative wells they draw from.  So take a few minutes to see how well you know your place in the industry.  When you’ve reflected on your answers, think about whether or not you like the answers.  It’s okay to keep the answers evolving - it just means your artistry will evolve and become more robust as well.

     What are you watching?  While there are many ways to answer this question, there’s really only one wrong answer.  If you’re not watching anything, you’re not participating in the industry on the most basic level.  You’re not learning and you’re not able to picture yourself in the industry.  If you are wanting to act in the film and television industry, it’s important to know the industry you’re breaking into.  You should be able to talk about the current television season or films with Oscar buzz.  And you should be able to have something interesting to say about them.  You might also want to be watching classic films and TV shows.  Classics are what they are (in part) because of their talented casts.  Maybe you want to study a specific actor’s filmography, or re-watch a sitcom with an inspired cast.  You must have a sense of history if you want to make any of your own.

     What are you good at?  This shouldn’t be a hard question, but time after time I encounter artists who don’t really know where their talents are.  When you know what you’re good at, you show a great deal of confidence and when you have confidence in yourself, it’s easier for others to invest in you.  When you can openly share what your strengths are, it’s easier to communicate with everyone around you who are helping to get you to your goals, including your agents and managers, your photographers and of course your casting directors.  Don’t be shy and don’t be wishy-washy.  Define yourself as the actor you are and the actor you want to be.  Think about the roles you enjoy playing and examples of when you really shined as an actor, whether professionally or in your scene-study classes.  When you know yourself, you help others to know you.

     Who do you admire as an artist?  You should be watching performances that excite you and you should know why you get excited when watching these moments.  And when you actively watch and study great acting, it’s inevitable that you can learn from it, even if it’s only a sense of what is required for you to succeed in a role.  It’s important to have great talent to aspire to.  It’s important to recognize what great talent is.  If you can articulate why your favorite actor is a superior artist, then you’ve made your first step and discovering what is required for you to have an equally successful career.

     What are you’re long term goals?  If you don’t know where you want to go, you’ll never get there.  It’s hard for an actor to have an endgame, when so much of the time is spent hustling for work.  It’s important to remember what you want to do and not just what you’re willing to do.  What you want to do will drive you to become better than you currently are.  It will keep you motivated and you might even start creating that work on your own and not waiting for it to magically arrive.  Having a strong sense of what’s going to keep you happy as an artist will keep your passion alive and keep the drama in the script and out of your personal headspace.

     What made you want to be an artist?  Frankly, after answering the other questions, this one should be a cinch.  Being an actor in Hollywood can be a real struggle at times.  It’s important to remember why you started down this path, so you can manage the disappointments that happen along the way.  Every artist knows that moment when they knew their fate was sealed.  It’s important to think about why that moment was so moving to you and if it continues to drive you today.  And if the reason you're pursuing an acting career is superficial (i.e. the fame or the money), chances are your career will be superficial as well.

     You are a unique spirit with a unique talent, and the better you can define yourself as an artist, the greater your chances to communicate your brand of entertainment to your team, your colleagues, and most importantly your audience. 

Wardrobe Choices for Young Actors

What clothing to bring to your child’s headshot session

     “What should I wear in my headshots?”  It’s the most common question we get.  And depending who you ask, you’re likely to get a a variety of answers.    Wardrobe can really make or break a shoot, so do yourself and your child actor a favor and plan ahead.  With a little preparation, you can give your child the edge—successful photoshoots begin long before you arrive at the studio.  If you assemble and bring the right clothing, your photos will be a step above the competition resulting in more auditions, more opportunity, and ultimately more work.

     As I’ve said in previous blog posts like Submission Specificsa great way to start preparing for your photoshoot is to talk to your child’s agent.  Your agent will have a very clear idea of how your child fits into the industry and what kinds of looks and styling will be most useful in getting them called in to meet casting directors.  Before you book your photo session, talk with your agents and managers.  If you don’t have the right clothing in your closet, you may need to make a trip to the mall to get just the right styles to fit into Hollywood.

     There are two types of agencies/managers in Los Angeles.  Usually the largest agencies with huge client rosters are less specific with your child’s submissions.  These agencies usually want one catch-all commercial shot and one catch-all theatrical shot.  So the goal is two complimentary outfits—one shot that is more commercial in tone and one shot that is more theatrical or serious in tone.  In some ways, this might make your job as your child’s stylist a lot easier, but sometimes a smaller target is harder to hit. What constitutes the perfect clothing choice for headshots?

     Generally speaking, a catch-all commercial shot, should be bright and “pop” off the casting website.  Bright colors that compliment your child’s coloring is ideal.  When choosing colors, think about what colors would bring out your child’s eyes, or what colors compliment highlights or hair color.  Skin tone (and undertones like lip color and eyelid tone) might also be a consideration when choosing colors.  Solid color tops are a safe bet, but texture can also be great.  The shirts should never be distracting, but some detail or small low contrast pattern can help create the illusion of depth and help to pull a viewers eyes to your photos.  Lace and knitted materials as well as textured low contrast prints can be interesting without being distracting.  

     Theatrical shots tend to be more muted in emotional tone, so muted colors usually enhance and amplify theatrical impact.  Darker colors can sometimes help bring about a more dramatic energy, so be sure to bring those choices as well.

     If your agent or manager prefers more specific photos for submission, you’ll want to take some time to think about the types of roles you’ll be submitted for.  By styling yourself to look like the roles you want to play, you’re literally using the law of attraction to help the casting director see you in their films and television shows.  If you’re agent wants specificity, consider bringing clothes to your photoshoot that fit into one of the following categories:

(See Gallery Below for Pictures)

The kid next door.  Think of this as the friend or neighbor on one of your favorite network sitcoms.  In fact, you can use the kids on those shows for inspiration.  A colorful T-shirt with a light hoodie or sweater looks great.  Or maybe try a low contrast plaid or denim shirt over a brighter tee.

The popular kid.  This is sometimes the mean girl, sometimes the jock.  Typically styles conservatively, girls can wear trendy sweaters or letterman-type sports jackets.  Think intense gender conformity—where girls are really catty and guys are playfully belligerent and everyone is congratulating each other for creating the mold that others want to fit into.   

The edgy tough kid.  These characters are the lost children of CSI or the junior crime fighters on the CW.  Leather jackets or army drab can give the your child the look of the terminator franchise or the school yard bully. Distressed thermals or hoodies also are great for this look.  The tough kid is often overlooked by parents, because they don't necessarily think of their children this way—take a moment to reconsider.        

The nerd/class president.  There's one in every class, and your kid might be the perfect choice for casting.  If your child wears glasses, bring them to the shoot.  Conservative outfits work best for this.  Little suits for the boys can be appropriate with both straight ties and bow ties, or maybe a v-neck sweater over the shirt and tie or a vest.  For the girls, go with cardigan sweaters over peter pan collars or school uniforms.  You can also mismatch plaids and sweaters for a more goofy version, but in general you want casting to see the photo and believe this is an authentic version of your child.                                                                                                                   

The Disney/Nickelodeon kid.  Do some homework and watch a few of the most popular shows on Disney and Nickelodeon.  Pre-teens and teen girls often wear small floral patterns with simple but trendy accessories.  Younger kids sometimes wear overalls.  Small stripes and low contrast patterns are also a great way to bring out the broader, brighter, younger side of your child actor.   

Midwestern/Southern. Denim and plaids over plain white tees will help with your fly-over state castings.  There are so many shows and films that are looking for blue collar kids.  Western and work shirts also are great choices.  Again, this might not be parents first thought when they are pulling clothes, but it’s worth considering

 

Goth/Loner/Skater while this is a much more specific look that isn't in the breakdowns daily, it might be worth shooting, if your child has a more dramatic edgy look.  If the photo looks authentic, you'll have a much better chance of being seen for the role.  Girls can have a little fun with the darker makeup and both guys can rock messy hair with a more grungy clothing.  Accessories are a plus here as well

Regarding accessories:  In general accessories should be avoided unless it helps tell the story of the photo.  Maybe the goth girl wears a plastic lace choker or the nerd wears glasses, but in general, if the accessories aren’t helping to tell the actor’s story, then they can only be distracting from it. Girls under 12 should remove earrings and any other jewelry.  Hair ties should be nearly invisible.  Bobby pins and clear or simple bands are all you need.

     Another general rule is to dress your child for youth.  You always want your child to look younger than they are.  Older kids can work longer than younger children and often times are more mature and able to handle the stress and structure of a film or television set.  So when you are dressing your child for a headshot, consider clothes that keep them looking young.  Any hairstyle or shirt that can help to shorten the face will keep your child looking on the young side of his age.  When hair and wardrobe help to lengthen the face, you are essentially aging your child up.  For example a crewneck and bangs will make a kid look a couple of years younger than a v-neck and pompadour.  Stripes, overalls, and brighter colors can also help de-age your child.

     Remember it’s a good thing to bring too many clothing choices to a shoot than not enough choices.  Bring two or three options for each look you’re trying to achieve.  The photographer will help you choose the best choice with consideration to his style of shooting, your child’s complexion, and lighting choices.

     Also remember this should be fun.  Carve out some time in your schedule to really assemble the right clothing for your kiddo.  It will enhance your child’s shoot in a really beautiful and subtle way.  You’re helping to create your marketing tools for at least the next year, so put in the energy now to reap the rewards of a higher audition rate afterward.