How to Use the Visual Imagery of Movie Posters to Help Create the Perfect Headshot
Years ago I visited a fashion photographer friend in his (then) new studio. As we shared a coffee in his waiting room, I was fascinated by a sort of art installation covering an entire wall. Half wallpaper/half fine art, the wall was covered with tear sheets from various fashion magazines. Dozens of models in various styles shot in a wide range of lighting and art direction. It was a beautiful collage of everything the fashion industry was at that very moment. This was my friends inspiration wall—an ever changing kaleidoscope of suggestion, aspiration, and a visual dictionary to get his team and his clients on the same page. A library of up-to-the-minute photos where he or his clients could point to an image and say: I want to create something like that.
This idea of an inspiration wall or vision board for the the studio was intriguing to me. As anyone who has read my blog knows, I’m a big believer in planning and analytical approach. The best photoshoots don’t just happen; they are planned for, curated and only then, effortlessly executed. An inspiration board is a physical, visual manifestation of research—the easiest and fastest form of communication. If you’re gearing up to create your own concise and informing image (your headshot) that will compel casting directors to call you in, what better way to inspire your headshot session, than with an image search of your target genre of film or television shows.
Here’s a primer to creating your own vision board for this year. Bonus stars if you go the extra mile with an arts and crafts project involving cut outs, poster board, glue sticks and glitter.
- Determine Your Strengths as an Actor. This is sometimes harder than it looks. It’s important to know how you’ll be cast. What genres do you feel most comfortable performing. I ask this question of my clients all the time. I get frustrated when I hear answers that lack specificity. “I like to do it all.” “I’ll take whatever I can get.” “I’ve never thought about that.” These are all answers from non-working actors. Those that work know their strengths. You may enjoy performing in both dramas an comedies, but chances are you are better at one, and more likely to be cast in one. If you want to take the specificity up a notch, consider what type of drama or comedy you’re best suited for. Are you a half hour multi-camera comedian, or a single camera cable dramedian. If you need help narrowing it down, ask your acting coach or mentor, or veteran actor friend who’s objective and savvy. Do not take this step lightly. It is the foundation of all your other preparation. If you miss the target here, the rest is expensive busy work.
- Determine Your Target Television Shows and Films. After you determined your strengths as an actor, start thinking about what current Television Shows and Films you could be genuinely cast in. Make a list of the most popular shows in your genre and even the shows you’re not familiar with. A great internet resource is TasteDive.com. There, you can type in a show title and the site kicks back a list of similar titles in that particular genre. Try to compile the most comprehensive list of films and shows that could actually employ you. Again, specificity is key. You must be specific with your talent, and you must find specific examples of recent projects that would showcase your talent.
- Research your Target Show or Target Movie’s Promotional Materials. Once you’ve made your list of shows you want to target as an actor, do some very basic research to find promotional materials from those shows. Google Images is your best resource for quickly finding promotional materials from the shows you’re interested in auditioning for. Go to Google Images in your web browser (images.google.com). Then type in the show you’re looking for. You can include the network or streaming service or the word “poster” or “promotional” or “promo” or the year “season 2” etc. to help narrow your search. When you hit “enter” on your keyboard, you’ll open a Pandora’s box of images created to help promote the show. You should see a lot of great portraits that have been styled and curated to pique your interest in the show. Your next job is to mimic those portraits and create something similar to pique the interest of the casting directors.
- Style Yourself. Take a good look at the clothing you see in the images you pull up for your target show. Every film and television show has a unique energy and that energy should be well displayed in the promotional posters. Take notes on the wardrobe and then go shopping. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want.” (If not, now you have.) Go style yourself like you’ve already been hired and you’ve just come from your fitting.
- Hire a professional photographer. A skilled photographer will help you achieve your vision of movie poster magic while at the same time staying within the tightly bound confines of headshot photography. Choose a photographer with a consistent yet varied book. Get recommendations from your agent. Find a photographer that will understand this process and enjoy his role in it.
- Get your Headshots On. Now comes the easy part. Combine and serve! Put the pieces together to create a headshot that looks like it could be part of a show’s promotional materials and pat yourself on the back for being a one-person Art Department.
One more word of advice. When you are looking through your inspirational material, don’t feel the need to recreate one specific photo. Use your inspiration as just that—something that inspires a brand new visual product. You’re looking for an energy and a style, and finding styles that compliment your talents. Here are a few searches to help get you started.
https://bit.ly/2rtx2gL Television Lawyer
https://bit.ly/2rlq25w Crime Dramas
https://bit.ly/2I8uIGi Disney Channel Posters