Every day agents and managers in Los Angeles go online to scour the breakdowns, a list of professional acting jobs currently being offered by casting directors in Los Angeles. The agents and managers read each offering, then take a moment to pull their clients’ headshots and submit them for potential work. The casting directors are inundated with digital packets from all of the various actor representatives in town, and open each digital packet to hunt for the headshot that might match the roles they’re casting.
So one of your agent’s jobs is to see you through the eyes of the casting directors. Using your headshot and resume, your agent must convince the casting director to call you in for an audition. Every agent and manager has a theory and system for submitting to casting directors. There are a few different thoughts as to how create more opportunity and get more bites from casting directors. Talk with your agent and manager. They will be submitting you, and you should be onboard with their strategy.
Agents and managers usually fall into one of two camps regarding headshot preferences. Some want headshots that are character specific and others want headshots that are actor specific. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to submit, as we’ve seen great success with both strategies. So again, talk with your agent and manager. They probably prefer one of the following types of headshots:
The Actor-Driven Headshot. This is a shot that really speaks of your own personal charisma. It’s your essence in a frame that gives a sense of your energy or personality. It could be grounded or playful, or even fiery or cerebral, but it always communicates a certain personal truth, a intangible life that you can breathe into any character. Your agent might use a shot like this to show casting directors that you can match the energy of the character being cast. These shots are not about clothing or setting, they’re about the actors and the ways in which they use their talents.
The Character-Driven Headshot. Character driven photos try to anticipate the types of roles that the casting directors will be offering. In these headshots, your clothing and atmosphere help tell a story and your agent will match that story to the casting notice. Since these shots are more specific, agents and managers usually want a variety of photos so they have a wide palate to choose from when matching photos to castings. This style of submission is used primarily for casting commercials, but as casting has become more competitive and production moves quicker, many agents and managers have found success using character driven shots for theatrical submissions as well.
Some examples of character driven shots would be mom/dad/suburbanite, blue collar, urban, hipster, business professional, evening/date. Some agents and managers prefer to get really specific, but you never want your headshots to look contrived. To prevent a headshot from looking like cosplay, it’s better to think in socio-economic terms (blue collar, business professional, suburbanite) than occupations (doctor, waiter, law enforcement). The character driven headshots must look authentic and never look staged or costumed. You always want to be viewed as a professional actor.
Again, there is no one way to submit - different strategies yield different successes. It’s so important to have a conversation with your agent/manager to make sure you are giving them the marketing materials that will be most effective with the style of submission. It’s crucial information that will help you prepare for your headshot session and ultimately move your career to the next level.