On Headshots

Every day when I get home I eagerly check the mail because, hey, maybe there’s something good in there.  But there never is.  Pretty much the mail brings two things: bills and junk.  Bills are, whatever, they’re bills and they’re important and there is nothing at all fun or interesting or unexpected about them.  I wish I could convince the people who send me junk mail that I have not, nor ever will buy something because they sent me a flyer, but I don’t know who to send that request to and I don’t think they would listen to me anyway.  So it all goes straight into the recycling bin.

It’s not that we don’t get the good stuff anymore, it’s just that we don’t get it on paper.  We have the internet.  I haven’t had a subscription to a magazine since I was a kid.  And outside of birthday cards once a year, I keep in touch with my friends and family via email and text.  I seem to be rather infamous for my lack of interest in social media, but my facebook is my fantasy baseball league, which does, in fact, make me a nerd. 

So, I get it.  We live in the post-paper age.  Everything lives online, on our computers and on our phones.  It makes us more efficient, and it saves trees and resources.  This is all good. 


BUT HOLY CRAP THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A HEADSHOT ANYMORE!

As an actor you are, at every step, selling yourself, whether it be to directors, casting directors, agents, producers, or ad agencies.  Your headshot and resume is your business card.  It is the first thing somebody like me looks at when deciding whether or not to give you, as opposed to the hundreds of other people out there vying for the same role, the opportunity to audition.

Therefore, if you have not taken the time to create a professional calling card for yourself, then I have no reason to assume that you are taking the time to hone your craft and become, or even continue to be, a good actor.  If your headshot is just a random selfie you printed from your phone, and your resume is in a default format from MS Word, you are not giving me a reason to take you seriously as an actor.

And because there are plenty of people who are taking themselves seriously as actors, you are putting yourself at a crippling disadvantage.  It does not matter how many online profiles you have created, whether they are the database we use or if they are from national casting sites.  A link to your IMDB page does not count. 

I understand that sometimes you can get conflicting signals on whether or not to bring your headshot to an audition.  Very often, in fact more often than not, if you attend a session at Slate we will tell you that we do not need your headshot.   This is because we already have it and, in the interest of reducing paper, we just don’t need it that day. 

However, this does not mean that you don’t have to bring your headshot to every single audition you attend, whether it is at Slate or somewhere else.  Because, often we do need it!  There could be any number of reasons why, but the main one is because our clients are in the room.  And clients like headshots!

It happens every session.  The director will be in the room.  We bring an actor in, ask for their headshot, the client reaches up expectantly and…. “oh, I didn’t know I needed it today,” or “you have it on file.”  And what does the director do every single time?  They sigh and roll their eyes.   

This is not a good look. 

Just because I have your headshot on file does not mean I have it in my hand.  And I don’t have the time in that moment to run into my office and flip through a folder or print it out.  And even if I do print it out for you, now your headshot is a crappy printout in a stack of nice, neat, professionally printed headshots.  Are you giving the director a reason to take you seriously?

It’s impossible to know at which auditions you will need your headshot.  Therefore, always bring your headshot.  It costs you nothing to throw it in your bag.  If we say we don’t need it, then you just saved a little money and will have it ready for the next one.  And you will look like someone who knows what they are doing. 

A few more thoughts on headshots and resumes:

1.      Headshots should be in color and they should show you as you look today, within reason.  No need to get a new headshot every time your hair grows a couple of inches, but if you radically change your look, or you’re 15 years older than you were in the shot, it’s time for a new one.

2.     Headshots are 8x10.  If you print your headshots yourself (which is fine!) please take the time to cut them down to the standard size.  This includes your resume.  Nothing screams lazy like an 8x10 photo stapled to an 8x11 resume.

3.     STAPLE YOUR RESUME BEFORE YOU COME TO THE AUDITION!  If you hand me a photo and resume that aren’t stapled together, it’s as if you’re saying, “you staple this.”

Aaron

The Self-Tape

Oh the self tape… do Actors dread the self-tape as much as Casting Directors do?  I bet they do, but for different reasons.  I can imagine that there is quite a bit of stress that goes into setting up, finding a reader, doing the actual audition and sending off the right takes.  The self-tape is also something that causes Casting Directors a lot of stress and I am here to share my thoughts and opinions on the matter. Take it for what it’s worth… I’m not an expert, and I don’t speak for everyone. I am just talking about my personal feelings on the self-tape- maybe it will help you and offer some insight! 

You would be amazed at the number of people who request to self-tape for auditions. Often times they feel really interested in the project but just cannot make it to the audition, so they request to film their audition elsewhere and send it in for consideration.  Sometimes it’s a “YES you can self-tape”, sometimes it’s a “NO we are not accepting self-tapes” and most often it’s a “yes you can, but I would really prefer you to come in person”.   Why is that?  Because it’s in your best interest.  We want you to come in so that you are uploaded with everyone else, we can give you direction and insight that may come in from the client just a few minutes before the session, we want you to look and sound great and we do not want you to be overlooked (because if we are being honest, self-tapes do not look uniform with the rest of the session and the client tends to look at the session itself first before any self-tapes).

Let’s start at the beginning- when should an actor self tape?  An actor should self-tape when they have been requested directly by the Casting Director or client and cannot make it to the audition in any way.  Very simple :)

What do people look for in a self-tape?   We are looking for your performance mostly.  But with that, a lot of other things come into play.  We want to SEE YOU and not be distracted.  So my Step #1- find a place with a good solid backdrop.  Pictures on the wall in your bedroom, the things you have hanging on your refrigerator, a window with people walking around outside- all of these are distracting.  I just want to be able to focus on you.  So, find a wall space wherever you are that is solid and not distracting.  Take the pictures off the wall, move the furniture out of the way and you’re ready to go.

Step # 2- good lighting and good audio!  I need to be able to SEE and HEAR you clearly.  If you are going to be doing a lot of self-taping, it may be wise to invest in a small light kit and mic to give you a leg up in that department.  If the lighting is too dark and/or I can barely hear you- it’s probably not something I want to show to my client.

Step #3- a decent reader.  Now, your reader does not need to be an academy-award winning actor (the CDs you read with in studio certainly are not… I mean, Aaron Kahl kind of seems like one, but he’s just that good ;)) but your reader should not take over the scene or seem too involved.  Their purpose is to give you something to work with, not to audition themselves.  Cast your reader wisely :)

Step #4- label your file appropriately. My downloads folder is filled with files that are vaguely labeled variations of“mymovie.mov” or “take1.mov” or “selftape.mov”.  That makes finding your file and getting it uploaded pretty difficult on my end.  Casting Directors are constantly downloading headshots, resumes, and videos, so our download folder is the stuff nightmares are made of.  So please, label your self-tapes appropriately!  The label should have your name in it, most importantly.  Personally, I love a good name and role label, i.e. “AaronKahl_BATMAN”… but however you choose to label, make sure it has your full name in it!

Step # 5- How you send us the file.  There are so many different ways to send your self-tape, and different CDs prefer different methods.  At Slate, we are fairly open to Dropbox, WeTransfer, YouSendIt, etc.  Please do not post your videos on YouTube, it is not setup for us to be able to download your audition and we will not be able to submit it.  Clients do not want to see their audition scripts on public display on the internet.  Vimeo is similar to YouTube but we can download from there, so when using a format like Vimeo, please make it password protected. 

I almost forgot a big one… get that tape in on time!!  If you commit to sending a self-tape and we tell you we need it by a certain time, get it in!  We want to make sure it gets included in our client’s link.  After you go through all the work to send in a great self-tape, make sure you get it on time so you don’t miss out and get overlooked!

So that’s my rambling on self-tapes.  Hopefully it will make the self-taping process a little easier to navigate if you are asked to do one. Remember, the self-tape is just one tool in your auditioning toolbox. If used correctly, it can help you have a successful audition even if you can’t be there in person. But if used incorrectly- well, if all you have is a hammer….

-Ashley

The Open Call Party!

What do you do when 1700 people show up for your party?  You welcome them in!  Now that Slate Casting has 3 open calls under our belt, I have begun to think of these open casting calls as parties- really.  It never ceases to amaze me how much fun they can be, how passionate and enthusiastic everyone is, and how incredible the team of people working on it are. 

We just held an open call in Orange, MA and we had no idea what to expect.  All we could do is plan, plan, plan.  We reached out to an amazing group of people:  Molly, Marina, Mike, Eddie, Kim, Ro, and Erica, and armed with snacks, lots of water, pizza and Orange’s very own Orange Tonic, we were ready to open the doors to the largest party we have ever thrown.  Before the first guest even arrived, I looked around at our group and felt so incredibly grateful.  Grateful for their willingness to help, and for their genuine commitment to making the day as successful, stress free, and as fun as possible for the hundreds and hundreds of people who were waiting to be seen.  Oh, and did I say it was hot?  Like, really, really hot.  (We forgot about the heat hours later over the coldest, most awesome blueberry beer I’ve ever had!)

The people of Orange welcomed us with open arms.  People who had never even thought about doing something like this were coming out to try something new and exciting.  I give them so much credit for coming out of their comfort zone and joining us.  It could be a once in a lifetime opportunity and 1700 people were not going to let this pass them by.  Local businesses were so supportive (we heard the market across the street was so busy that they ran out of ice cream!) and the residents of Orange and the surrounding communities could not have been nicer.  As I dripped with sweat (kinda gross, but if you saw me there, you know what I mean- ha ha), I was amazed at how upbeat and happy everyone was even with temps well into the 90’s.  They laughed at Mike’s jokes outside, they laughed at Ashley and Aaron’s jokes inside, and they smiled all the way through.  Even the local police officers got into the fun- posing for a big group photo at the end of the day.

Casting, as you’ve read about in past blogs, can often be stressful and insane, but what open calls remind me of all the time, is that casting is about people.  We have one of the best jobs in the world because we get to meet so many new people who are excited to go on an adventure with us.   An open call is often someone’s first experience with the world of on-camera acting and we want to be sure that each person has a good experience.  As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression, and we hope that everyone who attends their first open call with Slate, will have awesome memories of the experience.  If that happens, we have done our job.  I’m already getting excited for future open calls- nothing scheduled yet, but don’t worry, we’ll let you know when it is because we want to see you at the party!

-Julie