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Imagine you’re the quarterback of a Super Bowl team. You’re down by 6 points with less than a minute to go. It’s third down and you need to get 25 yards to get a first down and keep the drive alive. The snap comes but instead of a football, you’re holding your headshot. Now look down field. Who’s open and ready to receive the pass?
Using the football analogy for myself has opened my eyes to understanding the power and limitations of my headshots. As actors, we’re using them to gain ground and score by getting the attention of a casting director, securing the audition, and booking the role. How well we use them could mean the difference between a first down and a fumble.
USING THE SAME HEADSHOT EVERY TIME
Definitely a fumble. It’s like trying a quarterback sneak on every down. Unless it’s working for you and getting you in the door, the same headshot that once caught the attention of a casting director starts to look old and less interesting. Make it a goal to shoot new headshots every year, if not more often.
MISSING SOME SPECIFIC TARGETS
Another fumble! This is a strategic part of the business of acting. Think about who you want to see your headshot. Don’t get caught up in the “how” they will see it yet. Just identify a handful of industry people you want to make it visible to for now. This could be a casting director who hasn’t called you in yet, an agent you want to represent you, or a local indie filmmaker you just met.
SUBMITTING YOUR HEADSHOT FOR FUTURE CONSIDERATION
Fumbled again! If a casting director isn’t currently casting, your headshot is less likely to gain any ground. You’re better off saving that moment for a time when the headshot can be measured against specific needs. If that casting director is one of your targets, track what he or she is casting so you’re ready to pounce on the next suitable opportunity.
REPLICATING ANOTHER ACTOR’S HEADSHOT
This can go either way. It could be a first down if you carefully chose an actor who gets the same kinds of roles you could realistically get. It’s a fumble if you’re average-looking and try to recreate a look done by someone with model beauty. It can also be a first down if you’re using a quality professional headshot as a guide for proper lighting, focus, and composition.
CREATING NEW TYPES FALSELY
It’s a fumble if you’re generally seen as friendly and likeable yet try to create a sinister look in a headshot. This is especially important for newer actors. Until you have the emotional depth and training to play a dark and complex character, just trying to look evil won’t come across as genuine. Worse case scenario: someone buys into your sinister look, calls you in to audition, and you fail to meet their expectations.
Every attempt to use your headshot should teach you something. Ask yourself why you think the casting director brought you in based on it for one role and not for another. Even when the specs are almost identical, there will be times the same headshot will fail to achieve the goal of getting you seen. It’s in those times when you be carefully evaluating why you missed reaching that first down marker and considering what you could change to keep yourself marching down the field.