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SMILE DON’T SMILE

Frankly, getting the right headshot is a bitch. But, then, it can be fun. First there’s the journey. You spend years second guessing what the market needs. If you’re lucky, you get a little hand-holding from a good agent, thank God for Actors Clearinghouse! and kind direction from pros in the field.

You always need a new headshot. I don’t care how many you’ve got; you need another. It’s like musicians and their gear, you just can’t have enough. It’s got to look like you look now. Of course, your hair grows. It changes color. Okay, so I’m not a true blonde; it’s naturally light brown. Like that’s a surprise. We all get older. Yeah, that too. And don’t go there. Then there’s what to wear and what works. Hey, and why did I wear those damn large earrings for that shoot? Some things you just can’t blame on drinking. All in all, you have to figure out what’s the right look for you that gets you in the door, that helps you land that audition. That’s what rides on the back of a good headshot. And, clearly, the proof is in the print; what the final product looks like. And that final product can be pricey.

Finding the right photographer is difficult at best. Usually actors do word of mouth. It takes a lot of canvassing to find the right one. But when you do find a wonderful one that can advise you, that knows what makeup and hair works best for you and what outfits and shots can sell you in the right way, oh my, they are gold. Well worth the money spent.

Last year I finally found a good photographer. And gladly so. She was good at choosing outfits that worked, using good lighting, with a good makeup artist-hairstylist. I got several great shots. Yet, it was all indoors with the same “Stand here, turn there, hold your head this way, now this, now that, smile, smile.” as I’ve always done before. I knew I wanted more. I just didn’t know you could get it.

In steps my A Working Group mentor-teacher, Sally Allen of Brock-Allen Casting. I know I’m lucky to be in a place to get Sally’s advice. The headshots I got turn out to be solely a ‘commercial look’. Dead giveaway, it’s all smiles, happy, happy. Okay, I’m learning. So, Sally tells me that, in an ideal world, as a casting director, she’d also like a film or theatrical headshot from me. What does that mean? All she can tell me is it’s got to be grittier, real life. So, now I’m off to find that Holy Grail.

It took me almost a year of waiting in line to book a session with LA photographer Mary Freitag. She was in Austin last week and my session with her was a whole new experience. And fun! First Mary sat down and discussed with me what type I considered myself, what roles I could see myself in and which actress I saw myself similar to. Thank God, we covered that in A Working Group! I was prepared. It set the whole purpose of the shoot. Never have I had a photographer do that or be that aware.

We did all outdoor shots. Mary said that in a theatrical shot, the idea is to have a headshot that could be a still taken during a scene in the middle of a movie. And it was not “Smile, now smile, relax your face, now smile again.” She prompted with motivation relating to a possible scene in the different locations, but for calm reaction from me.

In fact, with the third look or outfit, Mary took me up a scruffy outdoor stairwell through a door to a 2nd level open-air parking garage. All concrete, all pavement and first words out of my mouth, “Oh, this is great! Someone could be murdered here!” Mary said, “Yeah, you could be the coroner. Or the detective.” Every TV series and in half the movies, there’s always some kidnapping, murder, chit-chat, or heist going on in the 2nd level of a parking garage. Yeah, Mary Freitag, she gets it!   – By Martha Hannah