I asked my former assistant Elise Buedel to do an interview with me. Elise has been an actor in LA, worked for me editing and doing just about everything else with headshots for 3 years and now works as an assistant at Rene Haynes Casting. I thought her perspective would be really helpful. Here is what she has learned about headshots and casting….
What do you notice when you choose an actor to audition from their headshot and they come in the room?
For both men and women, it is most frustrating to find the different haircuts and hair lengths. I work in an office where we do a lot of period pieces. We have very specific looks that we are seeking and if your photo tells me you are a woman with long hair but you recently chopped it all off, we need to know that before bringing you in to audition.
What stands out to you as a great headshot?
This is a bit subjective but to me a great headshot shines through in the eyes. Someone who is connected to the camera and engages the camera will catch my eye. If you can do that in a photo, you will most likely be able to do it on screen.
What is a bad headshot?
Foliage in the background, a snapshot taken on a mobile device, or an overly retouched photo. We get them all. Those only work if you are a super specific “type” that the casting office is seeking out right then and there. We work on a lot of Native American projects so if we’re looking for an 80 year old, pipe smoking granny, sure, a snapshot on an iphone is perfectly fine. If that’s not you, it probably won’t do the trick.
What is frustrating besides an actor not looking like their photo?
When an actor doesn’t know their type or age range. Be true and honest with yourself about both of these. You are only hurting yourself if you’re still trying to play high school age when you’re pushing 30 (unless it’s a Ryan Murphy show).
What do you think of colorful backgrounds for theatrical headshots? Does that even matter?
It depends. My office mostly works on dramas and, like I said, we do a lot of Native pieces, so it isn’t always the best choice to go with a bright pink background. If it’s a comedy, like New Girl or The Mindy Project, I would surmise to go for it! You really have to know what shows you’re targeting and what casting offices you are trying to get in front of. It makes a huge difference when talking to a photographer. The actor needs to have a clear plan of attack in order to not waste time or money.
Do you look at actor websites?
We do actually. I love looking at actor bios and seeing what they have coming up next.
Do you want to see the same headshots on the websites?
Not necessarily. It doesn’t much matter to me.
What is important with clothing in a headshot?
I can’t stand costumes. We get so many headshots of people in their full Indian regalia with face paint and the whole nine yards. Don’t do it! If anything it just makes us nervous that you might show up that way to the actual audition.
What is the biggest misconception you think actors have about their photos?
I feel like actors try to do it all. If you have more than five photos up on actors access, that’s too many. Narrow down your looks. No one can be everything and everybody.
Any closing thoughts? Any helpful tips?
After working on both the photographer’s side and the casting side, the most important thing I can emphasize is do your homework. If you need to meet with a stylist or a “Type” coach, do that. There are coaches who work specifically on narrowing down your essence and the type of roles you will most likely be called in for.
The last thing I will add is our office has never looked at a slate shot. If you have them, fine, but it’s a myth that your submission goes to the top of the pile with them. We check our submissions alphabetically.
Check out Elise Buedel’s blog at https://thoughtsbecomingsomethings.blog