There are a few workplace norms that are seen as old-fashioned, relics from another era. Suits and ties on men are rapidly giving way to a casual Friday look that begins on Monday and lasts all week. And if you know of a workplace where they swill lunchtime cocktails like they did in the Mad Men era, please pass along my resume.
And while technological changes have altered things somewhat–we stay in touch through a myriad of digital platforms much more so than we once did by phone, for instance–some norms remain.
For instance, people still hand out business cards.
And when you’re an actor, your business card is your headshot. That’s why it’s so insane to hear so many stories lately of actors who go to auditions without bringing one.
In fact, for actors its even worse than the analogy of business cards: to be an actor going to an audition without a headshot is like leaving the house without any pants.
Here are a few reasons why.
1. Because you want to stand out–in a good way
One recent conversation with a prominent CD in New York revealed her observation that up to a third of actors these days are going to auditions without a headshot. Which side do you want to be on, the side who has a hard copy for the casting team to use to compare and contrast your face with other possible casting choices? Or do you want to be the actor who has to sheepishly make excuses for not having one of the basic tools of the trade at the exact moment when it is most needed? Headshots have been around for a very long time and are still so widely used even in this digital era for a very good reason: a good headshot tells a story about who you are as a person and as an actor. If it’s done right, a headshot should make an emotional connection with the person viewing it. You take that away when you are trying to get yourself cast in something and instead leave the CD looking at a black and white, typed list of your previous work and you’re doing yourself no favors.
2. It’s your business card, yes, but it’s also your FACE, for God’s sake
Look, we all agree, your acting is the vital thing in regard to booking work. It’s what we do, after all. But ask yourself this: how are they going to remember that awesome acting of yours with your smiling face looking up at them? Yes, they’ve already seen your headshot. Yes they definitely have a digital copy of it. They may even have hard copy. But one thing you definitely do not want to do is deprive the casting team of any opportunity to think about you–especially when other actors will have their own headshots there. We spend so much time and energy trying to put our faces out there and get them in front of people via social media and our performances—what are you thinking by not putting your face in front of the people who literally can make or break your next job opportunity?
3. Lots of CDs are old school
This isn’t meant to slag on anyone, merely to point out a simple truth: people who came from the era of casting via piles of headshots that were sent to them in the mail are not likely to change their style. It’s the most tactile, not to say visual means of separating actors onto groups to see who might fit best with other potential cast members. You’ve got to be in the mix if you want to want to win the fight. And although the actors’ viewpoint of castings these days is a row of open laptops, that still doesn’t mean your digital resume is readily available. If they want hard copy, you should be able to give it to them.
4. Why did you pay all that money for headshots if you aren’t going to use them?
We get it. Headshots are expensive. They’re only getting more so. But nobody is suggesting you get a hundred of them printed and start handing them out to everyone from your dry cleaner to your doorman to that weirdo on the corner who hears the CIA’s secret radio broadcast through his fillings. But for the sake of all that is holy just have one or two with you when you go audition, right? You’re paying all that money for them in order to book jobs, not hoard your headshots like Smaug sitting on a pile of gold in The Hobbit. You pay all that money for headshots as a tool to get you jobs so you can make more money. And as our CD friend says, it’s “a real shot in the foot” for actors to have to say they don’t have a headshot when asked for one. Why is that? Because if they’re asking you for a headshot THEY ARE INTERESTED IN YOU. To that end…
5. Don’t make the CD’s job harder
The casting director wants to cast you. The really do. They want you to make the choice a slam dunk for them, to thoroughly inhabit the role with a confidence and grace that makes it impossible for them to choose anyone but you. But as soon as you start putting roadblocks in their way, your chances of a slam dunk plummet. This is not to say that it is impossible to get cast without a hard copy headshot. But just make it as easy as possible for them to choose you. Don’t be the player who had a wide open dunk who flubs it at the last second and clunks it off the back of the rim. Bring your headshot. There’s just no good reason not to.