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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Our Package

Before you get your knickers in a twist, I'm talking about our marketing package (jeesh, get your mind out of the gutter already--mine's already there and it's getting way too crowded).

"What is our marketing package," you ask?  Quite simply, it's the collection of tools that we, as actors, need to use to get ourselves and our brand out there.  Didn't know you were a brand? Well, you are, and the sooner that you realize that and start consciously controlling it, the quicker you can start seeing more rapid results.  By the way, I'm talking specifically to actors right now, but the branding and marketing is true for any artist these days.  The tools are slightly different, but the principles are the same.

So, what do we need?  Well, anyone that's serious about acting definitely needs a headshot.  No brainer, right?  Well, yes... mostly.  Most actors know that they need a headshot.  Some aren't fully aware of the fact that they need to be professional quality headshots.  There is a distinct difference between headshot photography and portrait photography.  Knowing what those differences are is what makes the difference between a good photographer and a good headshot photographer.

There are also some differences in what individual markets look for in headshots.  In LA, your headshots are now expected to be in color.  My guess is that most other places will follow suit within the next few years (it just makes sense, as skin tone and hair/eye color is kinda important info for casting purposes), but currently I know that black & white headshots are still the norm in the UK.  I'll be honest.  I'm jealous of the Brits.  I love B&W photos, and wish they were still the standard here.  But, sadly, they're not.

So, here's the deal.  Hire a professional.  Period.  This is not the time to skimp.  I know, I know.  We're all poor, starving artists.  I get it.  Honestly, if you can't afford it, get a second (or third or fourth) job, eat ramen and frozen burritos for a while.  Sell plasma.  Whatever.  Find a way to come up with the money for the shots.

Here's the other part of that:  we need to do our homework.  Want to know what professional headshots look like?  Do a Google search for headshots.  Look at different sites.  I don't mean look at one or two.  I mean look at dozens and dozens.  Hundreds of headshots.  See what it is that those shots have in common.  See what it is that appeals to you.  Then see which of those photographers work in or close to your area, compare their rates, find one in your budget range and set up an appointment.

Next on the agenda is resumes.  They are part and parcel with the headshot.  You can't really have one without the other.  It's important that your resume is formatted properly for your market.  Typically, in NYC, your theatre credits will be first, as NYC is a more theatre oriented town.  In LA, your film and television credits are front and center.

What do you do when you don't have credits?  Go and get them!!  I know that it may not seem possible to just go out and do it, but there are all kinds of student, low-budget and no-budget projects (both film and theatre) that will allow you to build up your resume and gain invaluable experience at the same time.  It's true that without an agent it can be tough (if not impossible) to get professional auditions for tv and film, but auditioning for these other projects is doable at pretty much any level.

And then on to the demo reel.  Casting directors need to know whether or not you can act.  Training is important (hugely important) if you're interested in having a lifelong career as an actor.  Here's the brutal reality:  not everyone in the industry cares.  Coming out of certain acting programs can get you in the door, but at the end of the day, it's your product that will get you called back.  And a reel can tell a pretty convincing story of what level of acting skill you have.

Here's where professional product is once again vital.  You need a professionally edited reel.  I know you think you can rock iMovie on your Mac, but unless you have extensive training in Avid or Final Cut, I would highly recommend that you hire a pro.  In fact, if your footage comes from mostly student or low-budget projects, it's even more important that the person editing the footage together really, really knows what they're doing.

I've given you a LOT of information, hopefully information that will help you to assess where you are right now, and where you want to go next.  One of the things that can be pretty frustrating about the biz is the lack of immediate feedback.  We keep plugging away, things aren't going the way we want, but we have little to no idea whether or not we're doing things right or if the tools we're using are the correct ones.

That is one of the reasons I got so excited when I talked to Lindsay Chag, a casting director that I've worked with before on several occasions, and she expressed interest in working with me on the Headshot Tuesday idea.  Lindsay has worked in the industry for a long time (20+ years) and her imdb list of credits is here:

The packages are these:

The basic package ($25) includes:
A professional casting director will critique your headshot and give you a ten point analysis:

1. Is this a professional grade headshot?  Does it scream PRO or #notsopro?
2. At first glance what category of actor do you appear to be (lead, ingenue, character, etc.)?
3. If she had been casting, which type of roles would this headshot have been good for (horror vs. comedy vs. serious drama)?
4. Are your hair, wardrobe and background reinforcing your brand or taking away from it?
5. If indicated, which other types of headshots would she recommend (Dramatic? Hair up or down? More character-oriented)?
6. Do your eyes have that 'it' factor she talked about in the workshop?
7. What specific recommendations would she make to get that 'it' factor in the eyes?
8. Had this headshot crossed her desk, would she have requested more info?
9. How could you capture her attention more thoroughly?
10.  On a scale of 1-10 (in the category YOU chose as your primary) where does she rank you?

For the advanced package ($50)...
You get all of that for 3 total headshots.
Plus you get the former Director of Acting for Film for The New York Film Academy at Universal Studios (that's me!) to review your resume and give you a five point analysis that includes:
1. Does the resume look professional? Are there spelling errors?  Formatting errors? Wacky fonts that draw attention away from you?
2. Do you have the right balance of credits? Theatrical vs Film
3. Does your resume reflect your stated goal? Character vs Lead
4. Do you have enough dialects? Special skills?
5. On a scale of 1-10 where does he rank you (with at least 5 pointers on how to improve that score!)

The complete package ($75) includes all of that plus...
Both Lindsay and Ben review your reel and give you a detailed analysis along with at least 10 practical pointers on how to tighten and punch up your reel

1. An honest critique of the skill level indicated by the acting on the reel.
2. An assessment of the next steps to take to continue to develop your talent.
3. A critique of the professionalism/production values of the reel, including the editing.
4. A plan to follow to flesh out your reel.
5. A comparison of the reel to the rest of the package (headshots, resume, biz card, etc.) to make sure your brand is strong.
6. Ways in which to utilize your reel to it's fullest potential.
7. Whether or not your reel in its present form will serve you in the industry.
8. After reviewing this reel, would you be more or less likely to be called in for an audition?
9. What can you do to improve upon that impression?
10. On a scale from 1-10, where would Lindsay and Ben rank your reel?

One of the reasons that I'm so excited to be working with Lindsay on this is that this is exactly what I wish I had access to when I first came out to Los Angeles.  I spent so much time spinning my wheels, not knowing that my package wasn't exactly what it needed to be.  And I had come out of one of the top five acting grad schools in the nation!  I knew how to act.  I did NOT know how to market.

For anyone that is interested in this amazing service, please send me a direct message at @actingnodrama or email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com for the details.  And whether or not you decide to take advantage of this offer, please take my advice when I tell you to get professional-level products for your marketing package! :)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. (Ugh, apparently I can't comment from my blog at

    Anyway... I just wanted to say thank you for this. I always read and appreciate what you have to say, and am actually blogging about you right now ;)

  3. Anecdotal info: Color is the norm in Chicago now too. It happened practically overnight in on-camera, and in less than a year in theatre. I haven't seen a black & white headshot here in at least three years. I keep doing double-takes when I see current ones for the Brits!

    Great blog -- thanks for the Twitter follow so I could discover it! I've already added it to the sidebar on mine so others can find it too.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hey Ben, Great Blog as always. Really looking forward to the acting classes.