The clashing rocks

Still no news on the snake apart from that he still seems perfectly well bar the lack of appetite. I’m avoiding writing about my work because I’m finding it so annoying. But it’s also so revealing. So helpful. Remarkably elucidating.

“I don’t like the shirt,” is a genuine reason to reject an actor based on headshot. I’m providing literal actual talented actors here to work anonymously like SAs. I could go to an extras agency and get Joe Fuck for marginally cheaper but I bolstered the fee and I stand by that decision, because it means I can throw a bit of work towards skillful and intelligent humans I know who are short of dollar and will raise the whole program by being interesting and confident if needed. The chances are that none of the humans I employ will see more than 0.5 seconds screentime. But I’m not going to put in people I don’t trust no matter what. My reputation stands on the people I recommend. And I live by my reputation.

Usually the first question I ask when I make the call is : “How’s money right now?” I’m trying to push things to people who need things. Be it money or validation. Ideally both. I’m honest about what this is. I’m not making art right now, I’m making money.

I’m aware that you should never ever ever consider doing an acting job if you think you’re better than the job. You’ll look a twat. I did it once, at The Finborough. Nevermore. So I’m making sure my friends are okay with what this is.

But oh my God I had NO IDEA how much your headshot impacts your chances. Actors: It really is as important as your agent tells you it is – maybe more so. In the last week I’ve seen multiple fantastic performers get jettisoned because of headshots that don’t sell anything. I’ve also seen a guy I barely know get pumped up as a legend that can do anything, based on a single decent photo I ripped off the internet that said “judge” to my beleaguered imagination.

My taste and my understanding of these performers is being sidelined utterly in favour of an interpretation of a photo that I’ve frequently just pulled randomly by instinct. Nobody is woefully miscast yet, but the level of control and judgement is such that there’s no real point even talking about skillset and ability here. It’s about face. I’ve stopped bothering listing credits now. Experience is meaningless in this sphere. I’m having to assure the decision makers that just because they have stubble in the photo doesn’t mean they can’t show up clean shaven for the shoot.

I’ve started to look at headshots in a different light myself as a result of this shit. These expensive pictures.

Photographers with a track record of taking actor shots raise and raise their prices to take them because they understand the game and have their finger on the pulse and get flooded as they get on a roll.

Eventually, like mushrooms, they reach the top of the industry and the top of the price tag where they slowly explode and collapse in on themselves until, ten years later and totally out of touch, they wonder what happened and why that whippersnapper took their business.

But yep. Now I really know it. All you need is a headshot that speaks.

“We might need an actor to play Shakespeare,” I am told yesterday. I shrug. “I’ve done that before. If it comes to it I can take that one,” I say honestly and artlessly, knowing that it’d be an utter ballache for me with all my other duties, but that I’ve done it before in a film, I know most of the canon, and he needn’t worry.

The guy laughs indulgently. He’s talking to a fixer, not an actor who knows most of Shakespeare and looks like him. He points at a friend of mine’s photo. “He could do it”. “Yes he could,” I confirm, smiling. And inside I learn. This whole gig – it’s all about money. But it’s simultaneously hard and helpful to learn the shape of how most of the producers I’ve met recently look at actors.

1:Positioning. 2: Calling Card. 3: Noise.

Know someone. Get a good picture or reel. Howl.

For them, all these things beat ability, when it comes to this sort of thing.

I’ve hated it for years. But more and more I smell the inevitability. I’ve never paid for IMDb. Perhaps I should. For £120 a year or somesuch you get my picture when you Google me.

I haven’t written my own Wikipedia. Perhaps I should. People I know have done that shit. They pretend someone else wrote it…

It’s depressing watching the Lego fall together in these brains. We never want to believe that the gatekeepers of storyland are made out of lard and petrol.

The only photo I took was of my late night cook. Yum. There’s my lard and my petrol. I’m off to storydreamland.

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Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

2 thoughts on “The clashing rocks”

  1. I can confirm this is not new. We sent a lot of people to castings back in the day, circa 2006ish, and the stereotyping is real. Hell, I had one casting agent put NB on a brief and I phoned to query, because I thought she’d forgotten to add a note after it. She hadn’t. It was my first and last encounter with that little term. I sent a gorgeous black woman to the casting out of sheer anger, and she embarrassed the casting agent by getting the job.

    But yes, at the time I was surrounded by actors, when I came from a marketing background. The good thing about that was my ability to interpret a brief. The depressing thing about that was that I still believed at the time that they would look beyond the headshots that fit the brief, and wondered why anyone wanted actors when they didn’t seem to care whether they could act. I learned. Plus ça change…

    Like

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