There seems to be a new trend right now of casting directors asking you to take a photo on your cell phone to send to them; it’s happened to me twice in the last week. Both casting directors said “please take a photo of yourself on your cell phone today, so that we can see what you look like right now.” In the past, I had a couple people request a “recent photo, not a headshot and not retouched,” but it wasn’t this specific.
Both of the gigs that requested this were booking directly from submission, without auditions. I can only assume that both casting directors ran into problems in the past where they looked at a headshot and resume, booked the “talent,” and then when the actor showed up on set, looked drastically different than their submission. And this can cause obvious problems when you’re on set, ready to shoot with an entire crew in place, and the person you thought would be showing up only exists under perfect lighting, an extra hour or two in front of the mirror before arriving, and a little bit of Photoshop work. And for a reenactment show–and there are tons of them shooting right now– where you were cast because you look like an actual person, you’re letting down a lot of people. And often, the production has to go on, so you’re left with a pissed off director who doesn’t have time to recast because the shoot is happening already.
While playing auditions, I’ve seen these very people who barely resemble their headshot. Often, they don’t look as put together as their headshot, but sometimes, they are actually more radiant in person. Either way, when a casting director is going through 150 headshots at the end of a casting call, they’re flipping through the photos and reading their notes, trying to decide who is getting called back or getting cast. If you’re a brunette but decided to try out red hair, and they didn’t note that on your photo, they might not put the pieces together when they’re looking through everything, and you could miss out on a great opportunity. Same goes for drastic weight loss or gain. Or anything that significantly alters your appearance.
So for the television and commercial gigs I was asked to submit a cell phone pic for, I totally get where they’re coming from. The only problem is, I can’t for the life of me get a flattering one. While my headshot isn’t heavily retouched, just a little skin smoothing to blend my pores, it’s taken at a great angle for my lazy eye. If you ask me to look
“straight down the barrel” of a camera, it’s going to be pretty prominent, so I have to look just to the right of the lens. With a nice glass lens opened wide, this can do the trick. But with a pinhead lens on an iPhone, I run into trouble. So I kind of have to try and do the angle that suggests I’m not looking at the lens at all, I’m just looking at myself on the screen to make sure everything is in view and in focus. You’ve seen those images, where it’s obvious that the guy taking the photo is clearly not looking at himself, only his own image. I’d rather be able to look right at the camera, and flash a warm, friendly, and inviting smile, but I can’t. So I just try and keep it pretty straight laced–although I generally look slightly confused doing this–and I just hope for the best. If they want the look in my headshot, they’ll see I’m the same guy. I just hope that they don’t focus on the alignment of the eyes and change their mind. And since I don’t submit for any kind of hosting or testimonial roles that tell you you’ll be delivering copy “to camera,” hopefully it’s not a problem!