Head Shots and Contact Sheets
During many years pursuing my acting career, one of the biggest lessons I learned was about choosing the correct “head shot.”
A head shot is an 8 by 10 black and white photo that either I sent around to potential casting directors by myself or that was sent with a resume by an agent.
In fact, even before I had an agent, I sent around head shots and a query letter to see if an agent would take me on.
I was always waiting for that elusive call from an agent who was wowed by my head shot and “absolutely had to see me.”
Attached to the back of the head shot was my theatrical resume which listed any production I had been a part of. This was especially interesting when I had no credits to speak of. I was advised by a fellow aspiring actor to simply “make stuff up.”
As I had heard horror stories of casting directors quizzing actors on what they had been in, I totally avoided that route.
Ok, back to the head shots.
The first job was to find a reputable photographer. The only way I knew to do that was by recommendations from other actors. They would show you their “contact sheets” so you could see what kind of work the photographer did. A contact sheet is also an 8 by 10 with approximately a dozen 2 by 2 shots of different poses in different outfits.
The photographer who sticks in my mind was an Irish woman named Erin Flynn. She was as American as you or me. But you never left a meeting with her without knowing of her Irish heritage.
From the contact sheet I picked a shot I liked and would have 50 8 by 10s blown up by a photo reproduction company that was common in Los Angeles and New York City. What you would choose at the photo reproduction lab is the font you wanted of your name that would appear with the head shot and if you wanted it in black or white for the best contrast.
In looking back over all of my head shots and contact sheets, I see pictures from when I was 16 all the way up to my early 30s. As I look at my head shots in a file, some still have my theatrical resume attached. On it I found that I had bit parts in “Ghostbusters” and “The Doors,” but don’t try to find me, as I’m in a crowd with hundreds of others in both films.
The contact sheet was an integral part of the whole process and I love having the pictures to remind me of my past.
Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com