8 Tips for a Dynamite Head Shot

by adriafi1 on March 10, 2011

Adria FirestoneDo you realize that your headshot is like the logo of a business? You already know corporations spend from thousands to millions of dollars on a logo, right? So, given the importance of a headshot – were you thinking of snapping a selfie? Don’t.

What makes a good headshot different from a beautiful picture? You may have a gorgeous picture that everybody ooos and ahhhhs over when they see it, but it doesn’t really show who you are.

1. A good headshot needs to reveal your personality, not the set, not your clothes, not the fabulous lighting – but YOU!
When a casting director is looking at hundreds of photos, yes, hundreds, they are looking for someone to fit into a role they have in mind. Your job is to give them an accurate representation of WHO you are, not just how you look. You are the ‘product’ in the shot. In contrast, think of how the clothes are the product in a fashion shoot, not the model wearing them. Let the shot show your character, your quirks and your true features.

2. Like a logo, your headshot needs to be easy to see on the web in small format or in programs or any of the hundreds of places your headshot, will show up.
In other words, if you’re wearing extremely fussy clothing with lots of pattern, or your hair only allows me to see one of your eyes, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

3. Don’t get sold on a glamour shot, unless your type is The Glamour Puss.
There is a wonderful photographer who makes his singers and actors look so glamorous, they don’t look anything like themselves. Again, you are spending money on something that needs to serve you well. A headshot should be you on your best day – a slightly better version of yourself, but still be 100% recognizable as you.

4. You will use your headshot everywhere – make it good.
People will get to recognize you. That’s what we are after in this business; to be uniquely recognizable.

5. Your headshot needs to show you as the type of roles you go after. This is a biggie!
In other words, if you are the leading man type, don’t take a character shot. If you are the girl Friday type or the gal everyone depends on, don’t take a glamorous leading lady shot. WHO you are influences and define the roles you audition for. Even though we actors/singers would love to think we’re appropriate for every role – you know darn well we’re not. Only the major stars are asked to stretch into unlikely roles, not always successfully. For example, do you think Julia Roberts could do Glenn Close’s roles well or vice versa? Obviously not. Agents and casting directors love actors and singers who tailor their marketing materials to their strengths. It makes their job easier and you set yourself up for success.

6. Prepare yourself well for the photo session. Give yourself your best shot.
Your best cosmetic is rest. Don’t drink alcohol the week before a photo shoot. Don’t eat what you are allergic to. Have an attitude of fun about the photo shoot – it’s not a visit to the dentist. Your personality and who you are — I can’t stress this enough – must jump off that page. That is the person a casting director is going to want to meet.

7. Get your hair and makeup done professionally.
Yes, it costs money, but having professionally applied makeup can take a photo from good to great. Having make-up applied makes you feel pampered and camera ready too. Remember, a headshot is an investment in you. It’s your international calling card – it’s your logo. Be aware that something may look wonderful in person, but it doesn’t look good on camera – your makeup and hair person is trained catch that.

8. Choose your photos wisely. Don’t get carried away with retouching, allow reality to shine through.
Remember, the cardinal rule is for a casting director to be able to see you – the real you. Most of all, it needs to allow the viewer to see the unique spark that makes you who you are.

I dare you to stop posing and – BE! Flash – ooooo yes, just like that.

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What I Did for Love

by adriafi1 on March 7, 2011

Over 30 years ago I stepped onstage as a dazzled ten year old, eager for my first sprinkling of stardust.  Years later I was teary eyed and choking on the glitter that rained to beautiful visual effect on Act IV of Carmen in the Canary Islands. How remarkable that although I know full well that the glamor is minimal and the work Herculean, I’m still enchanted by the bewitching world of theater.

My caveat to you as an aspiring performer is that you do not run to the stage as a refuge from life or as a source of love – it is neither. No matter how expert we become at escaping the reality of our lives, eventually we become stuck in our own denial.  We are doomed to recreate, consciously or un — the situations that will eventually force us to face what we do not wish to see in our lives.

As for love – yes, applause is an aphrodisiac for the ego – but it lasts an instant.  We are as good, and as desired, as our last performance.  As performers we are all replaceable –“the show must go on.’  Even the most polished performer loses point and reflexes when resting comfortably on their laurels.  A 3-masted sailing vessel was built to sail forth and risk the elements, not sot in port; so it is with any artist worth their salt.

The “love” offered in this business of ours is not real.  Elaine Stritch quoted Noel Coward as saying: “One of my deepest fears in this business is that you are only loved for what you can do.” AP NY 10/27/99 It is my observation that as Virginia Woolfe said “the artist minds excessively what is said about him.”  Yes, we do.  We are enormously sensitive or we wouldn’t have chosen this demanding art form.  There is love present in our work, but it is the incomparable joy of honing your craft until it soars with effortlessness.  The love too, is inherent in every interaction with your colleagues: fellow cast members, wardrobe & makeup people, techies, stage management, props people, pianists, orchestra & chorus members.  Do you think we create all of this magic by ourselves? No indeed, it is polished teamwork that beguiles an audience into another world.

We artists delve more deeply into the human heart; we risk more, are more in touch with our emotions, and have the sublime possibility of illuminating something magnificent.  We can illuminate a moment in time that captures a common human emotion and translate it into live theater.

No matter how technically advanced we become there is nothing more exciting that live theater, an arena where the creative spirit battles with the lions of fear – the roar of the crowd egging us on to new heights.  And when the Muse is kind, for a brief moment, the fire of artistic genius captures and communicates the heart of truth – the bare, naked, trembling heart of all humanity.

We are all the same – no matter our race, religion, customs or politics.  We all want to be loved and appreciated, we all need to eat to survive, and we all need shelter. The artist’s curse and the artist’s privilege is that he is driven to translate those common desires and needs into that elusive thing called art.

If you are driven by such a desire, prepare yourself not only for the joy of creation, but for the pain of a refining fire that by virtue of it’s intense heat will ultimately, if you allow it (for we always have choice), refine your very being.

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The Effect of a University Education on the Joy of Singing

February 16, 2011

In my seven years as a university professor, I have seen singers come in filled with so much joy in performance. Their first auditions for us were out there and happy, joyful and absolutely natural. Yes, most of them were extremely nervous, but still the joy in what they did came through. What strikes me […]

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How to Create a Character, part 2

February 9, 2011

Continuing to use Carmen as an example, we now ask what does the music say about your character. Who is this character in their music? Now, look at the rhythm of each character and realize that every character has their unique rhythmic tattoo. Even with Carmen, at her very first entrance before she sings the […]

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How to Create a Character, Part 1

December 12, 2010

The other day I was teaching a class I loved at the University exploring the roles of the well-known opera Carmen. What do we as actors have to do with a character from the late 19th century? Actually, a lot. Other than the occasional alien I’ve met, most of us are human, dealing with the […]

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The Singer’s Addiction Part 6: It’s All About You

December 7, 2010

As published in Classical Singer Magazine, Feb 2009 This series of articles has addressed the imbalance of defining yourself by the elusive chimera of operatic stardom. I hope I have offered different points of view, glimpses of other paths, and tools for insight and healing. We can incorporate the singing we love into our lives […]

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The Singer’s Addiction Part 5: Learn to Forgive Yourself

December 7, 2010

As published in Classical Singer Magazine January 2009 I’m in the dressing room of my mind, and I’m trying on phrases: “I stopped singing five years ago.” “I used to be an opera singer.” “Oh yes, I still sing, just not opera anymore.” Why all the waffling? I’m a retired opera singer. Ouch, that sounds […]

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The Singer’s Addiction Part 4: Finding a New Elixir of Love

December 7, 2010

As published in Classical Singer Magazine, December 2008 So here we are, back at the question I asked in my first article, “After singing, what else is there?” A friend and colleague told me that all she could do in this life was sing lead roles or teach singing. That may be true, and indeed […]

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The Addiction of Singing Pt. 3: I Will Never Be Hungry Again

December 7, 2010

As published in Classical Singer Magazine, November 2008 No matter how lovable you are, you can’t make someone love you. You can fascinate them for a few minutes but you can’t make anyone love you or your voice. So why do we try so hard? Why is it a failure, in our own eyes and […]

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The Singer’s Addiction Part 2: Rhett, Where Will I Go, What Will I Do?

December 7, 2010

As published in Classical Singer Magazine, October 2008 I asked the exquisite Cuban soprano Teresita Pons how she dealt with the pain of not singing anymore. Her reply was achingly honest. “Singing is an addiction,” she said. “You cannot separate yourself from it. You do whatever you need to do to continue. The fact that […]

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