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As the name suggest, a headshot is a photograph of a person's head. Usually taken by a professional photographer, a headshot is distributed to promote actors or actresses.

Traditionally, headshot is a Black & White picture of your face without any make-up on an 8X10 sized paper with your wardrobe measurements and resume printed on the back side. This will cost you around $1000. Over the past few years, 3 /4 shots (from waist–up) have become popular along with colored headshots of top or side of the Actors faces.

Headshots are required when you are looking for work as an actor. If however, you are starting out and/or work as an extra, then you do not need to spend any money over a headshot. Moreover if some casting agent or Director asks you for a picture, just give them a 3X5 color photo. Nevertheless, if you are serious about making a career in movies either as an extra or a full-fledged actor, then you should definitely get an 8X10 professionally shot headshot in color or B&W.

So what makes headshots so important? Actually, headshots are one of the most effective and important tool an actor has in order to get the first break of his/her acting career. Even established actors who have a position in a Casting director's office need to send their latest headshot photo along with an up to date resume. Headshot is a traditionally safe way of being able to decide an actor for a particular role based upon the actor's natural look and vital stats in a black and white format.

Now that we have established why head shots are important, we also need to understand what is most important about them. The most important thing about a headshot is that it gives the real picture of you. How you really look minus the make-up or adornments is what the casting director wants to see. This ensures that you are called only for those roles which suit your personality and increase your chances of getting good roles.

Most casting executives pay great attention to the headshot. The headshot is your first audition, of sorts. The casting guys will look at your eyes to see if they project confidence, intelligence, and personality. The style of the headshot usually is not a deciding factor about calling you for an audition or not. This aspect is usually determined by the script, and the roles available. Moreover, your resume plays an important role in your being called for an audition.

Usually the casting directors look for simple and clear photos. So just get a nice, clean headshot of yourself with a neutral background and you'll be fine.

For the last five years in addition to my regular assignments work I have also become a crewer. It wasn’t my choice, it just happened.

My regular clients had problems finding qualified crews so they kept asking if I knew anyone in my territory that can be trusted to do a good job and and that’s how I became a crewer. Please note that I do this strictly as a service to my good clients. Initially most of the requests I was getting were for multi-cameras shoot where I was the main camera but slowly they started asking me if I could also crew other jobs when I was already booked and couldn’t do it myself. Last year was one of the busiest, I hired over 100 crews days. I have a number of skilled crews that I hire regularly, many I trained myself to make sure they meet my client’s needs. The workshops I’m presently conducting are actually and offshoot of informal training sessions I gave to the crews I was hiring. The request from shooters to attend grew and that’s how the workshops were born, out of the need to better serve better clients.

As the news got around that I hire crews as expected I started getting inundated with calls from cameramen looking for work. I’m always looking for that someone who stands out above the rest. I try to follow up on every call I get, but the volume often can get overwhelming so I learned how to detect in the first few seconds those who are worth taking a longer look. The first thing I look at is their demo reel, and usually also the last thing I look, if I don’t like what I see in the first ten seconds I move-on to the next reel.

So based on my experiences here are some personal observations on demo reels.

The demo reel is your marketing tool, you have to show that you can handle assignments and what you’re capable of doing. It’s you first and often the only chance to impress that client, like the old say goes “you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Demo reels should not be an ego booster but unfortunately most reel I see are just that. They say “Look what I can do” rather than “look what I can do for my clients”, major difference.

Enough with concerts and music videos, over half of the demo reels I see have mostly music videos or concerts. I don’t even give those ten seconds of my time. That’s not a business anymore, Craiglist and the overabundance of videographers looking for work and willing to work for nothing just to get into the concert for free and for bragging rights have pretty much killed that portion of the industry. Those concerts and music videos also don’t tell me anything about the skills of the videographer, everybody with a little of knowledge can point the camera and do funky moves, those are not marketable skills.

The same goes for those “dynamic” demo reel that are mostly made-up of one second or shorter cuts. That doesn’t tell me anything about the shooter either. I bet that even on the worst five minutes long video ever produced I can come up with several excellent one second long clips.

So, what am I looking for in a demo reel?

I want to see the best skill that shooter has to offer and most important I want to see real clients, I need to see that somebody else already trusted and hired this shooter. Why is this so important? It’s easy for somebody to shoot whatever he/she likes and within the confine of his skills, if he doesn’t know how to do it he will just not do it. But when a client or producer ask him to do something he either does it or if he doesn’t know how he’ll get fired. We are not in business to serve ourselves, we are here to serve paying clients, the better we are the better the clients and the higher the paycheck. Simple formula. This is why continuous training is so important for creating a decent standard of living. Never forget that there are thousand like you out there all after the same clients and the same money. Only those who stand out above the rest will get to those clients, but in order to stand out you have to be better and the only way to get better is to never stop learning.

I understand that many are just starting out and don’t have real clients yet, but if one can work for free on a concert or music video perhaps he could also offer to work for free with a producer or other shooters who serve commercial account in exchange of using the material for your reel. An industrial video of a manufacturing plant might not be as glamorous as a rock band but there’s a much greater demand for industrial videos, and those pay real money.

I look for diversity and each segment in that videos should demonstrate the variety of skill that the shooter is capable of doing. I would also like to see a full sequence not just a composite of one second clips. I want to see how he or she told a story with video, the different shots and how they are linked together.

I look for composition, depth, separation, the use of natural light and most important the lighting skills. I look for discipline in camera moves and the purpose of that move. Today I see cameras moving all over the place for no apparent reason, that’s bad and distracting.

I would like to see a variety of subjects such as architectural both exteriors and well lit interiors. Close ups and well lit products such as food shots or cosmetics, jewelry, etc. Plenty of interviews and how the subject, background/ambience and lighting was done. Some nature shots, every day activities, industrial and corporate work, action sports, human interests stories, etc. In few words the more diverse the better.

Customize you reel for each type of client. Doing this today is easy and might make the difference between getting or not getting the gig. So spending an hour customizing your reel with a better chance to land a $5K or better gig might be worthwhile.

If you know that a corporate client is asking for your reel he will surely want to see corporate work. Don’t have him look at rock concerts, flea markets and high school reunion in order to get to the corporate work, move that segment in front, if he likes what he sees he will want to keep looking at your reel to see what else you’re capable of doing.

When I look at a demo reel and I like what I see my second step will be to look at the entire videos where those segments came from in the first place. With web sites and Youtube this shouldn’t be a problem. The better web sites that I get to see are those that have a composite demo reel I call it a teaser, plus there are the complete videos often categorized as per subject.

Avoid repeat and similar subjects. Don’t waste the potential client’s time. If you feel you have to use repeat subjects use those of interest to that particular client’s needs and make sure you have a variety of cuts that are different form each other. If he is interested he will want to see the entire video. Get his attention first.

If you get a call from a particular business and type of business be and go prepared. Look at what his competitors and others in the same industry do with videos and see how those compare to what you are about to show. You better believe that your target client knows what his competitors and other in his industry do and is looking for you do to one better. It doesn’t have to be of the same industry but if at least you have nothing similar to show you’ll both will be wasting each other’s time. Be assured that some of your competitors will have something the clients is hoping to see on his reel. This is why I stress diversity and customize your reel to the occasion.

Lastly, know the overall composition of your immediate market and make sure your demo reel represent that market. If my potential market is in the desert and my reel show a lot of boating activities chances are that those looking at my reel will get the impression that I have nothing to offer to meet their needs, get the point?

We are filmmakers, so when the going gets tough, we turn to...what else? Movies.

The going has certainly gotten tough in the U.S.A. lately. As summer has heated up, so has political rhetoric and devastating violence, each bringing to the fore one of our most complicated and deeply rooted national issues: race relations. Recent headlines have left many in our film community and beyond feeling sad, helpless, angry, confused, or a hot summer stew of all of them. As we discussed on a recent episode of Indie Film Weekly, no matter where you fall on these issues, it’s important to be educated on their historical context. Current events don’t exist in a bubble, and learning about their origins, as well as other people’s experiences, is the first step toward creating change.

And where does a filmmaker turn to become educated? Films, of course. Fortunately, Kino Lober is releasing the blu-ray box set Pioneers of African American Cinema, executive produced by Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky). The 5-disc set will be an excellent primer on the African American experience captured in over 20 films, and spanning over 20 years of the early cinematic era.

As for me, I turned to our No Film School boards and staff, and my personal filmmaking community to ask for recommendations, and they came in droves. Out of more than 75 recommended films—from historic docs to searing narratives to animations—I’ve culled a group here for my summer playlist and maybe yours, too.

1. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)

We might as well begin at the beginning. Plainly put, the African-American experience is rooted in slavery. The Oscar-winner for Best Picture in 2014, a word often used to describe this brutal depiction of one slave’s experience is “unflinching.” The film is especially poignant because it is based on the real-life memoir of Solomon Northup, an African-American man who was born free but then kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. Another powerful take on slavery and American history can be found in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad (1997), which dramatizes another true story, this time about a mutiny by Africans being transported on a slave ship and their ensuing trial, fallout from which sowed the seeds for the Civil War.

2. A Raisin in the Sun (Daniel Petrie, 1961)

Starring some of our country’s most celebrated actors, Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee, this was one of the first films to get really real about how everyday racism affects black families just trying to get by in America. In this case, it’s a Chicago family who has come into some unexpected money and the obstructions they face when trying to, for example, move into a traditionally “white neighborhood.” The film’s story still resonates for many today, as evidenced by its series of sold out performances every time the play (on which the film is based) comes to Broadway.

3. Boyz N the Hood (John Singleton, 1991)

As everyone’s favorite NFS writer, V Renée, called out, “‘Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care what's going on in the hood.’ Brilliant!!!” She was pointing out one of the many lines in Singleton’s celebrated debut that made the realities of African American life in South Central Los Angeles crystal clear, at a time when many Americans had only heard of the region through gangsta rap. Not coincidentally, one of South Central’s legendary rappers, Ice Cube has his acting debut in the film, playing one of the three central characters wrapped up in the drama of the streets. Hard to believe that this could have been true as late as the ‘90s, but Boyz also made John Singleton the first African-American to be nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards.

4. The Butler (Lee Daniels, 2013)

This film, based on a true story, exhibits decades of sociopolitical change in America through the eyes of a black butler who served eight U.S. presidents in the White House. It does not shy away from the full spectrum of the African American experience, even including original footage of police violence during the Civil Rights movement. The mixed emotions and lived history that are represented in the film may be best summed up by Daniels’ own 91-year-old uncle, as Daniels described them in a CNN interview: “He was the first pediatric surgeon of color in America and when he saw this movie, I can't explain to you what it was like. He cried from the beginning to the end, and he laughed from beginning to end." (Daniels, by the way, was the second African American get the Best Director nom—18 years after Singleton—for Precious in 2009.)

5. Coonskin (Ralph Bakshi, 1975)

Perhaps the most controversial film on the list, this 1975 hybrid animation/live-action tale, rife with racially charged iconography, was originally protested as racist. However, its depiction of an African American fox, rabbit and bear who become big players in Harlem’s organized crime syndicate has since been noted as a searing indictment of the treatment of people of color in this country. In fact, a frequent commenter on our No Film School boards remarked thatCoonskin is, “probably one of the most allegorical films I've ever watched about the black experience in America.” It’s worth noting that Bakshi was no stranger to controversy. By the timeCoonskin was released, he had already fired up critics with 1972’s Fritz the Cat, the first animated film to receive an X rating.

6. Dear White People (Justin Simien, 2014)

This 2014 Sundance favorite takes a satirical approach to the issues at hand, showing that racism is alive and well, even in an era when people of color have access to our country’s most privileged institutions. Its plot centers around a biracial student at a predominantly white Ivy League university, and it uses comedy to expose the intercultural (and innercultural) tensions that she and her African-American classmates face. We will also be able to watch a 10-episode TV adaptation of the film on Netflix next year.

7. Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, 2013)

Another Sundance breakout (as well as Best First Film Winner at 2013’s Cannes Un Certain Regard), this film tells of a true story that served as a devastating precursor to the rash of police killings of African American men in recent years. The movie opens with the actual footage of Oscar Grant and his friends being detained by the BART Police, who oversee the Bay Area’s public transit system. It goes on to portray the last day of Grant’s life through flashbacks, until the moment he was fatally shot in the back by those same police at Fruitvale Station in Oakland.

8. How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It) (Joe Angio, 2005)

There could be an entirely separate post on excellent documentaries that tackle these pressing social issues, but this one might be especially pertinent to filmmakers. It focuses on the life of provocative black filmmaker Melvin van Peebles, and features appearances from other film mavericks like his son, Mario van Peebles, and Spike Lee. Best known for his 1971 film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (lauded as the most successful independent film of its time), van Peebles had an incredibly diverse career ranging from novelist to Wall St. trader, but perhaps his most significant accomplishment is the way his irreverent (and often humorous) approach to social challenges changed the national conversation. As van Peebles himself says in the film, “I didn’t see the type of things I wanted to see, so I did it myself.”

9. Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)

The description of this film, and its 1934 predecessor by John M. Stahl, reveal them to be way ahead of their time. Yes, the lead black character, Annie, plays housekeeper to the lead white one, Lora, but they are also both single mothers and best friends. Through their lifelong relationship, issues not only of race but of identity, female independence and interdependence, and socioeconomic realities play out. The most interesting character may be Annie’s light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane, through whom we can witness society’s brutal hypocrisy (like when she is beaten by a white boyfriend who discovers she is black). Reading up about how the script was changed between the release of two films is an interesting study in America’s shifting social norms in and of itself.

10. In The Heat of The Night (Norman Jewison, 1967)

Another Poitier classic, and winner of 5 Oscars including Best Picture in 1968, this charged police drama follows the story of a black Philadelphia detective, played by Poitier. Intrigue ensues when he is brought on to investigate a murder in a small, bigoted Mississippi town after he himself is wrongfully accused of the crime. The film, particularly the “odd couple” relationship that develops between Poitier’s character and the white sheriff who originally accused him, inspired a popular TV series of the same name that ran from 1988-1995.

A group of entrepreneurs that made Hollywood their playing field for gathering experience and college degrees. Following industry trends and market evolution in video and film production, we now offer our services in the Metro Atlanta area.