Models and Actors
I recently purchased a Mamiya RZ67, a five pound, 30 year old camera that shoots a 6×7 negative on 120 film. A few weeks ago I had my first venture out with the camera and it was an entirely different experience. And that new experience is why I bought an overly heavy, 30 year old camera that shoots film.
I booked a shoot with one of my favorite models knowing she could bring what I needed. The experience was completely foreign. Besides having a waste level view finder with the image reversed ,the big catch is that each roll of 120 film only has ten exposures. I had to make them count. I bought the Mamiya to change the pace of my photography. I wanted to slow down and my wish was granted. Going from shooting hundreds of frames to 10 exposures is an entirely different speed.
I have to be honest; I also brought my DSLR to the shoot and used it as my main camera. I still shot hundreds of frames but when I felt like I was on to something special, be it a location or light or a mood I’d pull out the Mamiya. Despite knowing that the shoot was a success I’m anxiously awaiting word that the film has been processed to find out if the Mamiya was as successful. The following is a photo I made with my 5D and one of the reason’s I called Claire to be my first model using the Mamiya.
Since I started working with models in ~2003 I’ve used a number of methods and sites to look for new talent. I’ve used sites like OneModelPlace, Modelmayhem, LACasting, Craigslist and even Instagram. Each time I post a casting there is alway someone that stands out because of how wrong they are for the submission. As the casting process progresses I see more faux pas; and I see them over and over. So if you are a model or an actor this is to help you in the casting process.
1. Read the casting. This seems so simple it’s stupid. I know that booking acting and modeling jobs is often based on the law of averages. The more times you submit, the more auditions you get, the more castings you respond to the more likely a job will materialize. This is true, but if the casting is for a brunette that’s between 5’8″ and 5’11 and you don’t fit in the category then don’t submit. Yes I know you are 5’8″ in heels and that for the right amount of money you would be glad to dye your hair but what your submission says to me is I DIDN’T READ THE CASTING.
2. Don’t lie. A production designer recently recounted story of how an actor lied and it backfired. The role was a window washer to be sitting on a window-washing scaffold 40 feet in the air eating a burger. It was a national commercial so naturally the actor lied about his ability and comfort level being high in the air on a scaffold that was moving and shaking. As the scaffold with the talent, cinematographer and camera assist began to rise, the actor freaked at about 12 feet and couldn’t get past his fear. Thanks for playing please fill out your time card and go home. In addition to wasting people’s time he cost the production company thousands of dollars in wasted production costs. Time IS money.
3. Act professionally. Another suggestion that seems to without saying. I encounter this so frequently that it makes me want to scream. A lot of actors and models don’t consider themselves a business or a product. But you are. You are a business and should conduct yourself professionally. And just like your desk-jockey friends that act professional when they send cover letters with their resumes, come prepared to job interviews and communicate in a professional way with prospective employers you should do the same.
- Make sure your email reply information is correct and accurate. If your email is SuperProModel@aol.com and your name information is not included with your email how will I know who you are.
- Be professional when talking on the phone and sending emails. At this point I’m not your friend nor are we friendly yet. So treat me with the same professional respect you would when you apply for any other job.
- Come prepared. Clothes pressed, makeup ready, lines memorized, portfolio in hand. A few weeks ago a model showed up 30 minutes early, had all her wardrobe balled up in a bag, then asked to do her makeup and hair in the studio. Instructions were to come hair and makeup ready with her clothes pressed.
5 . Use your photos wisely. On the main website I use for castings my view is 24 thumbnail images per a page. Each person’s photo is about 1.5″ wide x 2″ tall. At that size Grace’s head is 1/3 of an inch in the dance photo. Make sure that main image is great. If you don’t look amazing I won’t even bother to look at other images. I know that it costs more money to host additional images on LACasting and other similar sites, but if your job depends on a photo don’t you think it’s a good investment to have multiple images? (see #4)
- Use the size and space wisely.
- Use only professional photos
- Pay for and use multiple photos in your portfolio/site
6. The Internet is forever. Another great feature on the large casting sites is my ability to make notes that stick with your profile. I noticed that a handful of models would submit to every casting I posted but then when I responded or asked for more information they wouldn’t respond. Eventually I started noting who those models were and ignored them on future castings. When you don’t follow the above mentioned suggestions we remember.
It’s simple, if you are an actor, model or any related freelance creative you are a business, now go act like one.
The great thing about being a photographer in Los Angeles is that there is no shortage of attractive people willing to model. I came across Kyle’s photo on a friend’s Instagram feed. I asked for an introduction and it turned out Kyle was just starting to get involved with acting and modeling. This was his second photo shoot.
I started shooting behind the scenes video during shoots (while the model was in hair and makeup) to give me something to do. On most occasions a model will spend 60-90 minutes in the chair which gives me a lot of free time. The more I shoot and edit this footage, the more I learn. I learn by doing. I’d make a video and get to edit and realize it would have been better if…. Next time I made sure that “if” was taken care of. On this particular occasion it meant getting some more action direct to the camera as opposed to finishing the video with stills from the shoot.
This was shot back in June with Jordan Colton and Stacey Ellis. stacey has recently started a new venture. Be sure to check her out at Ellis Salon
When I shot this photo. I was working for free. Seth painted the wall for free. I paid for the supplies and installed the wall, for free. Seth used his own paint. Seth painted the wall on a separate occasion from the shoot. I shot and edited the video for free. Kyara was paid, but if this were a circus she would have been paid in peanuts.
From that free shoot we licensed this image to chefrubber.com who ran it as a full page ad in So Good Magazine. We split the money and got a nice tear sheet out of it. Seth sold a print at an art show. A plastic surgeon contacted me for an assignment after seeing the video of the shoot. His website and office will be decorated with images shot by me. My lab will make hundreds off my prints. A fine art framer in Australia will make thousands when they frame the prints. All in all I can directly correlate about $50,000 in income as a result of that one FREE shoot. Don’t get me wrong, not every test and for-fun shoot results in income. If there isn’t value in working for free I wouldn’t do it.
More than any other industry I can think of the the creative industry is built on the backs of free labor. It goes by numerous names: tests, trade, TFP, TFCD, intern, spec, portfolio, for credit, for my reel…We all do it. As long as I find benefit in working for free I will continue to do so. As I mentioned, I’m getting paid, it’s just not always in the form of dollars.
If you haven’t already read Malcom Gladwell’s book The Outliers he introduces the concept that excellence comes from practice, lots and lots of practice. He refers to it as the 10,000 hour rule; excellence comes after practicing/doing for 10, 000 hours. As a freelance creative how am I supposed to reach 10, 000 hours unless I create my own assignments? How does a photographer, filmmaker or graphic artist practice? By working for free.
I first learned the value of working for free when I interned during college. I interned for Merrill Lynch and learned first and foremost that I DID NOT want to be a
stock broker financial adviser. The next lesson I learned was that interning is about building relationships, not “learning”. I didn’t gain knowledge at Merrill; I made contacts. Those contacts and relationships led to me getting a job and building a successful career as an analyst.
When I was first started to shoot I needed subjects. I started with my friends, then I moved on to testing with models, makeup artists and stylists. We would work for trade; I’d shoot images for our respective portfolios and in turn they would model, style, do hair, or makeup for me. It’s a win win. I get to practice my craft, experiment, test new equipment all while building relationships and making new contacts. Am I working for free? Yes, but there is a huge intangible value I have gained by doing the work. First and foremost I got better at photography. In a lot of cases the relationships I made led to paid job. I shoot for free only when I know there is some value in me doing the work. If you can’t see value in doing something similar, might I suggest a new pair of glasses?
When I’ve got a model in hair and makeup for 60-90 minutes there’s only so much that I can occupy my time with. Lately I have taken advantage of the time and shot behind the scenes video. The only downfall is that when hair and makeup are finished and I pick up a camera to start shooting stills, the video suffers. The behind the scenes video covers the first of four different looks we shot.
Stacey Ellis was in for hair and makeup. She wanted to start with a finger wave of sorts. Since Adriana’s hair was going to have a very polished look we dressed her up in a little H&M tube dress to give it a bit more of a fashion edge.
The following photos show the progression for the rest of the shoot. We got a bit more dramatic and fashion oriented. Loosened things up a bit and then went up with the hair and back to traditional beauty portraits. To see more of Stacey’s work check out our previous work together or on her website: TheBigBangsTheory.com