I'm in the third and final year of my performance MFA program, and several of us are getting our headshots updated. I was surprised to find that a few of my classmates are going to get some of their headshots done in black-and-white.
As a Los Angeles actor, I saw how predominant color headshots became a few years ago -- before I even started school. Are there cities in the country where black-and-white is still being used? I'd hate to see my starving-student classmates waste their money if black-and-white is now a thing of the past.
Arizona State University
You're right. Black-and-white is, while lovely, passĂŠ. Los Angeles was at the forefront of the color movement, but New York has since joined in, and smaller markets are rapidly making the switch. I can't guarantee that there's no city in America where color isn't the mainstay -- maybe Kenai, Alaska, has a penchant for old-school shots -- but in general, color is king. Even your local Arizona market has made the jump. According to Laura Durant, owner of Laura Durant Communications (www.durantcom.com) -- a popular Web portal for theatre and film folks in the Phoenix metro area -- "We're all about color here. I do miss the classy look of black-and-white, but that said, I must add that a headshot is not intended to be a keepsake portrait of you for all posterity. Its purpose is to serve as a proxy for others to use as an accurate decision tool."
If your classmates are getting mostly color shots and sprinkling in a few black-and-white options for kicks, there may be no harm done. A period shot might befit self-marketing for a period piece. But the only actors regularly using black-and-white pictures these days are those who haven't had a new headshot taken in three or four years.
There's one more thing to consider as you prepare to open your pocketbooks. You and your classmates will need shots to self-promote for the first month or so in your city of choice, especially if your university, like many others, is planning a showcase tour to get you seen in L.A., NYC, and Chicago. Once you settle into your new homes, however, you will ideally get even newer shots from one of the established, big-market photographers. I could be wrong. The shots you get in Arizona may rival those of any coastal pro, but the "professional" shot I came out of Denver with after graduating from the National Theatre Conservatory couldn't have been worse had I been wearing a bag on my head. Sadly, I used that picture for a couple of years. Oh, if I could just go back in time and smack some sense into myself.
While I imagine you'll need new shots to get off the ground, I suggest you keep your photo shoots as brief and inexpensive as possible. Get a great utilitarian shot, but save your money for an extensive shoot when you land in your final destination.
I have a wonderful day job weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. As great as my job is, however, there is little flexibility.
I know that theatrical auditions can be at all hours of the day, but is it the same with print and commercial auditions? Would I be expected to leave work at any point in the day to show up for an audition? I need to hang on to my day job for at least the rest of the coming year, but I'd like to work as much as possible in the meantime.
-- Day Job Dilemma
New York, N.Y.
When you get a little further along your path to an acting career, you'll realize that any job not offering flexibility is less than wonderful. Yes, auditions are held "at any point in the day," and you'll be expected to be there on time, often with very little notice, prepared and looking like your headshot. A flexible job is a must.
Of course, reality doesn't always follow the path of ideals, so if you need to hang on to this particular job right now, there are a few things you can do. First, check with your boss about your lunch hour. Manhattan is crowded but tiny. I used to take cabs across town for auditions during my lunch break -- which I took at whatever time the auditions were scheduled. I often stayed late to make up for missed work time. If that's not possible, focus on small, nonunion gigs -- which may be more in line with your level of experience anyway. Nonpaying producers tend to be more willing to work around a typical 9-to-5 schedule. They offer flexible hours since they can't offer pay. You can also throw yourself into classes and workshops, most of which are held in the evenings.
But don't get any more comfortable at your current gig than you already are. A day job is meant to pay your bills while you pursue what you really want, not keep you from it.
Here is a follow-up from Sarah regarding the decision she made about her name, in light of our online poll that asked readers to vote on their preference: "Sarah Antalek" or "Sarah Michael Hughes."
When I read the results a few weeks back [Back Stage, Oct. 25, 2007], I was disappointed, but then I felt relief and joy. I'd been racking my brain about Antalek, since it is such a unique name. And you -- along with 57 percent of the readers -- confirmed the wisdom of opting for it. But in the end, as you said, I have to go with what feels most comfortable, which for me is Sarah Michael Hughes.
It's funny, because for so many years I've completely owned the name Antalek, and suddenly it no longer feels natural to me. When someone asks my name, "Sarah Michael Hughes" automatically comes out. I feel like I've transitioned into a different person -- and not just because of marriage. From age, experience, auditioning, training, seeing shows, and simply reading more, I've developed myself and -- for lack of a better expression -- rounded out. I don't even physically look the same as I did a few years ago. It seems appropriate right now to detach myself from my former self and adopt this new me, whom I really like.
As I mentioned above, I experienced disappointment at seeing Antalek win -- and of course I knew it would -- since my preference had been Michael Hughes all along. But then I was relieved to see these great comments from other readers about my preference. I'd felt all this time that Hughes doesn't stand out as well, so it was really nice to know that it did stand out to 43 percent of readers.
I'm taking your advice: I'm certainly "going with that feeling." Thank you to you and everyone who weighed in,
Sarah Michael Hughes,
New York, N.Y.
Jackie Apodaca can be reached at TheWorkingActor@gmail.com.