Why would Actors use “Character Shots” ?

Leland Parker Mcguire

One “Headshot” is not enough for Actors

When it comes to casting, an actor will need more than just one or two smiling headshots.
Many Actors think: “I have a GREAT headshot”.
They do not realize it is not always generally about what they look like.
Many times casting is looking for Character
So, the Actor needs to show Characters in their portfolio.

Avoid the “Headshot” mistake

It can be disastrous to think:
“I have GREAT “Industry Standard” headshots, so now I should get cast!”
After all this is what all teh other actors and actor teacher tell me to do.

Hard fact. Only 98% of actors DO NOT make a living from their craft.
Realize, only 2% of the actors make a living from their craft.
How do you become one of them?

It’s a notoriously tough profession, so what can you do to avoid being one of the 98%?
Is taking the “Industry Standard” path ( like 98% of the other actors) a way to go? Probably Not.

Realize most of the “Industry Standard” methods ignore MARKETING.
An actor MUST market themself.
It seems most actors think, I will just find an agent and they will do all that heavy lifting.
If you do what all the others do, then you will get the same result.

“Marketing yourself is an entirely different set of skills to acting, and more often than not, a chunk of bad actors achieve greater success (or get there faster) due to their ability to network, make connections, create new opportunities for themselves and act upon them.
Aside from being a good actor (a good product), you must also know how to sell yourself (adopt a pretty packaging and show it to the world).”

[ https://actinginlondon.co.uk/reasons-actors-fail-and-how-to-overcome-them/ ]

Character Shots and Reels are part of that marketing.
What does an actor do at its core. They play characters in films and other productions.
So, an actor needs to have a portfolio characters.
This will stand out from the rest of the others who do not show characters.

If you was opening a business ( being an actor is a business) would you just take a few shots of the outside of your building and call it good enough? No.
You would have product shots and marketing of that product.

Again, What is a PRODUCT of the actor? A: The characters they play.
I feel the “Industry Standard” methods ignore an actors PRODUCT.

The “Reality” of Casting.

Casting directors put actors into “categories”:

  1. Leading Man/Woman
  2. Good-looking or Not.
  3. Different Racial Looks
  4. Mean, Nice, or Funny
  5. Tall or Short
  6. Young, Old, Middle Aged
  7. Good Guys / Bad Guys

Then they look at what Roles they can put an actor into:

  1. Working professionals: Detectives, FBI, CIA, Doctors, Lawyers, Preachers, really any profession you can think of.
  2. Blue collar professions: Truck Driver, Mechanic, Carpenter, Painter, there are hundreds of those.

Casting is about Character not an “Industry Standard” headshot.

Actors need to showcase Characters.

Casting looks at an actor, then thinks:

1) Does that actor look like the role they are casting for in a script?
2) If so, can they handle the technical aspects of the part.
3) Can the actor provide the emotional needs of that part.

For Example:
If it is a horror Role:
The technicals will be things like running, screaming, handling gore..etc.
The Emotional needs would be things like looking scared, mean, or crazy.

Showcasing those Technicals and Emotions is basically a shortcut to answering the thoughts casting may have.

Actors who show Character Diversity are able to fill more roles

Seasoned actors understand this is how casting thinks and categorizes actors.
The more categories they can audition for the more work they can get.
As a result, seasoned actors will have 8-12 different characters with various emotional headshots for EACH of their character types.
They know each Character type will need to show a range of emotions.
Each Character will perhaps have to show Fear, Love, Anger, Hate, Bored, Happy, Sad, and whatever else the script breakdowns call for.

Seasoned actors may also have to change their voice, movements, accents, and even their way of thinking to create these different characters.

Again, if you show the right character that casting is looking for, chances are that they will reach out and grab it.

An Actor must connect with the Character in the script

An actor NEEDS to know how to connect with any character they are being asked to portray and make it believable.

Actor Character Shots are an opportunity for them to experience different types of characters.

The Character Shots are a way to give many starting actors a way to buff up their portfolio with unique looks and genres that they normally would not be able to experience.

Anastasia Potapov

Some say: “Character shots often just make actors look ‘cheesy’ and like they’re ‘amateurs’.”

Is that not the essence of good Comedy and Entertainment?

A “Character shot” is a role just like any other.
How good it comes out is dependent on the actor.

For the actor, the focus has to be on the role and making that role work.
No matter what it looks like or how cheesy the costumes and situations are.

Take for example:

Defendor (2009)
Woody Harrelson delivers a great role of a failing regular man who adopts a superhero persona.

Everything about it is cheesy, a great actor like Woody has NO issue pulling it off.

He was Defendor and came across as serious, not worried about someone thinking he was cheesy & amateur.

His focus was on the role.

Blankman (1994)
Damon Wayans starred in and wrote this screenplay where a childlike man with a genius for inventing various gadgets out of junk.

There were a lot of cheesy and funny skits that occurred throughout the movie.

Damon Wayans had no issue making that character work and believable.

The skill of the actor is what will make any character work.
If the actor is being self-conscious and or shy over a role.
They will not come across convincingly with that character.

Character shots are a self-test and testament to the actor’s skill to adapt to many different character types.

So, have fun with it and make it a believable Character.