Sep 18

Still in the Picture: Do headshots have a future?

Headshots have been a staple of casting for nearly a century. But for how much longer? In a new The Stage piece, I analyse the results of a new survey of Casting Directors Guild members, to explore how online casting is changing the way actors are assessed.


Still in the Picture? The Stage Sept 18th 2014 ©Michael Wharley 2014

Back in July 2010, I ran a survey of Casting Directors Guild (CDG) members for a The Stage  piece exploring how the industry’s move online, via tools like Spotlight Link or Casting Call Pro (CCP), was affecting the way actors presented themselves, and were assessed, prior to audition and during the casting process.

The results painted a fascinating picture of how the evolving online casting environment was both using and reshaping the self-promotional tools of the analogue era for the new digital paradigm.

The casting environment in 2014

But that was then. Four years of web-development down the line – and with a range of new services online, from The Stage Castings to Star Now to Casting Networks to Zappshot – it seemed timely to ask CDG members those questions again.

So, that’s what my Insight Feature, in this week’s (September 18th 2014) edition of The Stage is all about.

With the help of the CDG itself, and with some very helpful stats from the ace crew at Casting Call Pro, I was able to rerun the survey, comparing the results of 2010 and 2014 side by side to explore some fascinating and surprising changes in the way actors are being assessed:

I got stats and reflections on:

  • Attitudes to colour and B&W
  • Whether headshots will remain important to casting in the future (!)
  • Whether 3/4 length or full-length shots are growing in significance
  • How many photos it’s best to have on a profile
  • How casting directors are using resources like photos, showreels, voicereels and credits
  • Whether showreels or separate clips are the best way to show off an actor’s range
  • To what extent online services for auditions on tape and other video technology is fundamentally chagning the casting process.

Will headshot stay relevant

If you want to read the full piece and see all the stats, you’ll need to buy a copy of the paper for the moment, though I will blog all the stats and some excerpts from the piece next week.

For now, I think I can let slip the most emphatic result from the survey, one that answered the question asked up top (and certainly one I was glad to hear, as a photographer).

[important]100% of CDG casting professionals surveyed said they believe that the headshot will remain central to the casting process in the future.[/important]

Picking all the other stats apart does tell a much subtler and more complex story than such a bold figure might suggest, but it does seem the humble headshot will be around for a few years yet…

18/09/2014 MW

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