I am in the midst of participating in a 3-day audition intensive workshop that required us to bring fifteen headshots/resumes. I didn’t have enough prints, so I went out and bought some photo paper, and printed out my own headshots. They looked great. Ok, so the paper was a bit too glossy for my taste—I prefer a totally matte photo—but I mean, it was on sale for ten bucks at Staples, versus a couple hundred at Reproductions with a minimum two-week turnaround. And my inkjet printer is about as good as home printing gets, which is pretty damn good.
But then came the hard part…finding the time to trim these photos to 8x10s, and then cutting my resume to fit them and staple to the back.
Mind you, I didn’t use scissors. I have been notoriously and irreparably incompetent with scissors since childhood. It killed me on my kindergarten report card…sure, I could read at a fourth-grade level and memorize songs and poems better than most adults, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to fucking hold a pair of scissors. To this day, I wrap Christmas presents hideously, I maul any fruit I attempt to properly core, I rarely cut anything into even pieces, and cutting in a straight line is just completely out of the question. Sometimes, in life, you have to accept your limitations, and since my limitations seem to involve anything remotely sharp…I invested in a paper cutter.When I have to affix headshots to the back of the 8x10s that Reproductions printed (and even THEIR dimensions aren’t always exact), I use the cutter, and it works great. To have to actually cut pictures to their “proper” dimension was going to be more challenging. I had to decide which sides to crop, and all 4 of them needed separate and unequal crops. I made small marks with my pen and tried to approximate as best I could, but still, the first shot I took cut off part of my name. The second started off crooked, didn’t make a clean cut, and ended up too short.
And then, a thought hit me. That thought was, “WHY?”
Seriously, WHY? Why is acting the ONLY profession in which we are expected, even obligated, to NOT use normal-sized paper? No one makes 8x10 paper…trust me, I’ve looked. It’s certainly not something you’re going to be able to grab at Staples if you need a bunch of new headshots and you either can’t wait for studio prints or, like 11 out of 10 of us, you aren’t in a position to spend the equivalent of a month’s rent to get them printed.
The response I get is, “oh, but it’s the industry standard, they won’t take you seriously if you don’t conform to it.” Oh, okay. Because apparently the filing cabinets in every casting office are one and a half square inches smaller than filing cabinets everywhere else, and the only way you can secure a space in those files is to have a headshot cut to accommodate those dimensions. Because apparently having a good picture and a solid resume and a solid audition will never book you the job if you have an extra one and a half square inch of resume space. GUYS. COME ON.
When did this become important? In what universe is it worth it for me to spend hours of my time painstakingly cutting paper and photos down to a size that serves no purpose and has absolutely no visual or practical advantage over the 8.5x11 paper that everyone else uses for every other profession?
I’m writing about this because I think it’s one small example of a somewhat obsessive-compulsive mentality that seems to plague us as performers. A certain, “did I sit right, did I stand right, did I blink the right way” attitude that distracts ALL of us from the aspects of the business and the craft that actually matter. The twenty minutes I spent trying to fix two photographs could have been spent doing any number of other things. Time is precious, and our well-being is precious.
So I made the apparently very bold choice to NOT CUT MY HEADSHOTS. To walk into a workshop full of Broadway casting directors with 8.5x11 headshots affixed to 8.5x11 resumes. The edges were clean. Nothing was crooked or missing.
And the result was…the director of the program did notice, but she then agreed with me that cleaner was better, and admitted that the arbitrary rule was stupid anyway. And no one else said anything about it, even though she said they might. I’m not less talented, less professional, or less employable because of it. In fact, I’m better off. Because instead of scrambling for scissors and cutters and staples, I’m focusing on my performance. Instead of worrying about walking or shrugging or blinking the way Bigshots X, Y and Z want me to, I’m focusing on being my best self.
And guess what? That’s what they all say they want. And they mean it. They aren’t the big bad enemy. They aren’t the rulers of the kingdom that we have to marry into. They’re people doing their jobs, and by and large, they view us the same way. They like us a whole lot more than we think they do. They are rooting for us because they want us to make them look good. And they can all live with the extra square inch and a half.
I really should not have had to write this. Honestly.