Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Holidays

Archetype Images is on holiday hiatus. See you after January 1.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cut to the Quick

I'm in my second season of doing publicity shots for The Side Project. And the work that they do is an excellent example of the reasons that so many people do theatre in Chicago. There's no money in it. The personal sacrifices are enormous. Still, every now and then there is the opportunity to be part of something very special.

Cut to the Quick is a series of three collections of short plays. I haven't seen even one of them yet, only been invited to sit in some preliminary rehearsals and take pictures. This is unusual for my process because I'm very thorough in my preparation, usually reading the play and attending a run before doing the shoot. But this time around, Adam wanted something a little rougher, so we agreed that I was to capture moments and images that any actor might recognize as a rehearsal.

And what any actor will tell you is that the performances are great, especially when a production is working, but that the really transcendent moments happen in a bare room during a rehearsal. It's the moment when the text seems to melt away and the actor becomes the character for the first time that the real theater artists live for. The story comes to life, not in a figurative way, but literally, and there is nothing else in the world but that moment. People become actors for many reasons, but all of the acclaim, all of the money, everything else that comes with monumental success for an actor pales by comparison to the simple moment when the story comes to life.

As dollars become more scarce, everyone is becoming more selective with their entertainment budgets. Put live theater at the top of your lists. And not just the big-bang theatres. The real magic, the stuff that will stir your soul, is happening in the small theatres.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Autumn Garden

Nathaniel Swift directs The Autumn Garden, opens this weekend at the Victory Gardens Greenhouse, and this is a theatrical opportunity that cannot -- CANNOT -- be missed.

Nearly every professional actor started out in a high-school drama department. And those drama departments tended to do large, complex scripts written in the thirties and forties because there were a lot of roles for the kids to play and the family closet provided plenty of costumes. I know that as an actor, I cut my teeth on those scripts.

But in the 1950's the political and economic climate began to change for the American theatre. Musicals began to generate more box-office revenue, and dramas started to shrink. By the 1970's and 80's, two- or three-character plays done on a black-box set were the norm, and in the Chicago store-front theatre, it was/is almost physically (not to mention financially) impossible to mount a script with more than four characters and two costume changes. Throughout the 1980's and 90's, whether from budgetary restrictions or artistic tastes, the scripts that I worked on in high school, and the playwrights who created them, were regarded as passe. At least by me, if no one else.

And still today, Tracy Letts notwithstanding, large, complex dramas aren't common on the Chicago stage. Even Shakespeare gets paired down to accommodate the 10x6 dressing rooms, and fifty-seat house. Therefore it's a real treat to see The Autumn Garden. Trite, but true, they simply don't make them like this anymore. In preparing for my shoot with Eclipse, I read the script twice and watched a late run thru. I've edited maybe twenty pictures from the two shoots, and even as I cropped the last shot, a new detail about the play sprang to mind and I was in awe all over again. And my friends, I'm not easily awed.

This play is not a theatrical hors d'oeurves. Going to see this production is a full, Mame-Dennis theatrical banquet. You won't realize just what you're missing from the theatre until you see this show. Magic!

Directed by Nathaniel Swift. Cast: Julie Daley, Seven Fedoruk, Dawn Alden, Stephen Dale, Geraldine Dulex, John Fenner Mays, Nora Fiffer, Judith Hoppe, Millicent Hurley, Raymond Jacquet, Julie Partyka, Chuck Spencer

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Several years ago I had the great fortune of working at Circle Theatre on an original script that was loosely based upon the friendship that founded that little company. In that cast of four, was Michael Pacas. The production would probably best be described as an unappreciated gem. The cast delivered a fine performance, if I do say so myself.

Since that time Michael has gone on to work with just about every non-Equity company in the city. Now he's mounting a one-man show as a showcase to spring himself into the larger houses and get special notice from the area agents.

Michael is an actor after my own heart. I LOVE that moxy and drive. And it's that dedication and guts that produce results.

Barrymore will only be running a short time, but if you want to see the essence of Chicago theatre, if you want to see what it's really all about, you cannot miss this production!

Presented and Performed by Michael Pacas
with Scott Sumerak
November 3 & 5 - 19, 2008
Sunday thru Wednesday
8:00 pm.
The West Stage at
The Raven Theatre Complex
6157 N. Clark Street

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ray T. Ready

The exciting thing about working with actors is that nothing is really ever predictable. It takes a certain strength of character to be able to accept that and I admire the actors who can embrace the adventure of a life in the theatre. It's not an easy one, but with the right mindset it is rewarding.

Case in point is Ray Ready. Ray came to me for his headshots fresh from college. He was doing his first show in Chicago and needed new headshots. He had been using an artistic shot with some leaves superimposed over it. It was a beautiful picture, and it had helped him land the show he was doing, but he rightly felt that the picture he'd been using wasn't going to get him much further.

As with all actors I work with, my first question is about career goals. Ray wanted a life on the stage. Film would be acceptable, but he really wanted the great roles. Because it's my best frame of reference, particularly with male actors, I asked him which Shakespearean role he wanted to play. He was a little stumped, because he felt like he wasn't really old enough to play the great comedic roles, but that's sort of where he saw himself. Then we hit on Puck, and the picture began to take shape. Ray is a perfect Puck: impish, with just a hint of danger. So we came up with this shot that communicated his angular body.

It was weeks after the shoot and sending the proofs to Ray before I heard from him. I had begin to think he was somehow disappointed with the pictures. That was not the case. Somehow he'd found himself in London, and was getting work as an actor there. In his e-mail to me, he gave me a list of the shots he needed and asked me to translate them to black and white as well as color. The Brits are still doing black and white. The above shot is now making the audition rounds in London.

Archetype Images is now officially international!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Wedding Show

I've always been fascinated by weddings. There's a surreal quality to them where everyone involved seems to pretend as if they are someone they're not. Or maybe a better way to put it is that everyone involved agrees to be the best version of themselves for the day. It's no wonder people want elaborate wedding photo packages to commemorate the event.

Recently I attended my first wedding show, which was geared toward the Chicago bride. I was an observer, not a participant, and I attended with a female friend of mine. We posed as a happy couple to get a sense of what an actual Chicago bride and her groom might experience at one of these events and to try to find affordable wedding packages.

The pressure was incredible. From the very beginning the message sent to a bride is that your day must be PERFECT!!, with the implied message being that if your day isn't PERFECT!! then you have failed in some way. There were a lot of expected vendors at this event -- bakers, DJs, florists, and photographers, all beaming at me and my friend, all dying for us to sign contracts that will lock in a date and guarantee their rates, which were anything but affordable.

Of course I knew weddings are expensive. And I even had an inkling of how expensive, but what I wasn't prepared for was just how difficult it would be to find a top-quality wedding photographer in Chicago who provides great value. Now, to be fair this was my first show and I plan to attend a few more before I sign myself up.

I've been studying weddings in general and Chicago brides in particular for months now. I think I have at least a fair understanding of the industry. For instance, I can tell which is a dress for the upcoming season and which is from two seasons ago. I'm a retired actor. I can spot the difference between costume-quality and real quality from across the footlights of a runway, and I can tell you that the dresses I saw were of inferior, yet were going for top dollar. I've worked in restaurants for years. I know a cake mix and one made from scratch. I know quality, and in terms of Chicago wedding packages, I wasn't seeing it.

One of the reasons Archetype Images has been slow in entering the wedding market is because I wanted to develop my own style. Just as with headshots, there are thousands of photographers doing the work, but I don't want my work to look like everyone else's. Yet, going from one photography booth to another, I could not see much difference in quality of work. The larger studios displayed a wide array of quality, from beginners with consumer cameras, all the way up to gifted photographers with state-of-the-art equipment. But they were all charging for the top line talent. What’s more, there were five booths, and yet we only met one actual photographer. To me that was shocking.

I've done two weddings now, I can tell you that I would not be happy with my work unless I know something about the bride. It's the same way with my headshots and the publicity shots I do. I have to feel a connection to the event in some way. To me, going to a large, impersonal photo studio would be a lot like going to someone new to do your hair for your wedding. Yeah, you might look good, but the day is all about presenting the best version of you, and only someone who has a connection with you can know what that is. It's all about capturing a unique vision of the best version of the people and doing it without pressure. A Chicago bride needs an affordable wedding package that reflects her own sense of style, and that's my goal.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Autumn Garden

My first scene in my first acting class was from Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine. I hated the play. Combine that with The Children's Hour, which it seemed every third high-school girl did at drama competitions, and I had almost no use for Hellman. Then I watched Jane Fonda in Julia and I was completely finished with Hellman. Even though she is considered one of America's premiere playwrights, I could not be convinced. America has been wrong before.

Then, about a decade ago, some friends and I were discussing film actors. We were trying to decide who was the greatest film actor of all time and although I'm not sure we fully resolved that riddle, we decided that somewhere near the list of top ten was Bette Davis. We resolved that once a month we get together and watch every Davis film we could get our hands on. On either end of her career there are some real howlers, although Davis is always riveting. But in the middle of her career, particularly from 1939 to about 1951, from Jezebel to All About Eve no one could touch Bette Davis. Man or woman, there was simply not a more fearless actor working in Hollywood. Davis would try anything, and while she wasn't always successful, you could never take your eyes off her.

Late one Saturday evening we sat down to watch The Little Foxes. It had been a long day, and simply stretched out on the floor, ready to drift of to sleep. I was convinced that even the great Bette Davis couldn't keep me awake for Hellman's story and words. I was wrong. Davis is, of course, brilliant. But more important, Davis reintroduced me to Lillian Hellman. From that viewing I realized my mistake. Hellman is a brilliant playwright.

Hellman's brilliance, from an actor's point of view, is that there are no throw-away characters. If there's a character on the stage or the page, he's fully realized. Even the ones who are clearly plot devices are filled with human wants, needs, flaws, and love. Her work gives credence to the old saw that there are no small parts, only small actors.

So, when Nat Swift asked me to do the pre-production shoot for The Autumn Garden I was thrilled. Eclipse Theater is a great group, and I love working with them. The casts that I've shot have always been perfectly constructed. But the real gem of the assignment was having to sit down and re-read The Autumn Garden. I don't like to shoot a play that I'm not familiar with. I need to have an understanding of the characters, the mood, and the moment that we're trying to capture. I like to read the play and if possible see a run. And with The Autumn Garden I fell in love with Hellman all over again.

The story is sort of a 1949 Big Chill (that's a gross reduction - barely adequate) set in an old, Louisiana mansion at the end of a summer. For the pre-production shoot, we used one of the houses that has been surrounded by the DePaul campus. This was the first time that some of the cast members actually met one another, and each and every one of them was clearly over the moon about playing his or her role. The shoot was fun and it's clear to see that this is going to be a crackling production, and one of the more important ones of the current season.

The Autumn Garden opens in November at the Victory Gardens Green House. This is a must-see show, that is rarely produced. Don't miss it!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

St. Sebastian Players Monologue Match Up

Last year I had the great opportunity to be part of the St. Sebastian Player's Monologue Match Up, contributing a complete head shot package to be part of the prize pool. This year I have that honor again.

The St. Sebastian Players have been part of the Chicago theater scene for a long time. When I was starting out, I'd see audition notices for their productions -- great scripts that I would have loved to have done, but the group was characterized as a community theater to me. I was a serious acTOR and focused on doing work that would be taken SERIOUSLY, that would build my CAREER, that would make me a STAR! The St. Sebastian Players, my reasoning went, were probably a cute little group that put together little plays in the basement of a church, but they weren't going to be doing any work that was worthy of me.

As an actor I could be an arrogant, superior, self-involved little prick.

So, I contributed my headshot package and agreed to attend last year's competition not really knowing what to expect. The St. Sebastian Players do, indeed, produce in a church basement. But in my illustrious, glamorous acting career I did productions where we would have killed for the luxury of a church basement. And they only perform for a few performances, but truth be told there are many productions of "serious" theater that should not run any longer.

Even before the contest began, what became immediately clear was that the St. Sebastian Players produce theater for no other reason than because they love it. Unlike my retired theatrical ambitions, they aren't trying to prove anything, they aren't striving to be something they are not. They are a group of dedicated artists who love theater and produce scripts that they know their audiences will enjoy. At the end of the day the purpose of theater isn't any grander than that.

I was shocked at how well attended the event was. There were thirty competitors and probably a hundred spectators. The judges represented some of the best and brightest theatrical groups in the city. The talent that presented their monologues represented a wide range of experience, but it was clear that each and everyone of them brought their A game. Years ago there used to be a non-Equity general audition and I had the responsibility of attending for one of the theaters I worked with. The lack of preparation that was tossed up on that stage, for professional consideration, was shocking. And like me, many of those actors would never deign to do a "community theater" production in a church basement. Steven Speilberg would never happen to stop by and discover them there! (And be truthful, you know actors with that attitude.)

Such attitudes are not in evidence at the Monologue Match Up. Any director would tell you that if they could have a general audition with the quality of talent and preparation that is seen at the St. Sebastian Players, they'd feel like they had died and gone to heaven.

On October 27, the competition begins for the sixteenth time and I promise that for any actor it is once of the most artistically inspiring events of the entire theatrical season. The St. Sebastian Players Monologue Match Up is an event that really should not be missed by anyone who considers him or herself a true artist or a real professional. It gives an actor of any experience level the rare opportunity to see how other actors handle monologues in a situation not at all unlike a general audition, and it gives them a taste of what it is like to be an auditor. It's not like an audition class. Here the stakes are real. There's no nuturing teacher to hold your hand. Like a real audition, you're competing, but here you get to watch the competition. Such experience is invaluable to every actor.

Plus, it's just plain fun.

There are a limited number of competition slots, so you should contact The St. Sebastian Players immediately to secure your place in the competition. And if all goes well, you and I may be working together very soon to create the perfect marketing image to springboard your career to the next level.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Jo* and Nicole

Early in the summer I made the decision to begin expanding my business into the wedding market. The wedding photo is an interesting genre, with a whole host of expectations and high-water marks that a photographer is expected to hit. You only get one shot at some of these pictures. In a lot of ways it's like going into a Broadway show as an understudy. You've studied and practiced, and maybe done other shows, but going on as an understudy on Broadway is a whole other animal. You may have never even met the actor who is playing your lover and suddenly you have to convince a thousand people that the man standing opposite you is someone you can't live without. He's going to give you line readings you don't know, his blocking is going to be different from what the stage manager told you -- and he's always going to be right and you're always wrong. And you'll have to go through all of that with a smile on your face.
That's also the life of a wedding photographer.

And not unlike acting, you kind of have to have had a lead role to get a lead role. And make no mistake, the bride maybe getting all the accolades, and taking the final bow, but the photographer is the star of the show at a wedding. It's all about getting the good picture and doing it in such a way that the wedding party and guests aren't even aware.

I spent most of the summer reading book after book on how to prepare for a wedding. I studied countless wedding websites. I talked to recent brides and future brides. I practiced finding interesting angles and working in different light settings. But it was all academic until I had a real wedding to shoot. To get a wedding, you have to have shot a wedding.

So, I sent out the word in my network and almost immediately I heard from a friend, who had a friend, who was getting married. They already had a photographer, but they were interested in having a second. They couldn't pay me, but would I be interested in the experience?

Does a bride wear white?

So, I e-mailed one of the brides and we arranged to meet. Jo* and Nicole are the coolest people I've ever met. I've heard stories about high-strung brides, and with two of them I was a little nervous, but they were very casual. Jo* is a professional stage manager, so we immediately were able to speak the same language. Nicole is a midwife and birthing coach and faces much more stressful situations than a wedding on a daily basis. Of the three of us, I was the nervous one. I can only hope I always work with brides who are as accommodating as Jo* and Nicole.
Basically, they already had the wedding and the wedding shots planned. The first photographer was already engaged. But the guest list had grown and they thought it might not be a bad idea to have a second photographer. The first photographer would do all of the wedding party shots, and I could basically shoot whatever I thought looked interesting.
Who could ask for a better first wedding?

The day was gorgeous. The ceremony took place on a small country acreage under some spreading oak trees and next to a pond. The light was gorgeous and so were both brides. The ceremony and reception were flawless. Lots of family and lots and lots of love. I was able to snap away and make all the mistakes I wanted. It was an invaluable experience. A sampling of some of the non-mistakes is on display at the Archetype website.

Then, this week we got together so that I could give them the disc with the pictures and so I could do a formal portrait. When Nicole and Jo* arrived at the end of a long work day, they had lost none of that newlywed glow, and were as accommodating as could be while I adjusted lights and tried different poses. Studio portraits are second nature to me, and I'm really happy with this one. I like to try to get at least one shot that is timeless and I feel like we did it with this one.
I was so lucky to have Jo* and Nicole for my first wedding couple and the experience prepared me for my second wedding...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Me!

A year ago I sat down with three books and began to try to figure out how to put together a photography business. I had spent the previous month wrestling with the Adobe Creative Suite, teaching myself how to build a website.

And as I was putting this business together on a very limited budget, I was trying to come up with ways to promote Archetype Images that were creative, dynamic, and free.

And one year and one day ago the Archetype Images Blog was born.

This past year has been more successful than I could have imagined. Not only has the quality of work improved immeasurably -- I'd be horrified to show the first headshots I took -- but I feel like I've grown as an artist in many unexpected ways.

If you've been following this blog, you may have noticed that I tend to use the plural pronoun in describing the Archetype events. That's not because there's an enormous Archetype Images staff. Right now, it's just me. But I purposely use the pronoun because I feel like I'm building a community. When I get behind a camera and start taking pictures of people, I feel a bond. I develop a genuine interest in the people I shoot and that's why I periodically send out update requests. I really do want to keep in touch and stay abreast of how careers progress.

And as I expand into the wedding industry, I don't just want to be the "wedding photographer," but I want to be part of the big events in my clients' lives. On one level it's about creating unique, artistic expressions, and on another it's about capturing the emotion of the moment.

I've worked with some amazing people in the past year, and I'm expecting to do some incredible, amazing work in the coming year. Happy Anniversary to me, and to all Archetype Alums.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Congratulations Joseph Jeff Nominees

Production – Play – Large
Around the World in 80 Days, Lookingglass Theatre Company
As You Like It, Writers' Theatre
The Comedy of Errors, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
The Crucible, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Passion Play: a cycle in three parts, Goodman Theatre
Superior Donuts, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
The Trip to Bountiful, Goodman Theatre

Production - Play – Midsize
Cadillac, Chicago Dramatists
Defiance, Next Theatre Company
Juno and the Paycock, The Artistic Home
The Philadelphia Story, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company
Requiem for a Heavyweight, Shattered Globe Theatre
A Steady Rain, Chicago Dramatists
W;t, The Gift Theatre

Production – Musical – Large
Carousel, Court Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre
La Cage aux Folles, Theatre at the Center
Les Misérables, Marriott Theatre
Passion, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
The Producers, Marriott Theatre
Sweet Charity, Drury Lane Oakbrook

Production – Musical – Midsize
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bailiwick Repertory Theatre
Nine, Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago

Production - Revue
Ain't Misbehavin', Goodman Theatre
Campaign Supernova! or How Many Democrats Does It Take to Lose an Election?, The Second City e.t.c.
Ella, Northlight Theatre
The Mistress Cycle, Apple Tree Theatre

Ensemble – sponsored by Actors' Equity Association
Altar Boyz, Alter Boyz Chicago, LLC
Around the World in 80 Days, Lookingglass Theatre Company
Because They Have No Words, Piven Theatre
Campaign Supernova! or How Many Democrats Does It Take to Lose an Election?, The Second City e.t.c.
Funk It Up About Nothin', Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Les Misérables, Marriott Theatre
Nine, Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago
Sounds So Good Makes You Wanna Holler (Old School vs. New School), Black Ensemble Theater

New Work
Yussef El Guindi, Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat, Silk Road Theatre Project
Keith Huff, A Steady Rain, Chicago Dramatists
Bill Jepsen, Cadillac, Chicago Dramatists
Joel Drake Johnson, Four Places, Victory Gardens Theater
Tracy Letts, Superior Donuts, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
GQ and JQ, Funk It Up About Nothin', Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Eric Rosen, Wedding Play, About Face Theatre

New Adaptation
Laura Eason, Around the World in 80 Days, Lookingglass Theatre Company
Ron West, The Comedy of Errors, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Director - Play
William Brown, As You Like It, Writers' Theatre
Lou Contey, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Shattered Globe Theatre
Barbara Gaines, The Comedy of Errors, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Mark E. Lococo, The Miser, Northlight Theatre
PJ Paparelli, Speech & Debate, American Theater Company
Edward Sobel, Cadillac, Chicago Dramatists
Russ Tutterow, A Steady Rain, Chicago Dramatists

Director - Musical
Jim Corti, Meet Me In St. Louis, Drury Lane Oakbrook
Jim Corti, Sweet Charity, Drury Lane Oakbrook
Gary Griffin, Passion, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Dominic Missimi, Les Misérables, Marriott Theatre
Charles Newell, Carousel, Court Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre
Marc Robin, The Producers, Marriott Theatre

Director - Revue
Stafford Arima, Alter Boyz, Altar Boyz Chicago, LLC
Jim Carlson, No Country for Old White Men, The Second City
Kurt Johns, The Mistress Cycle, Apple Tree Theatre
Rob Ruggiero, Ella, Northlight Theatre
Chuck Smith, Ain't Misbehavin', Goodman Theatre

Actor in a Principal Role - Play
Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
D. J. Howard, Driving Miss Daisy, First Folio Shakespeare Festival
John Judd, Shining City, Goodman Theatre
Nick Sandys, Much Ado About Nothing, First Folio Shakespeare Festival
Randy Steinmeyer, A Steady Rain, Chicago Dramatists
Sean Sullivan, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Shattered Globe Theatre

Actor in a Principal Role - Musical
Larry Adams, Phantom, Theatre at the Center
Guy Adkins, The Producers, Marriott Theatre
John Cudia, Les Misérables, Marriott Theatre
Ross Lehman, The Producers, Marriott Theatre
Jeff Parker, Nine, Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago

Actress in a Principal Role- Play
Karen Aldridge, The Cook, Goodman Theatre
Shannon Cochran, The Lion in Winter, Writers' Theatre
Mary Beth Fisher, The Little Dog Laughed, About Face Theatre
Alexandra Main, W;t, The Gift Theatre
Lois Smith, The Trip to Bountiful, Goodman Theatre
Mary Ann Thebus, Four Places, Victory Gardens Theater

Actress in a Principal Role - Musical
Ana Gasteyer, Passion, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Heidi Kettenring, Little Women, Marriott Theatre
Johanna McKenzie Miller, Phantom, Theatre at the Center
Summer Naomi Smart, Sweet Charity, Drury Lane Oakbrook
Kathy Voytko, Passion, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Solo Performance
Bradley Armacost, C. S. Lewis on Stage, Provision Theater Company
Thomas J. Cox, Nelson Algren: For Keeps and a Single Day, Lookingglass Theatre Company and the Museum of Contemporary Art
Judith Ivey, The Lady With All The Answers, Northlight Theatre
Michael Joseph Mitchell, Underneath the Lintel, City Lit Theater in association with BoarsHead Theater and CRM Productions, Inc.
Nilaja Sun, No Child... Lookingglass Theatre Company

Actor in a Supporting Role - Play
Joe Dempsey, Wedding Play, About Face Theatre
Kevin Douglas, Around the World in 80 Days, Lookingglass Theatre Company
Kevin McKillip, Jeeves Intervenes, First Folio Shakespeare Theatre
Rob Riley, Cadillac, Chicago Dramatists
Brian Sills, Cymbeline, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Mark Ulrich, Juno and the Paycock, The Artistic Home
Larry Yando, As You Like It, Writers' Theatre

Actor in a Supporting Role - Musical
Richard Todd Adams, Les Misérables, Marriott Theatre
Brandon Dahlquist, Knute Rockne All-American, Theatre at the Center
Rob Lindley, Carousel, Court Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre
Michael Aaron Lindner, The Producers, Marriott Theatre
Stephen Schellhardt, Little Women, Marriott Theatre

Actress in a Supporting Role - Play
Lesley Bevan, Othello, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Hallie Foote, The Trip to Bountiful, Goodman Theatre
Ora Jones, Carter's Way, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Polly Noonan, Passion Play: a cycle in three parts, Goodman Theatre
Jacqueline Williams, The Miser, Northlight Theatre

Actress in a Supporting Role - Musical
Marilynn Bogetich, Phantom, Theatre at the Center
Cory Goodrich, Hello, Dolly!, Theatre at the Center
Jessie Mueller, Carousel, Court Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre
Alene Robertson, The Full Monty, Marriott Theatre
Kathy Voytko, Les Misérables, Marriott Theatre

Actor in a Revue
John Steven Crowley, Ain't Misbehavin', Goodman Theatre
Brian Crum, Alter Boyz, Altar Boyz Chicago, LLC
James Rank, The American Dream Songbook, Next Theatre Company

Actress in a Revue
E. Faye Butler, Ain't Misbehavin', Goodman Theatre
E. Faye Butler, Ella, Northlight Theatre
Laura Grey, Campaign Supernova! or How Many Democrats Does It Take to Lose an Election?, The Second City e.t.c.
Angela Ingersoll, The Mistress Cycle, Apple Tree Theatre
Amber Ruffin, No Country for Old White Men, The Second City

Scenic Design - Large
Brian Sidney Bembridge, The Goodbye Girl, Drury Lane Oakbrook
Brian Sidney Bembridge, Meet Me In St. Louis, Drury Lane Oakbrook
E. David Cosier, The Trip to Bountiful, Goodman Theatre
Allen Moyer, Passion Play: a cycle in three parts, Goodman Theatre
Keith Pitts, The Defiant Muse, Victory Gardens Theater

Scenic Design - Midsize
Kevin Depinet, Cadillac, Chicago Dramatists
Kevin Hagan, Suddenly, Last Summer, Shattered Globe Theatre
Kevin Hagan, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Shattered Globe Theatre
Chelsea Meyers, Juno and the Paycock, The Artistic Home
Jacqueline & Richard Penrod, The Philadelphia Story, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

Costume Design - Large
Nikki Delhomme, La Cage aux Folles, Theatre at the Center
Ana Kuzmanic, The Comedy of Errors, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Nancy Missimi, The Producers, Marriott Theatre
Nancy Missimi, Les Misérables, Marriott Theatre
Tatjana Radisic, Meet Me in St. Louis, Drury Lane Oakbrook

Costume Design - Midsize
Karen Kawa, Fatboy, A Red Orchid Theatre
Rachel Laritz, The Philadelphia Story, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company
Elsa Hiltner, Driving Miss Daisy, First Folio Shakespeare Festival
Cybele Moon, Suddenly, Last Summer, Shattered Globe Theatre
Bill Morey, Nine, Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago

Sound Design - Large
Cecil Averett, Passion Play: a cycle in three parts, Goodman Theatre
Barry G. Funderburg, Carter's Way, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Andrew Hansen, As You Like It, Writers' Theatre
Joshua Horvath, Around the World in 80 Days, Lookingglass Theatre Company
Andre Pluess, The Turn of the Screw, Writers' Theatre

Sound Design - Midsize
Jack Arky, Because They Have No Words, Piven Theatre
Andre Pluess, Much Ado About Nothing, First Folio Shakespeare Festival
Miles Polaski, White People, The Gift Theatre
Mike Tutaj, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Shattered Globe Theatre
Mike Tutaj, Suddenly, Last Summer, Shattered Globe Theatre

Lighting Design - Large
Lee Keenan, Around the World in 80 Days, Lookingglass Theatre Company
Jesse Klug, Sweet Charity, Drury Lane Oakbrook
J. R. Lederle, The Turn of the Screw, Writers' Theatre
Philip S. Rosenberg, Cymbeline, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Diane Ferry Williams, Les Misérables, Marriott Theatre

Lighting Design - Midsize
Christopher Ash, Wedding Play, About Face Theatre
Mike Durst, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Shattered Globe Theatre
John Horan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bailiwick Repertory Theatre
John Horan, W;t, The Gift Theatre
J. R. Lederle, Fiction, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

David H. Bell, Knute Rockne All-American, Theatre at the Center
Christopher Gattelli, Alter Boyz, Altar Boyz Chicago, LLC
Mitzi Hamilton, Sweet Charity, Drury Lane Oakbrook
Rudy Hogenmiller, La Cage aux Folles, Theatre at the Center
Marc Robin, The Producers, Marriott Theatre

Original Incidental Music
Andrew Hansen, As You Like It, Writers' Theatre
Alaric Jans & Lindsay Jones, Cymbeline, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Darrell Leonard, Carter's Way, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Kevin O'Donnell, Around the World in 80 Days, Lookingglass Theatre Company
David Pavkovic, Nelson Algren: For Keeps and A Single Day, Lookingglass Theatre Company and the Museum of Contemporary Art

Fight Choreography
Kevin Asselin, As You Like It, Writers' Theatre
Robin McFarquhar, Cymbeline, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Nick Sandys, The Defiant Muse, Victory Gardens Theater
Nick Sandys, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Shattered Globe Theatre

Musical Direction
Rob Berman, Passion, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
George Caldwell, Ella, Northlight Theatre
Eugene Dizon, Nine, Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago
Brad Haak, Les Misérables, Marriott Theatre
Doug Peck, Carousel, Court Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre
Jimmy Tillman, Sounds So Good Makes You Wanna Holler (Old School vs. New School), Black Ensemble Theater

Artistic Specializations
Rupert Bohle, Passion Play: a cycle in three parts, Goodman Theatre
Marty Higginbotham & Bobby Richards, Speech & Debate, American Theater Company
John Musial, Nelson Algren: For Keeps and A Single Day, Lookingglass Theatre Company and the Museum of Contemporary Art
Mike Tutaj, I Do! I Do!, American Theater Company
Mike Tutaj, Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat, Silk Road Theatre Project

Monday, September 1, 2008

...and we're back...

How is it possible that August disappeared so quickly? Although we still have weeks of great weather -- usually the best of the entire year -- I've always felt like when August is done, so is summer.

And with fall, no matter how long it's been since I've sat in a classroom, I always feel like it's time to start getting ready for school. Or revamping audition materials. For me, September 1 has always felt like the real New Year's Day.

And what's more, I've been doing headshots for a full year now! I can hardly believe it. I've worked with some the best and brightest talent in Chicago and we've generated some incredible, fresh images that have landed people work. From the off-Loop, non-Equity theatre scene, to independent films, to modeling agencies, and soon even in London actors and theater companies will be using Archetype Images to tell the entertainment industry who they are.

And for me, this summer has been one of the greatest learning experiences. I've been expanding my skills and started working in the wedding industry. If you thought a tech week was tough, try juggling a couple of weddings and then get back to me.

But the building of the wedding portfolio has begun. I have three scenarios in the can, so to speak, and two more planned. Wedding photos are an entirely different genre from marketing images, but there are definitely some common themes. It's all about telling a story and using all of the components of a still image to convey that story, including color, composition, light and subject. It's a fascinating area and in the coming weeks I look forward to sharing some incredible images I've taken as well as revamping the website to include my wedding packages.

20080-2009 is going to be a great year!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How Are They Doing?

As we head into our August vacation, I thought it was a great opportunity to catch up with some Archetype Alums and see what they've been up to, and what they have planned for the upcoming season.

Joette Waters recently shot a short film that is under consideration for inclusion in the Democratic National Convention. You can see Joette here. And if you go to the website, your vote may help it get shown!

Jay Johnson used the proofs of this shot -- not even a finished headshot -- and landed a role in an independent film with 9:23 Films entitled Chicago Heights.

This is a great example of targeting your headshots. With Jay's military background we wanted to target the tough cop archetype. The specificity of this shot was interesting, yet univeral enough to get him called for a sexually conflicted minister. When Jay wrote and told me about the film he said, "I did want to let you know that I cut out a proof and sent it as a headshot for an audition, the one with the vest and the sleeves pushed up, for a "reverand" role...and I GOT IT! Man, you've got the magic eye, that's for sure."

Mary Anne Bowman, who just finished a run at the Theater Building in one of four one-acts entitled 4Play received unsolicited praise for her headshot: "One of them said almost exactly what you have on your archetype blog -- that the picture really shows who I am as a person and that the eyes are very striking. You really do have a good eye. Virtually everyone in the business (actors, directors and the like) have been the most impressed with the green shirt shot."

Dominic Bogart, who is one of the ensemble members of the Chicago company for Jersey Boys was promoted to covering the four leads. He's currently auditioning around Chicago and it looks like he intends to make it his home.

Next season at The Side Project will include a fall one-act festival (three productions in rep, running from November 16 thru December 21,) with a similar slot set for April. Adam Webster, artistic director, is spreading his wings and currently has a production of Glengarry Glen Ross running with RedTwist. And opening September 27, he is directing a production of Dracula for Theatre-Hikes out at Moron Arboretum.

Also currently running and receiving rave reviews is Eclipse Theatre's Plaza Suite at the Victory Garden's Greenhouse. Next up is Lillian Hellman's The Autumn Garden, directed by artistic director, Nat Swift.

Kate Teichman is perhaps one of the hardest working actors in Chicago. She's currently playing Daniel Day Lewis in the Prop Theater's production of Daniel Day Lewis and the Big Potatoes. Opening at the end of October will be her own production of The Maids at the Acme Art Works space, 2215 W. North Ave.

Lizzie Lovelady is assistant stage managing Iolanthe for Light Opera Works, and will begin her first professional directing assignment as assistant director on Love Person with Sandy Shiner at Victory Gardens.

And last, but certainly not least...

Ryan Salzwedel has also been very busy, shooting a short film, The Getaway Job, the hidden camera show Entrapment, and a lead role for an Animal Planet production. In August he'll shoot the feature Little Fur. 2009 will be big for Ryan. He's making the move to the East coast! You can read Ryan's blog here.

OK. That's it for us. See you in September!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Plaza Suite

Perhaps, in the serious-minded, off-Loop theatre community there is no more provocative two words than "Neil Simon." You don't do Neil Simon. His plays are worthy pieces of Theatre. They're froth. "High-school kids knock this stuff out of the park."

Several years ago, while I had disengaged from the theater scene and was clawing my way up the corporate ladder, I heard there was a company who was devoting an entire season to Neil Simon. I thought the idea was genius. High-school kids and amateur community theater groups do indeed knock this stuff out of the park. Having been a part of a community theater as a teen, I can tell you that his plays were cash cows that kept more than one group afloat. Audiences love his work.

Which is truly a testament quality, not mediocrity. This summer there is a chance to see one of Simon's most popular plays, Plaza Suite, and the genius of the playwright and of Eclipse Theatre just rolls across the stage. Simon's texts are delicately structured. The dialogue is constructed perfectly so that the audience can laugh and still not miss a syllable. The saying goes, "Death is easy, Comedy is hard." Well writing comedy is harder. His plays are like spun sugar castles. They taste good to the uneducated palate, but to the connoisseur the artistry of the dialogue construction is reason to love Simon. There is no playwright, Shakespeare included, who consistently delivers comic delight.

Eclipse offers an all-star cast in this delightful production of Plaza Suite, running now at the the Victory Gardens Greenhouse through Labor Day. Directed by Steve Scott, this cast includes Ted Hoerl, Nora Fiffer, Nathaniel Swift, Jon Steinhagen, JP Pierson, Cheri Chenoweth, CeCe Klinger, and Frances Wilkerson. Even if you're a theatre snob -- or especially if you're a theatre snob -- you should not miss this production.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ken Puttbach Designs

Last December, during one of the worst ice storms in Chicago's history, I went to Loyola to shoot the set up for a fundraising, Christmas party at Loyola University. It was a relatively small affair for three hundred of Loyola's most ardent supporters that was designed by Ken Puttbach Designs. Ken and his staff spent two days transforming a meeting room into a old English Christmas wonderland.

Now, in all fair disclosure, not only is Ken a brilliant party designer, he's also a friend of mine. That said...he's a brilliant designer. And he's busy. So, if you're in the need of party or bridal designs, call him now and book. Especially for the holidays. because Ken's schedule fills up quickly. Check out the Archetype website for contact information.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

By Popular Demand...

...coming soon...Wedding Photo Services

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


A much-earned, and well-deserved vacation for Archetype Images: the entire month of August. Book your September sessions now.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Jay Johnson

Specificity really is the key to a successful headshot, just as it is in acting.

Jay and I met to discuss his career goals. Recently retired from the military, Jay is working on his masters degree and focusing on his first love, acting. When I asked him what types of roles he saw himself playing, he said, "professor." This was a great jumping off point for our photo session.

We talked about what visually communicated "professor," and quickly discarded tweed jacket and pipe as being to on-the-nose. Still, we wanted casting directors to get a sense that Jay was intelligent and warm. We settled on a background of books and an apple as a prop.

In creating a specific shot, we came up with one that is also universal. Jay is warm and inviting and any casting director looking for a professor is going to stop and seriously consider this picture. But because there's a universal appeal in the pose and smile, Jay is going to be considered for 'young dad,' 'good boyfriend,' and 'stand-up guy.' By being specific in the intention in the picture, we've created a shot that stops a viewer who is flipping through a stack of resumes and will consider him for a number of different types of roles.

Check out the Archetype website to see another example from Jay's shoot.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Plaza Suite

Long, long ago, my first job was at the Drake Hotel as the night bellman. It was a very glamorous job and I met many celebrities and made lots and lots of money. Then a landed in my first show and gave the job up, but I've always remembered it fondly.

So, it was very strange to be asked to go back to the Drake to do the pre-production publicity shots for the upcoming Eclipse Theatre's production of Plaza Suite that opens on July 17th at the Victory Gardens Greenhouse. The shoot was done in one of the larger suites in the hotel, one I'd been in many times and one that had not changed. For this occasion it was standing in for the Plaza, circa 1968. It was perfect.

I had a great time with this shoot. It took a couple of hours as we waited for various actors to arrive, and at the end there was a bottle of champagne. Hopefully, as the opening comes closer you'll see all of the selected shots in the media, but this picture has particular meaning for me. It's like looking through a prism in time and seeing a fragmented version of my former self.

The Eclipse company is filled with some really great people and it's my honor to have been asked to take these pictures. I've seen the designs, read the script, and met the actors. This will be a wonderful production, just the thing for a summer outing. Don't miss it

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Congratulations Non-Equity Jeff Winners

Production – Play
The Island of Dr. Moreau - Lifeline Theatre

Production - Musical
Jerry Springer - The Opera - Bailiwick Repertory Theatre
1776 - Signal Ensemble Theatre

Machos - Teatro Luna

Director - Play
Greg Kolack - columbinus - Raven Theatre

Director - Musical
Fred Anzevino - Cabaret - Theo Ubique Theatre Company i/a/w Beverle Bloch & Michael James

New Work
Teatro Luna & Coya Paz - Machos - Teatro Luna

New Adaptation
Robert Kauzlaric - The Island of Dr. Moreau - Lifeline Theatre

Actress in a Principal Role - Musical
Elizabeth Lanza - Can-Can - Circle Theatre

Actress in a Principal Role - Play
Vanessa Greenway - The Constant Wife - Griffin Theatre Company

Actor in a Principal Role - Musical
Jeremy Trager - Cabaret - Theo Ubique Theatre Company i/a/w Beverle Bloch & Michael James

Actor in a Principal Role - Play
Sam Wootten - Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde - Bohemian Theatre Ensemble

Actress in a Supporting Role - Musical
Danielle Brothers - Cabaret - Theo Ubique Theatre Co. i/a/w Beverle Bloch & Michael James

Actress in a Supporting Role - Play
Kathleen Ruhl - Dolly West's Kitchen - TimeLine Theatre Company

Actor in a Supporting Role - Musical
Jeremy Rill - Jerry Springer - The Opera - Bailiwick Repertory Theatre

Actor in a Supporting Role - Play
Hans Fleischmann - In a Dark Dark House - Profiles Theatre
Ron Wells - A Prayer for My Daughter - Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.

Scenic Design
Michael Menendian & Leif Olsen - The Night of the Iguana - Raven Theatre

Costume Design
Elizabeth Shaffer - An Ideal Husband - Circle Theatre

Lighting Design
Kevin D. Gawley - The Island of Dr. Moreau - Lifeline Theatre

Sound Design
Stephen Ptacek - Faster - the side project

Brenda Didier - The Life - Bohemian Theatre Ensemble

Original Incidental Music
Victoria DeIorio - The Island of Dr. Moreau - Lifeline Theatre
Gregor Mortis & Mikhail Fiksel - A Lie of the Mind - Strawdog Theatre Company
Kevin O'Donnell - The Nutcracker - The House Theatre of Chicago

Music Direction
Joshua Stephen Kartes - Cabaret - Theo Ubique Theatre Co i/a/w Beverle Bloch & Michael James

Mask Design
Kimberly G. Morris - The Island of Dr. Moreau - Lifeline Theatre

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Multiple Marketing Images

One of the founding principles for Archetype Images is to work with Chicago professionals who are serious about their profession, who take responsibility for their professionalism instead of relying on "talent," and "luck" alone to bring them success. Many lose sight of the fact that as an actor or musician or director, they are offering a service in a very tough business. And in marketing themselves, they frequently misunderstand the typical agent and photographer advice to get headshots that "show who you are." What is left out of that statement is "who you are within a specific context." It is up to the professional to define the context in which he wants to be seen, or in other words to target his marketing efforts so that the people who are interested in buying his services know exactly what services he offers.

Dominic Bogart is a passionate actor. Rarely have I worked with an actor who understood better that he works within an industry, and yet has found a way to embrace the artistry of that industry. Currently appearing in Jersey Boys, Dominic loves...loves ... what he does. But if the truth were told, he really wants a shot at working on darker material. Like many actors, Hamlet is his dream role. During our shoot he told me that he could be prepared to go on in the role in less than two weeks. He's the perfect Hamlet type. He has the perfect energy for the role. Yet, if you read his resume, you'd assume that his focus is national musical tours. He's played Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, and Mark in Rent. So, how does he get from the company of Jersey Boys to a paying gig as Hamlet?

Well, his first step is to help the people who hire Hamlets to see him as that character. Standing alone, each of these shots is a great picture of Dominic, but they may be a little too specific to use as a stand-alone headshot. Most agents would tell him to reshoot and get rid of the shadows. They don't do anything to enhance his current brand as a reliable, commercial actor with a strong resume in musical theater and independent film. That, however, does not mean that these shots can't or shouldn't be used. One example might be to use these shots as a border on a website, that features his resume with his national tour and independent film credits. With a very specific style, these shots enhance Dominic's brand as a serious actor, a casting director can see a dimension that perhaps his current resume may not indicate.

A website is something that a serious actor should start giving some serious consideration to. In the very, very near future an actor without a website is going to be looked upon as unfortunate; just as an actor without a headshot is viewed today. And an actor who goes into a photoshoot just wanting a headshot that shows "who he is" will really be missing an opportunity to define his brand and expand his market presence. Instead of asking for a "commercial" and a "dramatic" headshot, actors should be asking for headshots that target specific roles, precise segments of the entertainment industry, and taking advantage of the growing influence of digital media for marketing themselves.

Check out the Archetype Images website to see the other images from Dominic's shoot that define him commercial and leading man roles.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Barrel of Monkeys

Are there any deeper, darker, more terrifying words in the English language than 'children's theater?'

Last winter I was contacted about taking publicity shots for The Barrel of Monkeys. Trying to keep an open mind, I asked if I could see a show first. Performing at the ungodly hour of one o'clock, I trucked down to the Neofuturarium to catch the matinee. The Barrel of Monkeys show is a collection of skits written by children and performed...for children. When I arrived at the theater, it was packed with kids ranging in age from three to ten and their parents. Many were repeat visitors and all of them, including the parents, seemed giddy with excitement.

The material covers a wide variety of topics, from a skit on how to make friends to a production number proclaiming the virtues of jelly. Where the actors found all that energy on a blustery Saturday afternoon still mystifies me, but the performance was crisp and the overall approach was respectful of the material. There is nothing more tiresome than a bunch of adult actors condescending to kids -- or worse, trying to be a kid. But this troupe assumes that their audience is smart and speaks directly to the kids in their own language. "Jelly is good," had many kids in the audience nodding at that sage observation. The audience would erupt into laughter at punch lines that completely stumped me, but there was no denying that the kids loved the show, and as a result I loved it too.

The Monkeys travel around and perform at different venues, so a trip to their website is the best way to find out how to catch a performance. And even if you don't have kids, their shows can be enjoyed on a variety of adult levels. Go. Enjoy. Jelly Rules!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Kristine Kavanaugh

When I met with Krissy to plan her headshots, we focused on her career goals. Where most actors answer the question, "What kind of roles do you want to play?" with the answer, "I just want to work;" Krissy was laser precise. She's developing her improvisation skills with an eye toward a starring role in a sitcom. To that end, she's written a one-woman show, Am I Crazy, or Just Highly Evolved.

This is the focus that improves Krissy's chances for success.

As we went further into the discussion, we talked about what the sitcom might look like. She sees herself in a blue-collar, working-class story not unlike Roseanne. However, it's also clear that she's much lighter in spirit and while talking to her I was continually reminded of Goldie Hawn. Though there is absolutely no resemblance between the two actors, Krissy was struck by that comparison. With a sitcom in view and informed by Goldie Hawn as a model, Krissy and I discussed how we might visually convey that. We talked about props and poses. Everything that would say, "blue-collar Goldie Hawn." The image above is the result.

Actors are often told that casting directors just want to see them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Casting directors want to see the characters they are casting. The chances are much greater that a casting director is looking for a "blue-collar Goldie Hawn," than they are a "Kristine Kavanaugh." They want to believe that the picture they hold in their hands is of an actor who possesses that indefinable quality that will make the role their casting memorable. By being specific in what Krissy is saying, this picture catches the viewer's attention. On her way to that sitcom, this picture will also get Krissy considered for a lot of other work. Check out some of the other shots from the shoot at

Working Archetype -- Mary Anne Bowman

Have you ever seen Mary Anne Bowman act? It's a velvet visceral experience. She is a dynamo that is ready to break free at any moment and the enjoyment is in seeing how and when.

Mary Anne is working to corner the niche market of the Great Roles in the English-speaking canon, and that includes translations. When we discussed her headshots, she told me that she loved doing screwball comedy, but it was the tragic roles that really interested her. And, not willing to be pigeonholed, she wants the great roles, regardles of gender. Currently she's gunning for the role off MacBeth. While I have my reservations about a woman pulling of such a masculine role, if ever there was a woman who could do it, it's Mary Anne. And I will definitely be in the front row cheering her on.

Soon, Mary Anne will appears in 4Play at The Theatre Building, running June 5 thru 29.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Targeted Communication

At the end of the day, the headshot doesn't get you the job. It doesn't get you the audition. It gets the casting director to turn the picture over to read the resume. Then if the director has any interest, if the credits reflect similar roles to the one she's casting or if there's something that catches her eye, she flips it back over to the picture and says, "Is this guy my Hamlet?" If the picture does its job, it lands your resume in the "Yes" pile and you get a call.

Or, the headshot serves as a visual reminder of your audition. It has to look like you, but it should also evoke your personal style, perhaps characterize the monologue. If your headshot looks like everyone else's, I can tell you from experience, that after about the tenth monologue, all actors start to blend together. Your monologue was selected to show you off to your best advantage. It was carefully prepared. Shouldn't your headshot have more preparation than standing next to an open window on a sunny day?

A good headhsot is a well-thought-out part of an overall strategy that targets specific segments of the entertainment market, be that genres, such as film, musical theater, television, industrials, etc; or types of roles, such as epic, tragic, light comic. A good headshot does more than just "capture your essence," (whatever that means) or shows what you look like. And in spite of what photographers tell you, the photo shoot is more than "fun." It's work, and it's your job to work with the photographer to make it look effortless. Just like rehearsal, a good shoot is focused. And the focus is on communicating to your audience who you are within the context of the industry.

The most successful actors know what their professional goals are. Yet, ask an actor what type of work he wants, and most will hesitate in giving an answer. Either he's embarrassed or afraid or doesn't know. But that ambiguity shows, not only in his answer but his headshot.

It shows.

The Archetype Images mission is to work with professionals to help them create a marketing image that speaks to their targeted market segments. Beginning with the consultation, the discussion is all about where you see your career going and how we can visually communicate that to the weary casting director who has seen three hundred pictures of smiling actors backed against a brick wall and shot in natural light, beaming their essence.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Jennifer Buhrow

There are just somethings that entertainment and marketing professionals have to deal with that members of the other professions do not. Imagine this scenario:

A young, smart, highly qualified female lawyer walks into a recruiter's office to discuss a potential position with a firm. It's a good-paying job and the lawyer has a resume that demonstrates she is a perfect candidate. The recruiter is also a woman with an impressive list of accomplishments and clients.

The lawyer sits down in the office. The recruiter says to her, "You didn't get the job. You're not sexy enough."

If this scenario played out in the corporate world, the lawyer would become incredibly wealthy as a result of this conversation. Hiring bias based on sexuality is every industry except the entertainment industry. And if you're an actress, it's likely an everyday occurence.

Let's set aside the absurdity of the statement, and let's also ignore the fact that sexiness is in the eye of the beholder. The fact is that beautiful young actresses and models (and to a much lesser degree, actors) are held responsible for measuring up to an arbitrary, ever-changing standard of beauty.

In the recent Archetype project seeking actresses to create edgier headshots, I chose Jen for the "musical theater ingenue" archetype. Jen has some experience with some of the smaller area dinner theaters, but would really like to break into the world of Marriott and Drury Lane. Jen is a full-time actress and model, and much of that is as a professional spokesperson. In a recent conversation an agent who only sent her on assignments sporadically told Jen that she didn't get the jobs because her pictures weren't sexy enough.

This is exactly the type of situation that Archetype Images is dedicated to addressing. So, not only did we create an image targeted at musical theater (see website), we actively discussed creating a "sexy businesswoman" shot. This discussion was incredibly interesting, and we talked about women in corporate America, and the essence of their power and strength and how those combine with sexuality. As we began the shoot, our shots tended more toward the sexy and less toward the businesswoman. But as both Jen and I relaxed with the concept and got to know each other, we were able to combine the two concepts.

Ultimately, for the purposes of this project, I chose the shot above. In it, Jen is engaged in a conversation. The partner in this scene, the camera, is saying something very interesting, perhaps enlightening, and it is inspiring some new thoughts for Jen. This activity is exactly what turns a good headshot into a great marketing image. And it's this activity that actually helps put Jen in the sexy businesswoman category.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Working Archetypes

Chicago playwright, Laura Jacqmin received the second annual Wendy Wasserstein Prize. The $25,000 award is given to a female playwright who has yet to receive national attention for her work. Last fall Archetype Images did publicity shots for the world premiere of the Side Project production of her play Butt Nekkid. Soon, Jacqmin's play 10 Virgins will be produced at the Chicago Dramatists Workshop.

Beau (Nick) Nelson recently shot the lead in a regional commercial, has done several small independent films, and in July will be going to Los Angeles with his agent to seek West-Coast representation.

Lizzie Lovelady is currently stage managing the Oil Lamp Theater production of Twelve Angry Jurors, and is making tremendous strides to establishing her directing career, with a too-soon-to-announce project with a major theater in the offing. She is also feverishly pursuing her first major career goal, working with the Neo-Futurists.

Kate Teichman is currently running in two one acts produced by the Curious Theater Branch in The Other Side of the Elephant festival, in June will start teaching improv with The Mudlark Theater, and will be opening her independent production of The Maids this fall.

Brian Coleman recently participated in the Northwestern University Acting Showcase in New York City. Northwestern selects exceptional graduating seniors to introduce to the New York theater community.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Erica Danielle

Success in the entertainment and marketing fields is all -- ALL -- about focus. With the increase in technology, marketing strategies are all about sharply defining your market and crafting your message for that market.

Here is where Archetype Images believes that most actors and models make a misstep. For very real financial reasons, they tend to choose one image that appears to have the best chance of opening the door to work. By trying to 'be all things to all people' most headshots really end up being rather generic. If you ever have the opportunity to sit down and look at a stack of headshots, you'll find that after about ten they all begin to blur together. So imagine being headshot number six-hundred-and-fifty-eight out of a thousand? That picture had better have something going for it besides you, because all nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine other pictures are of cute brunettes, just like you. And if that picture doesn't speak to a casting director so that she flips it over to read the resume, and call you in for an audition or a meeting, isn't it just a waste of money?

This is the fundamental issue that Archetype Images was created to address, and to that end we ran an ad looking for three adventurous actresses and/or models to try and expand the definition of a 'good headshot' in general, and increase the style options for Chicago talent in particular.

First up is Erica Danielle. Erica started out as a children's model and has progressed to fashion shoots and works regularly as a petite runway model. In our discussions, we were able to help Erica define three specific niche markets that she was most interested in. The shot above is her Mommy shot.

Every actress between the ages of twenty and fifty needs to have a Mommy shot. For unknown talent, that's where a big chunk of money is, especially for commercials and print. Now, ask yourself: does that shot of me up against a brick wall say "Mommy?" If so, I don't want to know about your childhood.

We took Erica to the park. With kids running around and the swings and slides, the setting communicated Mommy to the viewer, so all Erica has to do is be herself.

The other two markets for Erica are fashion and as a business spokesperson. Visit the Archetype Images website and compare all three shots. In all three composition, color, and context do the work to focus the image and communicate to a specific market, giving Erica's headshot in the middle of a stack of one thousand shots a better chance of standing out.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Beyond the Brick Wall

I became passionate about acting when I was in high school. At that time, the acting heroes were Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino. There were others, of course, but there was a devotion to 'the craft,' that reached back through Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg all the way to Stanislavski. All of these people (with the possible exception of Stanislavski -- damn the communists!) became quite famous and wealthy, but the fame and wealth were the byproduct of their real work, which was to tell stories. Today that devotion seems to have been commercialized. Mischa Barton instead of Meryl Streep.

While in high school, I became passionate about all things theatrical. Being poor, and living in the cornfields of Iowa, long before the Internet, I lived for the Sunday New York Times at the local library. The Tony Awards broadcast was like a drop of rain on a desert. The local college hosted a "How to Break Into Show Business" Seminar, and I was front row, pen and paper in hand. I memorized the Shurtleff book.

I also studied headshots. Headshots at that time were transitioning from glamor to gritty. Soft-focus lenses gave way to brick backgrounds. In New York and Los Angeles the trends have moved into different directions, but in Chicago, the brick wall and slavish devotion to natural light still holds sway. There is nothing wrong with that style, but Archetype Images was born to offer an alternative.

Recently I ran an ad looking for three professionals who were willing to work with me to develop some test shots. I was looking for three types: "soccer mom," "musical-theater ingenue," and "character actress." I received approximately seventy responses, and choosing just three was difficult. Ultimately, I chose resumes that reflected something of an improvisation background. Pictured above are Krissy, Jen, and Erica.

Last weekend the four of us met to talk about their specific career goals and to toss around ideas for shots that went beyond the brick wall. Casting directors tell actors that the headshot should look like them. Photographers tell actors that the headshots "capture their essence." Well, how many women do you know who hang out in alleys or vacant lofts?

Archetype Images are about using all of the elements of a photograph to communicate who you are as a professional. Color. Composition. Lighting. Setting. These are all things that Krissy, Jen, Erica and I are going to experiment with over the coming weeks. The process will be documented here, and the final products will be posted on the Archetype website. All four of us are very excited about this project, so stay tuned!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Carlo Corbellini

Carlo Corbellini is quite a remarkable young man. Originally from Rome and a recent Northwestern graduate with bachelor degrees in industrial engineering and economics, Carlo has also decided to expand upon a third talent: acting.

While talent is an essential element to the success of any actor, it's Carlo's focus that will earn him success. Focusing almost exclusively on film work, Carlo has already identified his major niche as the "threat" in a story. He feels that his blue eyes are one of his most distinguishing features and wants any headshot to draw attention to them.

By strategically placing the shadow in this shot and limiting the color palette to blue, brown, and black, we were able to draw attention to Carlo's eyes and create an aura of danger. This is an excellent example of a headshot using all of the elements of composition to communicate into which archetype the actor fits. Of course, because this shot is so specific Carlo also needs a shadow-free commercial shot. This shot (seen on the Archetype website) really captures Carlo's sweet nature. In it Carlo is "the best friend." As any character actor knows, the wider range that he can display to an agent, the more work he will receive.

In the next few months Carlo plans to move to Los Angeles. With these pictures, which combine popular elements of current trends from the L.A., New York, and Chicago markets, he can set up shop anywhere in the country -- or the world -- with a fresh look and garner attention immediately. We're proud to have Carlo be one of the Archetype signature faces.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

On My Parents' One Hundredth Wedding Anniversary

Jesse Weaver's On My Parents' One Hundredth Wedding Anniversary is the final offering of The Side Project's 2007-2008 season, and it is the perfect ending. If you've followed the entire season, it has gone from almost documentary realism and progressed through absurd theater, and finally begins to touch on expressionistic theater.

Years ago I had the opportunity to see the Dublin Theater's production of Waiting for Godot. If ever there was a play that begged to be cut, it is Godot, and if ever there was a production that took itself too seriously, it was that one. So, I approach conceptual theatre warily. The key is to make it appear effortless. While many abstract theater pieces carry a lot of weight and speak to universal themes, if the piece is too reverential it becomes didactic, and if it's too clownish the meaning is lost.

Luckily this production has Matt Hawkins at the helm. With his flawless cast, including Mickey Crocker, Jessica Hudson and Michael E Smith, Hawkins makes a highly stylized, conceptual piece of art that appears effortless and tossed off. And it's just plain fun. But I can tell you that from the tech I went to to plan the publicity shots, there is nothing -- NOTHING -- tossed off in this production. Every detail on the stage has been carefully considered. While one viewing of this play will be satisfying and entertaining, there are many layers and baroque details, all of them essential, that an audience member can explore on multiple viewings.

If you haven't seen a production at The Side Project, you really are missing out on some of the most exciting theater in Chicago, and possibly the country. It won't be long before this little company begins to receive the critical and box-office attention it deserves, and you'll want to be part of the growing crowd who can say, "I saw them when..."

All promotional images are available in the Promo section of the Archetype Images website.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Survey Says...

Several weeks ago I sent out a brief survey to all of the people on my e-mail list, asking a few basic questions. Since Archetype Images is all about helping performing professionals and small businesses to target their marketing images, I wanted to determine the best places to focus my own marketing efforts. Of the nearly five-hundred people on my list, approximately ten percent responded. This is, of course, a wildly unscientific survey. To date, most of my marketing efforts have been focused on Craig's List, PerformInk, and direct mailings, so, it's not entirely surprising to find that the people on my mailing list would also favor those sources for finding work.

Much of the results were expected. I knew that most of my clients and potential clients are in the Chicago area, but I was surprised at the number of responses I received from New York and Los Angeles. I also had a fair number of responses from cities such as Detroit and Milwaukee.

Of the fifty-three responses, thirty-five said they found work on Craig's List, twenty-eight referred to PerformInk. Twelve mentioned Model Mayhem, and eight are listed with TalentHunter. One person mentioned the League of Chicago Theaters website.

Fifteen people were affiliated with actors' unions, and twelve of those were only with AFTRA. Eight were with Actor's Equity, and nine were SAG. The remaining are non-union.

Only fifteen identified themselves as actor/models. Eleven are exclusively models, and the remainder consider themselves only to be actors.

Most clients are listed with multiple agencies, with the most popular being Charlie's Talent, BMG, and Encore.

However, the most surprising responses came to the question about which agencies were viewed as the most helpful. Of course, actors and models tended to find the agencies that represented them to be the most helpful, but eight percent of the people who responded took the opportunity to express disappointment with Chicago agents in general. There was no agent or agency that was singled out. Rather, there was a consistent expression of frustration at the lack of professionalism and a low sense of business ethics.

Of course, that has been the lament of Chicago agents about the Chicago acting community for more than twenty years. Almost every Chicago agent will tell you that the Chicago talent pool has the reputation of being somewhat provincial, that the talent in Chicago does not take the business seriously. It was surprising to learn that perception is reciprocal in some quarters.

So, thank goodness for Archetype Images! Our mission is raise the level of professionalism within Chicago's talent community. I've been quite fortunate over the last few weeks to work with some astonishing talent. And it is our goal to help these dedicated professionals refine their approach to the industry by creating topnotch, emblematic marketing images that at once distinguish the artist from the crowd, and communicate who that person is artistically and professionally.

I want to extend my thanks to everyone who participated in my impromptu survey. With the coming of spring comes a renewed sense of commitment. Let's work together to raise the level of our art and our business!