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.