Monday, November 23, 2009

Remember Summer?

When did it become November? In my head it's still June. Well, if I was going to be completely honest, in my head it's still June of 1988, but that's a whole different issue.

Last May I took on my first big fashion shoot. I cast six models knowing that not all of them would show. I got three. If I had to settle for less than what I wanted, I was thrilled to have the three I got. They could not have been more perfect.

If you can remember back to May, you might recall that we had exactly forty-eight minutes of sunshine the entire month. I booked my models three weeks in advance. The theme was an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, but done in color and to look something like an old snapshot from the late '50's or early '60's. We were scheduled to begin at 3:00 and it rained most of the day. I'm sure the weather had something to do with the three no-shows. I toyed with the idea of rescheduling, but held my breath and decided it was best to soldier on.

The first model showed at 2:00 and I spent an hour entertaining him with chit-chat. Small talk isn't really my thing. I have limited brain capacity and when I'm working, I'm all about the task at hand. This means that I have a set chit-chat patter, which I usually mete out strategically during a shoot to distract the model, to cover while I need to set up a light, or what have you. By the time the second model arrived, I'd exhausted every conceivable topic. By the time the third model arrived I felt like I had recited my entire life story, complete with accompanying ballet dream sequence.

I was not hopeful. The sky was gray. My mood was gray. The models were nervous.

But then, just as we reached the beach, the clouds broke. We started the shoot slow with the three of them sitting on a bench. The first third of any shoot is almost worthless. It takes some time for even the most seasoned model to warm up. But even the first few frames had usable shots.

I worked all three of them for nearly three hours. They ran. They jumped. The hugged. They kissed. One of them ran into the lake, carefully avoiding the floating chunks of ice. Then the last few frames I devoted to the girl. The sun was starting to sink. All four of us were exhausted. I sat down in the sand and just sort of pointed my camera in her general direction. This was the result.

And then it started to rain again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


There are times when it seems like the heavens smile on you. This picture is one of those times.

I was again lucky enough to be asked to do the publicty shots for Eclipse Theatre. It's for Romulus Linney's Democracy. A comedy set in the late 1880's, I was sort of dreading this shoot. I wanted to do something that looked like it belonged on my grandmother's wall and when I described my idea to Nat, he seemed reserved in his enthusiasm. I think it had less to do with my idea for the picture and more because I said that it would take some time to get it right. Because everyone is very busy, these shoots are always done on a tight schedule. So, Nat said, "We'll see."

The shoot was set for the plant conservatory place in Lincoln Park. I'd only been there once before, and to be honest I preferred to shoot outside. But it was blessed cold on Sunday morning. We arrived at the conservatory just as it opened and the security person told us we could shoot as long as we didn't block traffic or use any props.

We tried several different things, but they all came out looking flat. The conservatory was filling and getting any kind of shot was becoming increasingly difficult. That's when I saw a patch of light. I pointed to it and Rebecca found it. With almost no coaching Jon and Rebecca found the pose and I clicked. It took less than a minute. With the exception of removing a little sign, this is pretty much how the shot came out of the camera. I couldn't be more pleased. It's exactly what I wanted.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It' Match-Up Time

For the third year in a row, I'm proud to be a supporter of the Seventeenth Annual Saint Sebastian Monologue Match Up. Last year an Archetype Images session was the prize for the People's Choice Award an Rina Sobel was the lucky, lucky young lady who won!

If you haven't done the Match-Up, even as just a spectator you really should. Actors have so few opportunities to see how other actors handle a monologue in a pressure setting. An audition class is not the same thing at all! If you're watching, you get to see what works and what doesn't. And if you're participating, you get to go into a relatively high-pressure situation that is also very supportive. Everyone there that evening is there for one thing -- to see good monologues.

The event is Monday, November 2 at 7:00 and there are only 40 competitive slots. Sign up now!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Mike Caden Ross came to me for portfolio shots. He's based out of Austin, but needed to refresh his portfolio before he goes to Milan and Paris. He wanted tear-sheet worthy shots that looked like they were from a Banana Republic Shoot.

I love models who are this clear on their goals.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Favorite Meal

Yesterday I decided to do a photo safari, and as everyone knows you can't go hunting without a good meal to start your day. Lately, I love nothing more than a bagel with chive cream cheese and lox from the corner cafe, Charmer's.

The plan for the safari was really much more ambitious than I was ultimately able to carry out. I thought I would walk from Milennium Park to Rogers Park and take pictures along the way. I managed about half that before nearly collapsing. Still, it was an amazing day and over the course of the next few weeks I'll share shots from the journey.

But the thing that I rediscovered is just what an amazing city Chicago really, truly is. As I walked up Michigan Avenue, I came across street performers and great art. This city is literally teeming with culture. If you haven't done it lately, go out and see the city the way a tourist sees it. It's magnificent.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Congratulations Archetype Alums!

Congratulations Larry Neumann, Jr. and Laura E. Taylor on your Jeff nominations!
I've known Larry for years. I saw his Oedipus. He was a flawless Iago. The man doesn't work enough. Or to put a finer point on it, he works plenty. He doesn't get paid enough. PAY HIM MORE! HE'S WORTH IT.
If there's a film or TV show that comes to Chicago, if the casting people haven't considered Larry for a role, it's probably not worth doing.
Laura was one of the first people I shot. I've met very few actors who had such a laser focus about her career. She know exactly where her niche in the industry is. This is only beginning of great things for her.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Archetype Discount Cards

Discount tickets are being sent to agents this week! Look in their offices for a postcard with Krissy's picture and redeem it for a $50 discount on your next photo shoot! If you don't find the card in your agent's office, ask. They're all getting them.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Testimonial from the Field

Sometimes, your clients say it best:

Good morning Scott, Thanks for the update and your new site. I noticed that a friend of mine (Joette Waters) is one of the photos you have online. I was at an audition at Columbia last fall and happened to have the same shirt that I wore when you did my photo and a photo student stopped and recognized me from your web site. Also one day I was on the red line and photographer said that he thought he had seen me on a web site but could net remember where and we discovered that it was a photo that you took. I am still working with students mainly from Columbia and Art Institute on film and photo projects. It is really interesting what ideas they can come up with and being part of it with them. Thanks Jerry Heller

Proving my point that a headshot is not about "capturing an essence." A headshot is your visual branding. It's the image that you want people to carry with them.

Jerry is a part-time actor who is happy doing small films. His archetype is "Grandpa." That's how he wants casting directors to think of him: a warm, loving grandpa. The distinctive shirt, done in a bright color serves as the memory key. Now, when Jerry walks through the door, even if the casting director doesn't remember exactly how, she feels like she knows Jerry. By making the casting director comfortable with him, Jerry's work in the audition is more than half done.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Six Degrees of Separation

I have always found the interactions between sub-cultures and the dominant American culture to be fascinating. (Can you tell I've been to grad school?) Not just racial tensions, but I love the interplay between a dominant culture and a sub-culture. If you're ever in need for a good dramatic ploy, the world will never tire of the old men vs. women trope. The story is always more successful when the less powerful culture is able to demonstrate a superiority over the dominant culture.

So, for me, Six Degrees of Separation is fascinating on so many levels. Of course there is the dynamics of the race interactions, but Guare takes the script deeper and introduces class, gender, sex, age, religion and mixes them all into one wonderful script that leaves the audience with something to contemplate while entertaining at the same time.

The current production by the Eclipse Theatre is crystalline in it's precision in depicting the conflict and intermingling of these various subsets of the American culture. Each topic is going to ripe for generations and Chicago audiences cannot be too exposed to an examination of these issues, nor challenged to strenuously to examine their own relationships to the issues in Guare's script.

If you consider yourself to be a thinking Chicago theatre goer, you simply cannot miss this production.
Directed by Steve Scott and featuring Eclipse ensemble members Stephen Dale and Rebecca Prescott, with guest artists Laura Coover, Brandon Ford, Sasha Gioppo, Michael Gonring, Zach Gray, Nick Horst, Howie Johnson, Eric Leonard, Joe Mack, Guy Massey, John Milewski, Michael Pogue, Drew Schad and Karen Yates.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

We're Back!

Is there anything worse than a neglected blog? No. But all I can say in my defense is that it has been one terribly exciting few months.

Big news that will unfurl in the coming weeks, but the last few months have been all about portfolio expansion. Models, models everywhere. Doing test shots for a big agent, (who has to remain nameless) and big business expansion plans.

All very, very exciting!

So check back in the coming weeks and watch the work as it unfolds!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Beyond the Brick Wall II

Once again it's time to see if we can take the next step in pushing the envelope in actors' headshots.

As part of an annual project, I work with several actors who are willing to work on creating marketing images that go beyond the brick wall headshot. Agents and casting directors say that as an actor you need a headshot that "looks like you." I believe that, at the very best, is only part of the story because if all they needed was a headshot that looked like you, all headshots would be mug shots. Actors would be stood up against a wall that had marking indicating height, there would be bright, flourescent light, no make up, and the shot would consist of a front and profile. I'd love to see an actor walk into an agent's office with something like that.

The fact is, the minute an actor decides between wearing a green shirt versus wearing a blue shirt for his headshot, he's making a decision that communicating with the viewer. The Archetype Images Headshot project is all about identifying the rhetorical choices that an actor makes and making a conscious decision on how to use those choices to communicate who the actor is, what type of work she's seeking, and the quality of the work she will deliver once cast.

For this project I've identified four actors. Yesterday I met with two of them, Franette Liebow and Dan Howard. Our conversation focused on headshots for theatrical work. While both actors want work that will pay the bills -- and then some. And we know how much stage work pays in Chicago, we also focused how we could communicate to agents about the types of roles and the segments of the industry where they felt they were the most marketable. It was a fascinating discussion and in the coming weeks you should see the images here and on the Archetype Images website.

Why am I passionate about this?

I truly am passionate about this because I feel that there is a lack of support for actors to feel empowered in the entertainment industry. Much of the support that is available is on the artistic aspect, with audition coaches, acting classes, and the like. On the rare occasion that there is something that focuses on the "business of acting," the information is couched in terms that underscore the subservient position of the actor. "Professional Survival," and such tell the actor that it's a jungle out there, and the odds are against him.

And that's absolutely true. With more than a hundred actors vying for one small role, there is probably not a more competitive industry. Yet accepting a passive role within the industry is NOT the way be successful. As an actor, it's YOUR career. Take charge of it.

Of course, it's very easy to get discouraged. There is an overwhelming amount of rejection as an actor, and it's difficult not to take that rejection personally. But it's not. It NEVER is personal. Not EVER. Even if an actor has a prior relationship with a director or producer and that relationship turned sour, the fact is professionals hire professionals who they think will make them money. Now, it doesn't hurt to have your boss like you, but at the end of the day that is a very small component of how a professional makes her decision.

Every actor needs to come to each audition, each meeting, with the knowledge that they have a commodity -- their skill, their talent, their training -- that is a valuable asset. That asset may not fit every job, but an actor has to present that asset, that commodity, in such a way that the director or producer can see the value. Does a picture "that looks like you," smiling and standing against a brick wall convey any value? Does it say anything about you except that you can smile? And in a stack of one hundred pictures, doesn't it make sense to try to communicate something beyond what a good person you are?

Part of the discussion yesterday focused on a famous Chicago actor I've worked with in the past. He will remain nameless here because he's not getting very good press at the moment. He has a reputation for being difficult, and the reputation is deserved. Still, twenty years ago that actor knew where is career was going. He knew when it would peak. He knew what he had to offer the market and he marketed those skills and talents. Today he's very, very successful.

But Franette pointed out that he's also not very well liked, and with his current run of bad press he has no one coming to his defense. She contended, and rightly so, that being arrogant and cocky and pushy may be a formula for success, but that it was no way to live a professional life.

I responded with there is a difference between being a confident professional, aware of your skills and how those skills work within the industry, and being arrogant and cocky. It just so happens that my famous actor friend is arrogant and cocky, he knows it, and that's what he marketed. And while he's exceedingly unpleasant to be around and I can't think of a single person who would switch places with him on a personal level, on a professional level I also can't think of a single actor who doesn't envy his career and his success.

His success did not come from being arrogant and cocky. It came from knowing he was arrogant and cocky, knowing what roles he could utilize those aspects of his character, and marketing those skills.

It's a formula that will work for any actor, and it's a formula that empowers the actor and makes her a driver in the creation of her career and a business partner with the people who hire her for a job. What's more it gives her a perspective to see that the rejection she faces is not personal. It's professional.

But above all that, I contend that a headshot that has a rhetorical purpose beyond just "capturing your essence," or showing that you can "play" in front of a camera is of infinite more value than a headshot taken in natural light against a brick wall. And in the coming weeks I intend to prove that here.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year

Isn't the start of a new year exciting? There are certain milestones throughout the year where I feel as if I officially get a second wind, and January 1 is definitely one of them.

Over the holidays I did a lot of planning and there are some exciting things coming for Archetype Images, including our first exhibition, more weddings, and the annual headshot project. Details on all of those and more will be coming in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, have you kept your new year resolution? Is that agent mailing ready to go? Have you started reading that list of plays, looking for new audition material? Is that closet cleaned? Then what are you doing reading this blog?!?