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Dear West End Producer: ‘What should you do if you don’t have the money for headshots or a showreel?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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You get them done as cheaply as possible. While I admire many photographers’ skills, I never really understand why some of them charge up to £700 a session for a contact sheet and four touched-up images. For that money, I’d want to be touched up at least seven times.

So, I suggest begging, borrowing, and bribing. Ask your friends who own decent cameras if they can do a test shoot on you – which results in them getting experience, and you getting free photos. Being photographed by friends can be just as good as paying for more professional shots – as you will already be relaxed and natural around them. Often, when posing for people you’ve just met you spend half the session chatting until you feel you can trust them – whereas you will already have that sense of ease with your friend (one would hope, dear).

Obviously, it’s useful if your friend can actually use a camera correctly, and knows how to take the lens cap off. But this shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

Also, keep a look out for offers online. There are always photographers doing deals – say £100 sessions – although these slots tend to fill up very quickly. So act fast. It can also be worth contacting photography schools and offering your mugshot in return for a free photo session.

Dear West End Producer: ‘What is a headshit, dear?’

The style of actors’ headshots vary according to individual taste – while one person may favour a more ‘arty’ shot, others will prefer a more bland, neutral pose (or ‘gormless’ shot). It’s entirely up to you and depends on what kind of roles you imagine yourself going up for.

And in terms of a showreel, again – put your own together. There are some great showreel companies that will write your scenes, direct your scenes, even act your scenes (write da feem toon, sing da feem toon) – but why throw your money away?

If you have access to a video camera, or can borrow one, then get your friends and colleagues together and get creative. This way there will be no time constraints – and you can take as long as you want getting your showreel finished. Then, just get on a laptop and edit your material using iMovie or other relevant software. These programs are not as hard to use as you may imagine (I can even use them – I discovered very quickly how iMovie worked – I’ve made some delicious scenes involving my Jean Valjean teddy and Miss Saigon blow-up doll).

And, finally, your headshot and showreel is not the be-all and end-all of your acting career. The main purpose of a headshot is to show what you look like (otherwise it’s called a head-shit), and the main purpose of a showreel is to show you can act without having ‘dead eyes’ – where you say the lines, but appear to have no pulse (although occasionally this is perfect for roles on Casualty and Holby City, dear).


This week’s question was submitted by @aylissx.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer. Read more of West End Producer’s weekly advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/westendproducer 

Dear West End Producer: ‘In the musical of Brexit, which actor would you cast to play Boris Johnson?’

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