I've been sort of burning the candle at both ends these days. Work during the day, play at night. Only problem is, it's been that way the whole week, starting on Monday. But on Tuesday, something happened. Yeah, I did the IBM reshoot. Went well, except the guy before me took way too long. The photog was gettin' nothin' from him, probably because all the model was doing was just mugging for the camera.
So here's a lesson on "not mugging for the camera."
One, if you have to hold a pose for longer than a second, it's no longer natural. Real life is captured in moments. You all remember the famous photo of Muhammad Ali with a menacing look holding his fist over (I think) Frazier while he lay on the mat? Apparently, that photo was one in a million. No one else in the entire sports photography world caught the same picture. The reason is because Ali didn't do the pose for longer than a tenth or a twentieth of a second. If you roll the videotape of the fight, you can pause it just after Ali knocked Frazier down and you might, with some luck, be able to pause it on the exact blip of that famous photograph.
Two, the eyes make the photo come alive. So make sure you're not hung over when doing the shoot. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before. The one comment casting directors consistently make about headshots is this: "I can just tell if they have something by their eyes." And you think about it. What is it about that person who struck a chord with you? Their smile? Their boobs? Well, okay. But it was probably their eyes, and then their boobs.
So how do you make your eyes stand out? Closing your eyes for just a second before the shot is a great strategy that almost always works. That also is highly recommended for any chronic blinkers out there. Seriously, I'm not kidding. There are professional actors and models who blink like crazy right before the shot. It's like stage fright for the eye.
Three, think kenetic energy. This involves some physics. And while I'm no expert on the subject, what I mean by that is you got to make something that is standing still (ie., your body) look like it's moving 20 miles per hour, even though you're as still as a rock. Dancers do great photography sessions. How? Not by standing still and posing. They dance and jump and move. Photographers love dancers and they love subjects who know how to move like a dancer. And that's because every position has an aesthetic quality to it. A certain twist of the waist or neck or shoulders. The chin raised just a hair. Nose at a perfect angle to the lens. When you're aware of your body, you know how to position yourself.
And thus, some of the most successful actors I've ever met also were very photogenic. Or, they knew how to turn it on, even during a still photography session. And it goes quick. They can do a photo shoot in half an hour and every shot is usable. Ali was very photogenic. Sure, he did his share of mugging for the camera. But his energy was so kenetic, nothing ever seemed still to the camera. Once again, the camera captures life, moment by moment.
Four, just because it's a still camera, don't think it can't capture "motivation." When you feel large, you look large. When you feel small, you look small. When you feel pretty, that definitely translates through the lens. So understand this: The lens has the ability to capture your illusions. Yet at the same time, it will also capture your deepest insecurities. If you transmit a feeling, it leaves a physical yet invisible mark on the photograph. And remember Bruce Lee's advice: "Don't think. Feeeeeel."
A long time ago, a fortune teller walked into a store I was working at and told me I would do very well as a model. Do you know how loud and hard I laughed? Like I mentioned before, I'm not tall. My looks are definitely fading. My face gets more and more flawed each year. Yet, every year, I book jobs I feel I have no business booking. Go figure. I should probably give up acting and just stick to modeling.
After the IBM shoot, which I finished in about 40 minutes tops, I drove to my freelance job for a half day of work. I should've just called in sick, because I got yelled at by my agent, my supervisor and this old lady I'll just describe as "Osugi." (Read Musashi, if you're curious.) It was ugly, man. I thought I covered all my bases, too. Got a replacement. Told them I'd be late, probably by 1:30. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough. Had to get publicly reamed as well, ooga-booga style.
So there you have it. The life of a freelancer who moonlights as an actor/model. Oh, by the way, a girl in my improv class was in Boston over the last month and happened to walk past some buildings in the downtown area. From a half block away she saw something familiar. A face. My face. On the side of a window. There was another one on another side. My big ol' face, blown up, smiling with my mouth wide open. I don't know how long this poster has been up, but it's kinda freaky knowing your mug is plastered all over the windows of a business in a city many miles away. I remembered the photo shoot. Happened last year, right about this time. Took maybe an hour to shoot. All I did was act natural.
The guy at the IBM shoot who took a long time because he was mugging for the camera actually was a splitting image of a young Cassius Clay. I even told him so, and he says he gets that all the time. But there's a difference. A BIG difference.