Wednesday, March 17, 2010

...For the Rest Of Us

You may recall that I blogged about my headshots last Sunday, and how the session was brief and productive. Well, I let you in on a little secret. I had seriously considered doing it myself. Have been for years. Here's the last headshot I submitted, for an exploitation movie being made by an acquaintance of mine.
You can see the difference. This was taken at a Starbucks by my friend Ivy,  and I cropped it and slapped a title on the bottom. In some ways it fulfills the criteria for headshots: looks like me, is in color.... okay, that's about it. However, the session was FREE.

Computers have changed a lot about showbiz in the last quarter century. And the chief upheaval has been the displacement of The Professional. In the early eighties you had to spend an awful lot more money than you do now just to get the attention of showbiz mavens. You wanted headshots, you went to a photographer who had an investment in lights and cameras and studios and film and developer. He'd take your picture for an hour, then print up a proof sheet and you'd pick the one or maybe two shots that you liked. These prints would be taken to a lithographer who would typset your name at the bottom with expensive machines, and run a minium of 200 shots which you'd shell out the cash for, and then you'd put them in envelopes and mail them to agencies.

If you were a band, you'd rehearse in a garage, then you'd rent studio time with a professional engineer to cut a demo. If you were a filmmaker and wanted to make a short, you'd try to find the cheapest rolls of film possible and rent some equipment - but then you'd also need to find an editor to work with to load the footage up on machines and start trimming it down to a finished product.

Starting with the laser printer, computers (especially Macs) have been chipping away that these middlemen ever since. Let's take the band example - I have an iMac. For the minimal investment of an adequate mic ($60-200) and a midi-controller (like a piano keyboard but with less octaves and no sound output of it's own) I could make my own demo and it would sound just fine. The software comes with my computer. My headshot up there could just as easily have been taken with a camera phone as a real camera, especially given the results. Filmmaking - entirely possible with with the same minimalist tools. You don't need money or trained equipment jockeys, you just need a LOT of free time.

And yet there are still printers and photographers and recording studio engineers. Because sooner or later, you need to go beyond the demo stage. A recording studio may not do much more than GarageBand, but it is quieter than your apartment. You can print a head shot that looks as good as one from Kinkos, but they'll do 100 of them a lot faster than you could and probably cheaper. And I can buy my own lights and take my own headshots, but at end of the session I might say, "why didn't someone tell me that my collar wasn't down"! 

So the Professional endures, though with less power than he used to have. Maybe it's better for him too; no longer getting gigs from total wannabes, he can concentrate on clients with some potential. The computer revolution has succeeded in weeding out that first wave of losers and educating the second wave of could-bes. 

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