Headshots, apparently, have gone the way of the dodo.
Don’t get me wrong- you still have to go to a photographer and have your pictures taken. But then hoofing it over to National Photo and ordering up a few hundred black-and-white copies to send out to agents and casting directors? No longer necessary.
Life in the digital age has changed all of that. Where once you had to take all those matted eight-by-tens and physically staple hard-copy resumes to the back before stuffing them into envelopes for a big mailing…now your JPG is uploaded to your agent’s website, shared via one of the mega-casting sites like Actors Access or Casting Networks, forwarded to directors and casting directors via email, uploaded to your IMDB page and broadcast on your personal website, assuming you have one.
The same goes for your voice-over reel. Once upon a time (and I remember these days, boys and girls), you had to have multiple hard copies of your reel that you could distribute via hand delivery. And we’re talking about cassette tapes here, people. Before CD’s came into vogue and long, long before digital copies were available.
Voice-over agents and recording studios used to have shelves filled with these multi-colored little cassette covers, each lovingly personalized by well-compensated graphic designers and alphabetized for easy reference. Depending on what was required for a specific job, the persona in charge of casting would pluck this or that tape off the shelf and pop it into a cassette player so the client could have a listen. Once the choice was made, back up on the shelf you would go until the next job opportunity came along.
Almost all of this is now a part of our storied past. Nowadays, you may still have a few headshots printed out (for the occasional theatre audition), but mostly, it’s digital all the way. Voice-over reels are now housed electronically on agency websites, not shelves, and can be shared at the click of a button.
(In fact, the majority of the VO auditions I submit these days are recorded in my home, on a personal sound system in my very own studio and then forwarded to my agency for formal submission. I barely see the agency or the inside of a professional booth anymore unless I book a job.)
All of which is to say: When it came to heading to California to begin my West Coast odyssey, one of the first tasks would be to get my digital act together.
This involved multiple steps:
First- digitize everything. Pictures, resumes, reels, demo tapes, production photos…absolutely every conceivable piece of media related to me or my career needed to be on the computer.
Next- Update whatever was older than six months. That meant new headshots, a new VO demo, up-to-date resumes (for commercial, film and theatre) and, most importantly, a brand new video demo reel (more on that anon).
After that, put all my updated info out there into the world. Move my new pictures (thanks, Brave Lux!) to my Actors Access page. Subscribe to and update (with a headshot) my IMDB page. Spread the digital word far and wide. Which meant:
Creating a personal website. Now you, dear reader, can go ahead and create a website all on your own, if you like. If you decide to visit Squarespace or similar DIY site, you can have your peronalized, unique-to-only you site up in minutes. Zip-zap-zop. But chances are it will look like something you slapped together in a few minutes instead of appearing slick and professional so…I decided to go with an expert, just to be sure.
Happily, I am good friends with two digitally-savvy webpage designers who were willing to set me up for a very reasonable price. We inked a deal and I set them loose with whatever digital bits and pieces I could put together to see what they could create.
My friends, Jhenai Mootz and Joe Bowen of Renegade Websites, did not disappoint. These days, if you visit my personal site (www.KevinTheis.com) you will see separate pages with information on my acting, directing and writing, all neatly categorized. You can listen to my VO demos, check out production photos from the plays I’ve appeared in or directed, get a link to my publishers if you’d like to purchase a play or book that I’ve written, conjure up reviews old and new from various sources and- maybe most importantly:
You can view my spiffy new video reel.
This last bit- the video reel- is the first real reel (real reel?) that I’ve ever been able to put together. Up until about three years ago, I had almost zero television and film experience. But since Hollywood discovered recently that Chicago is good for more than just set-up shots for “ER” every couple of months, Chicago television shows have grown exponentially and Chicago actors are quite suddenly getting more screen time than ever before.
And once I grew my beard (I am convinced this is the reason), I have become the go-to guy for Chicago Scumbag Television. My characters- Douchebag Lowlife Brother (Chicago Fire), Douchebag Grease Monkey (Chicago PD) and, of course, Dick Cop (Betrayal)- have solidified my reputation as the Slimiest Actor in Chicago ™.
And if I do nothing more than corner the market on assholes in this town, I could do a lot worse.
Unfortunately, I appear to have hit the wall, TV-wise, and the scumbag roles appear to have dried up (more on that in a different post). But I’m betting that there are a few TV dickheads in Los Angeles and I am only too happy to queue up and show the folks in California what a real dirtbag looks like. (I have got to find a better way to put that, though….)
So if Step One was to get the body in tip-top condition, Step Two was to improve and expand my digital footprint.
On to Step Three. The easy part. Getting a West Coast agent. After all…
….how hard could it be?