Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An Ode to Head shots…

An Ode to Head shots, by Karmyn Tyler Cobb


Head shot, head shot, please help me
When I look, what should I see?
My zit, my wrinkle, my nose so big
A doctor, a dad, a bum with a cig.

Thousand of dollars I’ll spend on you
Comedic, dramatic – the looks I’ll ensue
I’ll rummage through t-shirts, and jackets galore
Finding nothing…I’ll run to the store

All this anxiety churned into a brine
For that one “look” frozen in time
So off to the photographer I must go
To find “that look” to bring in the dough.

 Hmm…I’ve been on many “sides” of a head shot. I’m an actor, I’ve worked for an agent, I’ve cast a few indy films and I’m a headshot photographer. 

“So, Karmyn, what DOES make for a good headshot?”

 “It’s depends…on you!”

 

 ACTOR

As a photographer sometimes I feel like an accountant. Tax season rolls around and family members get an extension. Why? So mom can focus on the paying clients and while we get help after the deadline. (I love you +Suzie Tyler!!) ;)

But I’m currently very happy with my shots…until I decide to chop off my hair again! (Thank you Michael D’Ambrosia of Los Angeles)


AGENT

I remember when I worked for my Dallas agent, Ivett Stone, the pile of head shots on her desk. (My desk actually.) This was a daily occurrence  If they got opened, the number she threw away was extraordinary. She did keep a few and had me call those aspiring actors for an appointment. I asked her one day what she looked for. Her response was this: “I’ve been in this business a long time so I know what looks good and what I’m looking for. But honestly? I trust my gut.”

Wow! 

 

CASTING
I didn’t understand what Ivett meant until I was asked to help a friend cast a film in LA. Getting bombarded by zillions (no joke) of head shots, was overwhelming. This was before electronic submissions so my friend’s floor was a sea heads…of the actors she WANTED to call in. The others were trashed. The heads were put in piles by character first, then reordered by who we liked 1st, 2nd, 3rd…etc. Then the calling to agents/managers/their cell phones would begin. 

Looking at all those shots we would start talking about photographers…not the actors. Conversations like: “Here’s another shot by Big-Time-Photographer, you can tell because they all look the same.” or “I like this So-and-so-Photographer because their shots look natural and like the actor.” You would also get the occasional, “I love this guy’s work, but I wish he would get better shots!”

 

NOW WHAT?

What the heck DO I look for in my head shot???

Almost ever actor I’ve shot mentions at some time during the shoot, “I hate/dislike/get nervous taking head shots!” 

Why is that? Actors the same question can be asked: “How should I read these sides in this audition?”

 

ANSWER

You make interesting choices. 

It’s more ‘what you think’ while you’re getting your head shot taken that makes the difference. 

Stay relaxed. Take chances. Let loose. Actors? Act out your character for the big screen. Every nuance can be captured. Be interesting NOT attractive. Women? Don’t be afraid to look ugly! (…or hat you perceive as unattractive.)

A good photographer will help lead you through you self consciousness into freedom of frozen expression. So, communicate your vulnerability to your photographer. Hopefully you feel comfortable doing that.

 

HOW DO I PRACTICE? 

Selfies….duh! :) Take pictures of yourself moving your head around to find what angle you like, what makes your eyes pop and not squint. Use the iPhone app Fast Camera so you can move as you would in real life. 

 

FINALLY!

The next time you take photos, prep to relax and explore yourself in front of a camera…in other words – Just Be!

Inspired by By Steve Johnson’s article on the Chicago Tribune, “The painfully unfunny truth about comics’ head shots.”
Karmyn Tyler Cobb’s photography website is www.photosbykarmyn.com 




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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The feature film “Wuss” is WOW!

Back in my Dallas years, a friend of mine thought I’d be great for small role in a short film, called More Air for the Rest of Us directed by Kyle Killen and starring the amazing Johnny Sneed. I had a few lines as a florist where Johnny’s character comes in to buy flowers. The film had a very talented DP by the name of Clay Liford.

Fast forward a few months and I was contacted by Clay for a role in his first feature film, Flowers Grown from Powdered Bones. I played the 1 of 3 cannibalistic sisters. (You gotta see this movie!!) There is simply NOTHING like working on an indie film! The amount of freedom and creativity that gets to flow just makes magic. A magic you just don’t get from Hollywood blockbusters.

Fast forward even again, and I have moved from Texas to LA, married and now live NYC. Through the miracles of Social Media (and the occasional phone calls), I’ve been able to keep up with Clay and his talent.

When Clay announced the Brooklyn premier of his film Wuss on Facebook, I jumped at the chance to see him and catch up. I also wanted my husband to meet the talent I kept talking about knowing that his style of filmmaking was right up his alley. And I was right!

Walking up to the reRun Gastropub, I was excited to not only see my friend’s film, but to catch up with him and his life outside of entertainment! Clay arrived fresh from an interview in Manhattan and we sat and talked about old times, and what’s been going on in our lives.

The reRun theatre was the perfect venue, retro and intimate. Clay introduced a preview short from his friend Leah Shore called Old Man. (Another crazy talented animator/filmmaker!)

Then….Wuss!

Our hero, Mitch Parker (played by Nate Rubin) is a substitute high school teacher turned full time after the unfortunate (and mysterious almost fatal) accident of the current English teacher. Mitch’s character at first is pretty pitiful. He’s a college graduate with aspirations to write novels…who still lives at home with him mom. The first scene sets up his timid, defensive tone perfectly at his 10 year high school reunion (where he now teaches.)

Small town suburbia is nothing like it was when he attended school. Teachers wear tasers and kids sell guns. Mitch has a classroom run-in with a gang leader and subsequently gets beat up by him and his friends. The rest of the film is fascinating. We watch Mitch deal with the humiliation while learning how these kids have learned to survive in circumstances he would have never dreamed.

The film is shot digitally but you would have NEVER known it! In fact, one audience member in the Q&A was certain it was shot on 35 millimeter ! In other words, the cinematography and shot set-ups were gorgeous!

I highly recommend this film!! I have a lot of talented friends in the industry, but Clay is one of the geniuses!

Watch Wuss on Amazon!!

Clay Liford

Clay Liford at AFI Fest

Keep up with Clay on Twitter and his production company Well Tailored Films.

Links to Press:
New York Times Review




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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why Harry Connick Jr. Couldn't Sit Idle During 'Idol'

This is the BEST article I have read on contemporary singing!! Thank you to my husband for finding it via our friend Tom Schuneman.

Why Harry Connick Jr. Couldn't Sit Idle During 'Idol'

by John Stark

The star couldn't stand hearing young singers mangle the Great American Songbook

posted by John Stark, May 4, 2013 More by this author
Harry Connick Jr. defends the Great American Songbook.
John Stark is the articles editor of Next Avenue. Follow John on Twitter @jrstark.





Those of us who grew up in the 1950s and '60s got to constantly hear — on radio, TV and vinyl — the Great American Songbook sung by the likes of Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Sarah Vaughan. ... The list goes on. These were singers who belonged to our parents more than to us. Still, they set a high bar for crooners, even if we didn’t fully appreciate it when we were kids. Besides having intonation, perfect pitch and beautiful voices, these artists respected a song, its melody and lyrics.
 
They made singing sound easy, which it isn’t.
 
My favorite singer as of this week is Harry Connick Jr., but not for his vocal talent. As a guest mentor on Wednesday's American Idol, he did something I’d never seen done on that show — and it was long overdue. He made it clear why, despite the impressive vocal abilities of the four finalists — Candice Glover, Angie Miller, Amber Holcomb and Kree Harrison — they probably will never be truly great singers in the mode of those who came before, like Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Vic Damone and Billy Eckstine. Again, the list goes on.

(MORE: Singing the Praises of a More Satisfying Life)
 
Idol's theme on Wednesday was “Then and Now.” Each contestant was asked in the first hour of the show to perform a current hit song. They chose newly released tunes by Pink, Bruno Mars, Rihanna and Carrie Underwood, who won American Idol in 2005. In the second half, they were asked to sing a classic from the Great American Songbook.
 
During the mentoring sessions, Connick would listen to the singers perform the songs they had chosen and advise them how to do it better. He was a kindly coach throughout the "Now" portion of the show, teasing, praising and hugging the contestants. But when it came to the “Then” segment, the joking stopped. His demeanor changed.
 
Songs of the past are an essential part of Connick's repertoire. He loves, respects and understands their exquisite craftsmanship. He knows how to make them sound “now” without losing what they were "then."
 
As Amber started to sing Rodgers & Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” Connick stopped her. He asked her what the song is about. "What does it mean, 'Your looks are laughable?'" he asked her, or "'Is your figure less than Greek?'" Amber looked blank — she had no idea. She struggled for words. He told her to go do some research on the lyricist, Lorenz Hart, a physically diminutive, closeted homosexual who died of alcoholism at age 48. Before singing the song, Connick sternly told Amber, you need to understand what Hart was writing about.
 
Kree also got stopped shortly after she launched into Harold Arlen’s “Stormy Weather.” She was singing in a loose, bluesy manner, like she said she'd heard Etta James do the song. But for Kree to do those fancy runs, Connick said, were diluting the meaning of the lyrics. The woman in this song, he explained, is sad and depressed; she's lost her man. “You don’t sound depressed,” Connick observed. He wanted Kree to do it more like Lena Horne, who introduced the song in 1940. No frills needed.
 
Not one of the contestants took Connick's "Then" advice when they got on stage. Substance was thrown out the window for pyrotechnic vocal tricks. Angie sang Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me,” an ode to vulnerability, in full-power voice. She hardly came off as “a little lamb who’s lost in the wood,” as the lyric says. More like a John Deere tree cutter. 
 
The judges loved Candice’s version of Billie Holiday’s “You’ve Changed,” giving her a standing O. Not Connick, whose tip to "Keep it simple" went completely over her head. “One of the worst things that can happen in a relationship is when the other person starts to drift away from you,” Connick told Candice. She needed to express that feeling. Her blaring version had no poignancy.  
 
Connick squirmed in his front-row seat during the “Then” performances. I haven’t seen such facial contortions since Linda Blair got anointed with holy water in The Exorcist.
 
(MORE: How Learning to Play Jazz Piano Kept Me Sane)

His breaking point came when Randy Jackson implied that Connick's advice had hindered Kree’s vacuous rendition of "Stormy Weather,which none of the judges liked. He thought she should have sung it more like Etta James, as she had wanted to do. As it turned out, her rendition was neither Etta nor Lena, nor even Kree. It lacked any personality or feeling. You could see Connick about to pop his cork. That's when Keith Urban went into the audience, took Connick by the hand and brought him to the judge’s table. Taking a seat, Connick proceeded to school a very defensive Jackson in the art of singing standards. The point Connick tried to make, which Jackson didn't want to hear, was that the show’s contestants didn't know these classic songs well enough to take liberties with their melodies and lyrics. In doing so, they were murdering the music.

To me this made an even bigger point. Since its debut in 2002, Idol has always put value on over-the-top vocal performances. Subtlety and intimacy gets you the boot. If minimalists likePeggy Lee or Billy Holiday were to compete on Idol today the judges would eat them alive. 
 
I was friends with Hal Schaefer, a famous vocal coach who died last October. He’s credited withteaching Marilyn Monroe to sing. I once asked him what he thought of Barbra Streisand. “When she was a teenager she came to my apartment on Riverside Drive to see if I would give her vocal lessons,” said Schaefer, who was then living in New York. “I was blown away not just by her voice, but her knowledge. She knew who every composer and lyricist was. She knew the entire American songbook. I told her after she sang for me that I would not work with her. She didn’t need me. But I told her she had to promise me never to take vocal lessons from anyone, because what she did was completely right. Once in a while that kind of talent comes along.”
 
On a recent NPR interview Streisand talked about how, when interpreting a song, she never violates its melody or lyrics, even when putting her own distinct spin on it. That’s why she's so great. And that's why Connick got so frustrated with the Idol contestants.

He listened to them, but they wouldn't listen to him.