Search This Blog

22 January 2014

Working with Models or Talent

Stephanie and my Hat
In still photography, they're models. In motion imagery, they are talent. In either case, they are the people (and sometimes animals) you put in front of your lens to help you tell your story. They are also a big factor in your collaborative effort to deliver a product for your client.

Sometimes the hardest part of the whole process is simply finding the model or talent that you need. Most beginning photographers and videographers recruit from their circle of friends and family. My most reliable model is my lovely wife. She'll complain, but she models very well. College acting classes, small local agencies as well as nationally connected talent bureaus all are sources for recruiting that person that will work in front of your lens. It's just a matter of how much time and budget you have.

The first step in making sure you have what you need is to ask very specifically for what you are looking for: approximate age, gender, hair color, facial hair (men), hair length, height, body build, secondary talent (dance, singing, horsemanship, etc.), and/or anything else that would be what you have in mind for your imagery. Also, be specific in what type of role this person would play. For instance: "Physical comedy as an always ready to please, clumsy husband for a competent, but indulgent wife." Hopefully, from your listing you'll get a set of people willing to audition for you.

Quite often, with models for still work the selection process gets done through head shots, resumes, portfolios and availability checks. Motion talent usually must be "tested" to see how well they fit the ideal  for your project. (Benedict Cumberbach was the only one tested for the role of Holmes in "Sherlock". Martin Freeman was one of many who were tested for the role of Watson, but the instant chemistry between him and Cumberbach during Freeman's test cemented the role for him.)

Hannah: "This is awkward!"
Make sure that responsibility for secondary items like wardrobe, hair styling and makeup are clearly spelled out before your talent arrives on the set or studio. Almost always, you are responsible for any props or products, but these other considerations, if fairly basic, can be covered by your talent. (They should tell you if they don't have something specific that you asked them to bring, i.e. ripped jeans. If that's the case you will need to supply it for them. Be sure to get the correct size. Whether they keep what you supply them is up to you.)

Once your talent is decided, make sure they understand exactly what you want them to do. They are quite willing to do so if they know what you are after. For a commercial I shot, an actor deliberately fumbled the large assortment of tools he was holding. It was marvelously fake, and you could see that it was fake on the recording. I explained to him that the many items in his hands will naturally fumble when he selects just one to use, just let them do so. It looked much better (and was funnier) when he relaxed and just let the pieces fall.

How tight of control you use is up to you. I tend to be more collaborative, and only correct or re-do when something didn't work. Annoyingly for the talent, that might be something other than what the talent did. I've been known to retake a scene for minor corrections (see above), but I do enjoy letting my talent run with an idea.

Don't forget to make sure the appropriate releases are signed.

One last thing. Most models or talent are part-timers in this. Be sure to feed them.