What happens when you don’t have the right talent for the shoot?

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Imagine for a moment that you are attending a video production workshop. The class is designed for beginners, budding professionals, and still photographers looking to expand their skillset. The company offering the workshop has a substantial footprint in both the video and photography fields.

Sounds like a great opportunity, right? Except for one tiny detail, with big ramifications: All of the talent for the video workshop was booked by somebody from the still photo department. That person sourced talent using a trusted modeling agency that had provided great results for photography workshops in the past. The problem? Models are not (necessarily) actors.

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Even if they are, they may not meet the needs of a video project. For example, for this particular workshop, everything on the shoot list included English dialog. The need for specific talent became quite evident when one of the models hired did not speak any English at all.

For stock footage, dialog is rarely an issue. In fact, it’s usually discouraged. But this scenario underscores the point that you need to have the right talent for every shoot. We cannot assume that models we have worked with for years will also be the perfect candidates for motion projects. The ability to exude authenticity for the decisive moment captured in a photograph does not necessarily translate to sustaining authenticity over time while on camera.

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Creating authenticity in video and stills – and how it differs

Bevan Goldswain of Aila Images has been a hugely successful Stock artist with an extensive portfolio of both stills and video. He says, “There is a huge distinction between photo models that have only done photo modelling, and the models who mostly do photos but have done a few TV commercials.” He goes on to say that “we have found working with actors easier, or models who really want to be actors. Models who want to be fashion models are usually not right for stock video at all.”

But let’s not sell our modeling talent short, or for one minute assume that all actors can automatically be good models. If you have ever posed for a photo — and most of us have — you know how difficult it can be to avoid appearing gawky, wooden, or fake in the resulting image.

How can I hold auditions during COVID?

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The current climate is not conducive to auditioning actors. If you have a treasure trove of models, you can probably find some decent actors in your contacts. If you don’t have a Rolodex of talent, or want to work with someone focused on acting, there are online resources where you can find people to perform in a video shoot — no in-person audition needed. Backstage.com, for example, has a talent database where actors post their profiles, resumes, and often video reels of their work.

Listings can be filtered by location, gender, age, and traits like hair or eye color, among other parameters.

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Backstage is a long-standing resource for actors, but there are several other online resources where you can source talent. Just make sure you are working with a reputable one.

Learning to choose the right talent for your shoot

There are many things to consider when selecting a subject for a stock shoot — and the medium of the content should definitely be one of them. Artists often find talent they like to work with regularly after doing so for numerous shoots. This, of course, comes from trial and error, and learning what to look for in actors and models. Goldswain sums it up like this: “The most important characteristic we seek out is hard to explain. It’s a bit of magic, and we know it when we see it.”

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