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December 30, 2009 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Why are there so many actors on the IMDB without headshots?

I know that the IMDB charges a modest $8/month or $55/year for the privilege of having an official headshot. However, there are numerous actors -- in some cases even very high-profile famous people -- that choose not to do this and as a result are listed with the boring no_photo.png image next to their name on every credit. I spend a fair amount of time on the IMDB and I find these headshots invaluable for associating a name with a face when researching roles. It takes a lot more effort to track down an image of the person if they don't have on one file and usually that means they just remain faceless names that are easy to forget.

For years I have dismissed this by reasoning that those actors might not be very internet-savvy or just don't spend a lot of time online but in this day and age I can no longer fathom a working actor who lacks one or more of a) the knowledge of the existence of IMDB, b) the $55 yearly fee, or c) a digitized image of their likeness. I would think that even the most D-listed/nobodies of the acting profession would spring for this if they already have IMDB credit, assuming that they intend to continue working.

The only other possible explanation I can think of is that casting agents and other professionals in the business don't actually use IMDB that much and thus not having a headshot there only affects fans and laypeople, and therefore these actors have little motivation to deal with it. But I can't believe that a resource so comprehensive would be totally ignored by the industry, not to mention the fact that even if it was I would think that actors would still want to foster public knowledge of their likeness among the general population.
posted by Rhomboid to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The casting industry in Canada doesn't use IMDB for casting. For the most part, this site is used that has other utilities, like scene/script uploads, audition/breakdown notices etc. I think IMDB is for publicity and fans. If neither of those things are that important to the actor (for various reasons), then there is really no need to spring for the headshot.
posted by typewriter at 10:27 AM on December 30, 2009

professionals in the business don't actually use IMDB that much and thus not having a headshot there only affects fans and laypeople, and therefore these actors have little motivation to deal with it

Bingo. I think it's also a matter of uncertain ROI. It doesn't just cost $55/yr, it costs the time of someone to monitor and maintain it. It's probably also a matter of certain agencies being savvy and doing it for their entire clientele and many others thinking only in terms of higher-profile social media like Twitter or Facebook.

Frankly, I doubt that anybody has ever gotten a significant role from their IMDB headshot. On the other hand, I can certainly imagine how it could have prevented some high-profile screwups, such as Friedkin wanting Francisco Rabal for Sorcerer and getting Fernando Rey.

IMDB could probably improve matters if it had an API ("BizDev 2.0" as Caterina called it) and allowed some integration with other social media. But it's had an historically hostile relationship to its user base. (I've been asking for multiple years now if I could just exclude video games from various search results.)
posted by dhartung at 10:29 AM on December 30, 2009

It would seem to me that IMDB would benefit more from having official headshots than the high-profile actors/actresses that don't have them up there, so, really, what sense does it make to for an actor/actress to pay them? I probably wouldn't do it just out of principle.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:47 AM on December 30, 2009

I imagine part of it is that IMDB's photo/resume section is really skeevy. It's standard "take advantage of struggling actors" junk. "You can get listed in IMDB and then casting agents can find you for just $55/year!" And while IMDB sells this as making it easier for pros to get your info, it's actually making it easier for non-pros to get it. Just $13/month. Which is not desirable for any name stars... it's not like "who's his agent" is some hard problem that IMDB is needed to solve.

Also, it seems like IMDB doesn't really rely on people paying to submit headshots. A large number of the photos that are there are actually press shots from red-carpet events. For instance, these two head shots for "Parks and Recreation" cast members are clearly from the same shoot: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones.
posted by smackfu at 11:03 AM on December 30, 2009

Best answer: Having worked in the talent industry, I can confirm that no one uses IMDB for casting (however, some people would use IMDB Pro for finding out who's repped by which agencies). Some agencies do use BreakDownExpress, though.

Casting Agents (and other sorts of agents) get dozens or hundreds of real headshots in the mail every single day. On the rare occasion where they need to say "Hey, who was that person in such-and-such," they MIGHT check IMDB, but more likely they'll just call someone who would know. However, those situations are always "we need someone sorta like this, but you know, new," never "get me that girl from that movie" (in the latter case, you'd just ask a local talent agent who reps them -- talent agents aren't exactly shy about getting clients' names out there, and everybody knows everybody).

IMDB is definitely made for fans, not industry, no matter what they say on the site. Also, the claiming-you'll-be-discovered pitch they're peddling puts them firmly in the "skeeve" category.
posted by ®@ at 12:56 PM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: While I agree that their resume service seems rather skeevy, that's beside the point because you don't have to upload a resume or use any of the other promotional features in order to simply submit a single headshot for your credits. Although if you wanted to make the argument that the skeevy promotional sales language turns off actors from even wanting to do that much, then perhaps you'd have a point.

I suppose the fact that IMDB is not a professional requirement explains the rest, but it still seems odd to me that some actors would not want to take such a modest one-time step towards fostering greater public knowledge of their work; it just seems like common sense PR to me.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:14 AM on December 31, 2009

Well then I'll be totally honest, personally, I don't want to be associated with my credits all that much. I'm primarily a playwright, working in theatre and opera. I used to be an actor, and would all but pretty much give it up except for the fact that a not insignificant portion of my annual income still comes from appearing in commercials, some voice and very occasionally bit parts in TV. I'm not too proud of anything I've done onscreen. Why would one want to advertise the mediocre jobs they took to pay the bills?

Yes, I am completely aware how ridiculous it is to be a writer, with acting as a joe job. How ridiculous, and probably none too smart based on my current bank account statement.
posted by typewriter at 9:44 AM on December 31, 2009

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