Last Friday I finally got around to updating my social media photo portfolio I use for writing promotion. I’d been putting it off for a couple years…for different reasons. Chief among them was the weirdness, well, of just doing so… you know, looking into a camera lens that’s all focused on me… your truly. Sure, I studied modeling, but, geez, that was 28 years ago! Also, it was just finding the time to put out the effort to do so. We’re all busy (a term quite “used” today). Yet, as more gray hair began emerging upon the sides of my head I thought, well, I better get on it. I hate it when public figures use images of when they were twenty years old and I meet em…and they’re not. Be proud of who you are, dammit, and be honest about it…wrinkles, gray, and all!
So…I finally gave in. I want my headshots to be an honest portrayal of me and I didn’t want to be freaking lazy about that. Because writers need headshots to send to outlets that ask for them. When you guest blog, blog hosts (rightly so—I’ve asked for them of those I’ve interviewed) want headshots. Readers wanna know what we look like…I get it, it’s a natural curiosity. Turnabout is fair play.
So, I gave my friend, Jan C J Jones, a call. Hey, Jan, what can you do fer me? I just want two or three headshots….
Well, as is normal for Jan, I wasn’t just getting two or three mug shots. Nope. Jan don’t work that way. About anything. When you ask Jan for a favor…you get 1,000% of her attention and creative concentration…and there’s just no easy way of saying this: she just blows things out of the water….but for YOU. Her creative mind is always cranking and now I’d just put myself [back] on her radar.
Oy, what have I done?
Yes, I’ve been there before! Jan is an amazing person, and if you ever get the chance to work with her, drop whatever you’re doing and do it! It’s humbling and awe-inspiring! From her website:
“My strength is understanding story structure and audience psychology…knowing what the viewer “needs” to see, and when, in order to keep them engaged, entertained, and satisfied with their viewing experience.” [www.forest-rose-productions.com]
And she ain’t no slouch there. I was far from being her first rodeo on the subject. She manipulated me for my photo shoot like the consummate professional she is. It did actually bring me back to my short-lived modeling “career.” She’s done this for a living, among other things, as a film producer, screenwriter, video editor, artist, tutor, and author. You’ll note I said “among other things.” She’s won awards and co-produced a retrospective touted as the “quintessential history of Disneyland,” for Buena Vista Home Video (a Disney company). Her current project is titled, “A Journey with Strange Bedfellows,” is a classic Victorian “steampunk” Gothic horror audio drama that is also a graphic novel, music album, and educators’ guide, and it’s really cool! [www.a-strange-journey.com] See? She even goes all-out on her own work, spreading it out across multiple platforms! Jan is just plain fun to work with!
Anyway, no sooner had I opened my mouth, when she started talking costumes and props and location scouting…and I had to throttle her back right there, because I’m not into lions and tigers and bears, oh—dang it, really? Now I gotta go location scouting?—but she did get me to thinking. I did have to, you know, wear something…so whether or not you call them “costumes,” you do have to think about what you’re gonna wear. Patterns, Jan tells me, really aren’t what you wanna wear…it’s distracting…unless that’s what you want to do. So, okay, Jan, fine, you win on that account. I put out an array of clothing (aka “costumes”) and she selected the best of them for our purposes.
Props: no, Jan, I’m not into “props”…just me…you know…a couple-a-headshots…bing, bang, boom!…we’re done. Don’t wanna abuse your time and all because I do know how busy you are and you’re semi-retired, and, but on the way out of the house, I thought, huh—props? How about—
So, I grabbed our largest kitchen knife.
Crap: she got me there, too. I now had a “prop” in my possession (um, wrapped in a towel, you know, because walking around out in public with a large, shiny knife….).
During the couple of weeks leading up to all this she kept pinging me on how my location scouting was doing. Fine, I said. Kinda. Had all kinds of excuses for not doing it, cause, you know, this was just gonna be a couple-a-headshots…but I thought, okay, she has a great point here. My original intent was an hour or two shoot around the house, maybe Garden of the Gods…or, hey, how about…yes!—how about a cemetery! I mean my writing is all about peeking behind that thin caul of reality, right? Buncha short stories about graves, and death, and dying? One with a knife, even (“Clowns“). There is a cemetery I really like in the area, large deciduous trees and all…a kinda Night of the Living Dead look to part of it. As to Garden of the Gods, Jan told me that shooting in well-known locations can be problematic…possibly requiring permits, yada x 3. I really wanted to make this easy on Jan, so—<buzzer sound!>—that was out. But, the more I thought about the cemetery, the more I liked it! We also used the gardens of a mausoleum we both knew of.
But let me clarify…I didn’t want it all about cemeteries. But cemeteries and their ilk can have cool surrounds…leafy trees…beautiful landscaping…and that’s why I chose those two locations. We could shoot the creepy stuff…but also accentuate the portfolio with non-creepy stuff, and (pardon the pun) kill two birds with one [grave]stone. By the way, cemeteries sometimes have such incredible artwork…but few will see it…or only see it in times of great emotional distress…so will miss the beauty of the artwork in and itself. I do recommend you find a cemetery with such artwork, and just walk through it with a clear head…you might just be amazed at what you find!
So…<sigh>…Jan got me there, too, with location scouting. Good thing I “throttled her back” right at the onset.
So we headed out!
It was an overcast day, which turns out to be perfect for photography! The uniform lighting! There was a forecast for “a chance of rain,” but it never materialized. Maybe a sprinkle or two, but nothing thunderous and sheeting. So, it worked out beautifully. We shot at the cemetery, the mausoleum, and my home. The sun came out at the tail end of our photo shoot…too much squinting for yours truly, so we ended all that. Then we brainstormed a couple of special effects (SFX) set-ups we could do…so we took a couple of “staged” shots for those that would look odd in a portfolio if you didn’t know why they were there (like “back” or “butt” shots of me on a step stool against a white wall…backlit shots in the garage…these would be SFX’d if needed), and Jan worked her magic on some of them and they turned out totally cool! We ended up with just shy of 500 shots…but since some were taken in preparation for SFX work, and some we were simply experimenting with, not all will see the light of day…and to be honest, after a while of going through a lot of them (I still haven’t gone through all of them), I’m getting tired of my own face….
Now I have up-to-date images I can send to those who request them. I’ve already begun to update my social media Gravatars and all. I even have some images we can mess around with for cool effects. Jan really went light-years out of her way in helping me get far more out of my simple request than I’d even dreamed of. And, again, that is just how she operates. She’s not half-assed about anything she does…and she will get you to think in directions you never considered thinking or going. Granted, this may be a “minor” example, but it’s salient. I’ve known and worked with Jan for years, and this is how she operates in everything she does. She’s quite simply a most wonderful woman!
So…I’m a bit apprehensive to include any photos here, because I really don’t want to appear narcissistic…as I said, I’m quite over looking at my own face…but I thought it might be appropriate because of my previous modeling post…and to show some samples of Jan’s work. So…okay, I’ve included a few of the shots we took. We had fun, experimented, and came up with some good images I can use for a good couple years…and for that, I am extremely grateful and indebted to Jan for her experience, expertise, and friendship. Thank you, Jan, for taking an entire day out of your busy schedule to help a guy out!
Jan C J Jones, Executive Producer/Writer, Forest Rose Productions, LLC, Information
Strange Bedfellows Project: www.a-strange-journey.com
My Short-Lived Modeling Career (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)