Countless aspiring actors move to the City of Angels everyday, perhaps every hour. Many hope that the second they step foot on Los Angeles concrete, they will be discovered the old-fashioned way. But, alas, there is a reason why they call them struggling actors. Casting workshops, acting lessons, cattle call auditions... and the worst of all: paying for headshots. Headshots are expensive and great quality headshots can, at times, cost an arm and a leg. But Michael Bezjian is changing all of that for every kind of artist under the sun. A contributing photographer with Getty for over 11 years now, Michael is giving back to the artist community with his impressive The Starving Artists Project (SAP). You could be a broke ballerina, or an unemployed rock musician... Michael will get you the photography you've been dreaming of... for $0.00.
Has photography always been a passion and actors always your subject?
My first photo I can remember was when I was about 7 years old taken at Marineland. I didn't know the dolphins were trained to jump like that so I thought I took, days later when I saw the print, the best photo ever taken. I always had a passion for photography ever since. I did photography for my high school newspaper and yearbook in Venice, Florida and now I'm in my 11th year as a contributing photographer at Getty Images.
When did the concept of Starving Artist Project come to mind?
I won't reveal the celebrity's name, but I was shooting portraits and noticed that there was so much waste with food, crew and studio and all for one person... when the rest of the day could have been used to keep shooting. So I decided to keep shooting celebrity portraits and also keep the studio open for the rest of the day so that struggling artists can get the photography they need for their careers. That's The SAP in a nutshell.
These days, not a lot is free, yet you provide something that every actor needs at no cost. How do you keep SAP going?
We take a three prong approach to our business. First are the struggling artists, who in many cases have more social media muscle than you think. The second are the working artists who donate their time and get to promote their causes. And lastly are the sponsors who get social media content and distribution of press images on Getty Images and WireImage. They pay us a fee and with social media the way it is, they benefit from both the celebrities who attend and the struggling artists who have vast social media outreach.
Where do you see SAP going? What are your hopes for its future?
I have absolutely no idea as I never thought I'd be here now. I do hope however that it will outlive me and other photographers to come and allow new artists to have access to one of the basic tools they need to get started and stay in the game.
How can people get involved with SAP? Say an actor has no $. How can they find you and be a part of a shoot?
Just go to www.thestarvingartistsproject.com and sign up, we shoot almost every week. There are no fees for anything and nothing to buy once you get here. We'll even give you a certificate so you can keep coming back and never have to pay for headshots again.
The SAP Team:
Tasia Wells, Producer/photographer
James DiLullo, Project Manager
Daniel Gravel, Head Hair
Dan Babic, Public Relations
Mario Leon Guerrero, Production Assistant
Rodin Eckenroth, Photography Assistant
Lucianna Faraone Coccia, Photography Assistant
Christin Brown, Photography Assistant
Travon Harper, Photography
Mandy Ross, Host
Nick Hernandez, Videographer
Jade Martinez, Head Makeup Artist