A Few Things Ever Actor Needs To Figure Out If They Really Want To Work
By Tom Burke
Seriously…no matter where you are in your career, just starting out or entering a new category…before you have your headshots taken, or retaken…before you meet with an agent, or go into your current agent to discuss why you’re not going out more…before you go to any castings or more importantly, any casting workshops…if you want to work as an actor, you need to know your true image and marketability. In other words, understand who you are and exactly how you “fit” in the industry. BECAUSE…if you don’t “get” you, no one else is going to “get” you either.
You want an agent, a casting director, a director, etc, to look at your headshot or see you work and know exactly who you are what they can do with you. A generic headshot, a generic performance, an audition in which you’re just trying to be what you think they want, will all reap nothing. And if you think your headshot is going to land on someone’s desk and that they are going to snap you up and start developing you into a star…think again. No one has time for that anymore (unless you’re a breakout Disney tween).
So how exactly does one figure this all out? It’s not an easy process. Most of us have a difficult time exposing our true selves…and yet, it’s our true selves that set us apart from everyone else. In order to discover your true image and marketability, you need to be HONEST, REALISTIC, and SPECIFIC. This is why I strongly suggest actors seek help…and not from your mother, girlfriend, or roommate, they tend to tell us everything we want to hear. You need someone who will keep you HONEST, REALISTIC, and SPECIFIC. Casting directors or consultants, like myself, tend to keep it real…acting teachers are also a great resource since they not only know your work, but also know the business.
There are four steps to figuring out your image and marketability:
1. Know your Type. It’s very simple: sex, age, physical description, and a couple main personality traits. Write a breakdown for yourself so that if a friend read it, they would immediately think of you…remember Honest, Realistic, and Specific.
2. Know your Brand. “Brand” just means what is unique and special about you. Think about it this way…when you’re at an audition and there are twenty-five actors all looking like you (same type) in the room, what do you bring to the party that they don’t? Be specific. I have dimples. I’m tall. I’m thin. I’m crazy. I have a rubber face. I am shy. I’m sensitive. I’m an excellent cook. I write poetry, etc. Every aspect about you, both physical and personality-wise, sets you apart from all the others in the room making you unique and special within your type.
3. Know the roles you can play TODAY. Not what are the roles you want to play, or that you played five years ago, but what are the roles you can be cast in today? Watch television, movies, commercials, web series, etc. Look for actors your type, your age, and most importantly, your level of career. (If you are just starting out, you’re not about to be cast as the lead of a film.) Write these roles down, and make note of what those characters are wearing as well as their hair and makeup. If these are indeed the parts you will be auditioning for, you will want to incorporate those looks into your auditioning wardrobe (More on that another time.)
4. Know what you will bring unique and special to each role. Don’t make this more difficult than it is: take that list of roles that you can be cast in today and next to the role write down what is unique and special about you that you would bring to the role. A very simple example would be for a role of “Mom.” Don’t try to think what kind of Mom are they looking for? What kind of mom are you in real life? (Even if you don’t have kids…how do you relate to children in your life?) Are you the mom that gets dirty with the kids? Or the mom that organizes everything right down to the last detail? Playing your reality within the confines of the role will only deepen the character, so bring that “mom” to the audition, and definitely show that true image in your headshot session.
Each one of you actors reading this is unique and special and awesome and amazing and no one can do you better than you. If there is one gem of wisdom I try to impose on every actor I teach, coach, or consult with, it’s that You Are Enough. You don’t need to try to be what you think they want you to be, because in reality…they don’t know what they want. All agents, managers, casting directors, and directors want from the moment you walk in the room is an actor who knows who they are (image), knows what they have to offer (talent and marketability), and who brings something unique and special to each role they play. They are looking for YOU…just make sure that you show up…to your headshot sessions, to your meetings, to your auditions.
Now YOU get out there and start booking some jobs!