…aspects of the Castable Actor
by Tom Burkei
Not only can the right clothes play a part in booking a job, more importantly, the wrong clothes can lose a job for an actor as well. Think about it. This is a visual medium. When the camera cuts to a character whether in a television show, a movie or especially a commercial, we (the audience) immediately have a sense of who they are and what their role is just by the way they look…their type, age, and the clothes they’re wearing.
The same is true for any actor walking into an audition or a meeting. A casting director, director, agent or manager must be able to look at you or your headshot and know instantly who you are and how and where you fit in. Every type, every category, every marketable role has a certain “uniform” way of dressing that speaks to the viewer eliminating the need for unnecessary exposition.
I have been working with a very lovely actress on her specific marketable image for commercials. She is in that early forties, mom of teens category. In real life, she has a very cool arty way of dressing. You see her and think “funky” “offbeat” “very hip” “very cool.” Words you don’t necessarily equate with the 40-something mothers portrayed on television…juggling home and career while trying to clean the bathroom and make dinner. And yet, “very hip” “very cool” is how she was dressing to go to auditions. Her reasoning was that her personal style set her apart from the other actresses in her category. Memorable, yes, but not in the way she thought.
Imagine a commercial director looking for the perfect harried housewife and in walks a woman looking, albeit great, like she just came from the Avant-Garde challenge on Project Runway. Without even saying a word, she has either lost the interest of or confused everyone in that room. Why? Because visually, she is not presenting herself in a marketable way…she is not selling, what the industry is buying.
We discussed the “uniform” of women her type in television commercials; layers, little to no skin, denim shirt over pastel tshirts, khakis or nondescript slacks, and loafers or flats…basic mom clothes. She proudly came to our next meeting with armloads of new clothes: a little denim dress cut high above the knee, beautiful high-end designer blouses in pastel colors, and the most kick-ass high-heeled loafers that make you wonder how the hell does she walk in those things and who cares ‘cause they are “fabulous!” Mothers portrayed in television commercials wear basic mom clothes…the kind you find at Target or JCPenny…nothing with designer labels or expensive fabrics from high-end stores. I told her, that in her everyday life she can wear whatever she wants, but when she is going up for a “mom” role, it’s Target or JCPenny. She was crushed…and then she asked the question that every actor I work with poses: “If I’m supposed to look and dress like everyone else, how am I going to stand apart and be noticed?”
My answer: The star quarterback wears the exact same uniform as the guy on the bench,…what sets them apart? (I know right, Project Runway and sports analogies in one article???) Mainly, it’s talent. You need to bring that which makes you unique or special (talent and branding) to every audition and meeting within the parameters of your category. What does that mean? Wear the Uniform. Be You. Blow them away with your talent.
Your job as an actor is to study television, movies, and commercials, not only for the current acting styles and trends, but also for the current clothing, hair style, and makeup (women only, please!) trends of your specific type and categories. Start to look at yourself the way the industry sees you.
If you truly want to be castable, you need to know who you are and what you have to offer…and if you want to get on the field and play with the big guys, you MUST wear the uniform. Clothes really can play a part in booking a job.
Dress the part, and you may just be asked to play it!