You’re trained, you have a spotlight profile, you may even have an agent, and yet, you don’t seem to be getting any auditions! Why is it so difficult to even get in the room?
People are not just being kind when they say it is an achievement to just get into the casting room, physically or virtually. There is no question that the number of actors going for one role can be overwhelming. But there are a small percentage of actors that know how to brand themselves. This is what sets them apart and makes people look up and notice them. You are selling a service, a product like any other business. The mistake that a lot of actors make is they try to be everything to everyone.
If you wanted to buy some dog food, you may question the company’s quality (and sanity) if they tried to sell you the latest laptop whilst you were in the store. With the argument that they were trying to show you how ‘versatile’ they were. I am absolutely not saying that actors cannot be versatile and play a wide range of characters. But it is important to know what you naturally step into, play authentically, and what will get you noticed. The industry certainly does not want to see you play one character with minimal change (ahem..Hugh Grant). However, most successful actors play similar roles, and they become known for certain attributes and a particular nature.
For instance, Tom Hanks, everyone loves Tom! He often plays lovable, moral conscious and courageous characters. Of course, he is incredibly talented and authentic.
Knowing your brand doesn’t distract from talent, it elevates it.
Let’s look at Morgan Freeman, he often plays the wise, superior, God-like (then again, he actually plays God) characters.
Kate Winslet, an exceptional actress, that is often cast in period roles (this is also to do with appearance of course) she often plays warm, kind and the love interest.
4 things to do to work out your brand…
1. If you have been cast in any roles in theatre, look at who played your part previously and what else they did. There may be similarities.
2. Ask everyone you know - actors and muggles. Family, friends and foes – what roles they can see you playing? Across television, film and theatre. Make a record of what everyone says, specific characters and character attributes. Try to ask fifty people or more to get the clearest response. It is very likely you will get many similar qualities.
3. Who do you look like? Appearance is still a prominent element of the acting industry. Make it work for you, not against you. Do you look like any successful actors? If your research has led you to a fun-loving, cute, girl next door brand and you happen to have physical similarities to Jennifer Aniston, that is a great brand to run with. (We will discuss what to do with your brand below.) If you are particularly tall and you are a comedic actor, this can become your brand!
4. Film yourself performing a wide range of speeches, reading for all different types of characters. During the rehearsal process you will feel which ones you stepped into with ease and which ones needed slightly more work. Do not ignore instinct, usually characters we can relate to, we perform better. You can watch yourself back and see if your instinct aligns with which performance you think was the most authentic.
What do I do with my brand?
1. Headshots. Yes, it is important to have a range of headshots, showing you with different clothing, expressions and positions. However, make sure you have several headshots that represent you as the actor that you are selling, your brand. If you often play the moody, sarcastic introvert. Try displaying the headshots with serious expressions, arms crossed. If you often play a warm, funny, best friend type, have several playful shots, lots of smiling, bright colours. You don’t have to be too literal, but just be aware of it when doing a shoot or choosing which headshots to put online.
2. Digital presence. One of the most important and poignant ways of portraying yourself as an actor. Not only do we have Spotlight and Mandy, now we have social media, and it’s a big deal. You can either utilise it or waste it. Many casting directors, particularly for smaller projects will use whether you have a digital presence as a deciding factor. Have a professional Instagram or a twitter account and project your brand. You don’t have to be too strict with yourself, but just think of yourself as a business, portray your message, skills and what type of actor you are.
3. Do not be scared to talk about what characters you play well (your brand) to agents and casting directors and other industry professionals. Nothing quite says pro like knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. (Nothing quite says amateur like insisting you are happy to play any role including men, women, children and animals!) Remember always keep it positive though, we don’t want to be advertising our weaknesses, but just be open and honest about your strengths.