And why is it so important to figure it out?
Last week we spoke about tracking your auditions, and how it can help you improve your acting game. This week, I wanted to highlight an area that many actors shy away from, but if done properly–can really help your booking ratio. That is defining your BRAND.
Some actors have heard this term before, but more on a business sense. Or, they confuse it with typecasting–which is a bad thing and they want nothing to do with it. The truth is, as an actor trying to break into the business–a brand can be your greatest asset. Why? Because you create creditability in these roles. Casting directors trust that you will be able to put out a great audition, and Production trusts that you’ll be able to tell their story in a believable way.
Take any big name you know, and if you look at their work in the beginning, you will likely see a trend. There’s a reason why when you think “mobster” certain names come up. Try this with “beautiful love interest“, or “quirky funny guy“. Yes, maybe it’s because they did one iconic role–but likely, they’ve done that same role in many films. Did they eventually diversify into different roles–yes, many actors did. For some, it even earned them awards. But it takes time, patience, and determination. Something you can do once you’ve earned a few more major credits.
“Brand the reality. … Deliver on your promise. Who do people assume you are within five seconds of meeting you? Sell that. Branch out later when you have fame as leverage.”
In the beginning, when you are literally selling yourself as a _____________ in a 15 second commercial, or you have three lines as a day player–the clearer you are on your brand, the more likely you’ll be able to book the role. For me, I’m naturally very smiley, friendly & energetic. Roles I am mostly called in for and book are mom/medical professional/social worker types. I would categorize myself as an “approachable caregiver“. So, I ensure my headshots align with that. I also have a headshot where I look a bit tougher–for the “cop” roles (seems to always be a requirement), and I have gotten some auditions–But I have yet to book one. Why? Likely because what they see in the headshot, they don’t immediately see portrayed on the audition tape. Does that mean I’ll never be a cop on TV/Film? No, but I’ll likely be a cop who gives off a friendly vibe. The “good cop” rather than the super tough “bad cop”.
I know, some of you are thinking, “but I’m an actor, isn’t it my job to be able to play anything?”. Yes, and no. Although our specialty is to be able to step outside of ourselves and step into another person’s shoes–most of the time, those shoes are somehow very familiar to us. For instance, if I were to audition as a role of “detective/cop”, it would seem fake if I tried to pull off a Samuel L. Jackson vibe, wouldn’t it? But like anything, I could make it my own. In the end, they might see my take on it and think–“hey, that’s good! Let’s cast her!” or they might say “it’s good–but it’s not what we’re looking for.” What I definitely don’t want them to say is “wow–she can not pull that off.” Know what I mean?
So, how do you come up with your brand? Here are a few tips on how to figure it out:
- Write down some words people would use to describe you. Think about what people say about you. Some examples could be: friendly, energetic, laid-back, intense, hot-tempered, lazy, high-strung. This isn’t an excuse to write what you want to be like, it’s for you to do a little introspection and figure out what people say about you.
- Ask a friend or family member to write some words that best describe you. Now with social media, you can literally just post a photo or a short video of you, and ask for opinions. But I would warn you to do this in a safe group–maybe an actor’s page where you can do the same for others. Compare lists–How many words are mentioned the most?
- If you’ve been tracking your auditions, look at what you get called in to audition for most, and what you actually book. After about 20 auditions, you should start to see a trend emerge. Do people see you as mean/bad girl or guy/villain type, or do you get called in for neighbour/parent/teacher type?
- When you watch tv/film–pay attention to what working actor roles you think you could play. What about that role do you think resonates with you?
Now that you have a good idea of how you are easily perceived, know that you can just show up as you, and give off the “mom vibe” or “high-strung vibe” or “mean ass motherf*cker vibe”. Know that you don’t have to push to be these things, you are these things.
But, what about when you get called in for another type of role?
Now this is the fun part. Think about what might surprise people about you. For instance–I am generally very peppy, and most people tell me I’m laid back. But when I lose my temper (usually at home after I’ve told my kids 10,000 times to go to bed), what am I like? How does my voice change? How do I contort my face?
Everybody plays a different role in society at different times. You’re different at work than you are with your family, you’re different with you friends than when you’re with your significant other, and it’s up to us actors to pay attention to ourselves, and be able to tap into those feelings even when we play other characters. Figuring this out about yourself is how you add depth to a character and give a standout performance.
I’d love to hear some words you use to describe yourself. Leave them in the comments below!