Maximize Your Impact By Minimizing Your Scope
“Actors get into this business feeling as though they’ll be able to play all sorts of roles, try on many characters, inhabit various worlds. True, but it’s those who specialize who really ‘make it’”
Bonnie Gillespie - Self Management for Actors: Getting Down to (Show) Business”
At the end of the day, “Hollywood” is a business that creates and sells a product that we call “entertainment.” Succeeding in Hollywood, therefore, is not significantly different than succeeding anywhere else in the business world. The same tools and truths that will help you succeed in almost any arena, will help you succeed in Hollywood.
One of those truths is that you are also selling a product and that product is yourself. In order to sell your product effectively, you have to “brand” yourself. In acting circles, this is called “typing.” In other words, before you can sell your product (you), you need to know what it is exactly that you are selling and then you need to match that with the most likely “buyer” of what you are selling.
The number of variables that have to align in order for you to officially be a working actor in Hollywood are infinite, but you can exponentially increase your chances by limiting a vast number of variables. You do this by severely limiting the types of roles you even attempt to pursue and then you continue to pursue those same types of roles again and again until you have an established resume and documented track record of turning in good quality, solid work again and again.
The best way to figure out what types of roles to focus on pursuing is to figure out your type. If someone is going to typecast you, then what is the type in which you are most likely to be cast? Here are 3 keys to figuring that out.
1.) Ask people what type they think you are
The point of typecasting is that it’s dependent on how others see you, not how you see yourself. To find your type, you can start by downloading a master type list from smfa4.com. Choose 20-25 words that you think describe you fairly accurately and then print out several copies of that list. Whenever you have time, begin to ask your friends, family and even perfect strangers to circle words on that list that they think describe you best based solely on how you look. Over time, certain words will most likely become more evident than others. These words will provide great clues as to your type.
2.) Use Social Media to determine whether your headshots and your “in person” look are aligning
Put your headshot on social media and ask people what kind of role they would cast you in if they were a casting director. The great thing about social media is that many people you interact with might not know you personally, which means all they have to go on is your headshot. If people are telling you they would cast you in certain roles based on your headshot that don’t line up with the traits people are circling in person, you need to get new headshots that accurately portray you as being right for the kinds of roles you are pursuing. For more tips on headshots, check out this video
3.) Play casting director
Go to a photographer’s website that specializes in headshots. There are many to choose from, here are a few to get you started:
Start to become a student of headshots by looking at each shot and deciding for yourself, if you were a casting director, what kinds of roles would you cast each person for? This can also be a fun game you can play with your friends and doing so can give you a lot of insight into how people typecast each other. When your friends (especially those who are not also in the business) say they would cast a certain person in a certain type of role, ask them why. Part of what you are trying to get at here is the psychology behind why certain people get cast in certain roles. What is it the public is looking for as a whole for characters in certain types of roles.
Breaking into show business is a long, exhausting process at best, but there are any number of things you can do to maximize your work and your effort. One of those things is to ensure that your work is really moving your forward and you are not just running in circles chasing your tail. One way to avoid that is to be sure you are not wasting time, money, energy and effort in pursuing roles that you are unlikely to land based on your look. But the only way to avoid that, is to know exactly what your type is.