HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED
When you first become a professional actor, you go through the grind of doing commercials and industrials. Most actors complain about this because it's not "scene work," but it can teach you a lot about being on set before you start running with the big boys and girls.
I had an interesting experience on one of my first industrial photo shoots for a major bank. My mother has worked in the banking industry my entire life, so even though I hadn't seen a shot list, I knew what to expect.
I was probably (most definitely) going to play a bank teller with a big smile handing a customer money across the counter. I would probably (most definitely) play an employee sharing my two cents at a meeting.
While I was sorting through my twelve million outfit options, someone from production started running through the waiting area to assign roles to all of the talent. He quickly walked past me and said, "You will be showing everyone what not to do by sexually harassing all of the employees."
Wait, what the heck?
I am a modest is hottest kinda girl, and it's not because I'm insecure about how I look. It's just nobody else's business except for my husband's. I immediately started (carefully) Googling stock photos depicting harassment in the workplace to see what this meant for me.
Oh God, no.
Kill me now.
Someone else made an assumption just previous to this shoot about what I was willing to do in a scene solely based on my headshot.
I looked over at my actor friend, Tracie, and said, "What do my headshots look like? Do I look like I'm a scandalous woman?"
"No, you don't," she said.
She was right. I wasn't showing that much skin. I wasn't wearing anything super revealing. I wasn't making any suggestive faces. (Although, I have had a photographer manipulate a shoot to "catch" a few faces that looked suggestive between poses that I'll tell you about in the future. Total nightmare.)
I realized then that you won't always be able to control how people see you, but you can do your best to portray who you are as a person because that uniqueness is what will get you cast. (Sometimes, though, the lens through which people see the world will dictate what they think of you no matter what.)
Before you dig into this blog post, I want you to understand that it's ultimately up to the casting directors, directors, and producers to decide if you're the right "type" for the role.
My goal in this post is to give you criteria on how to find your actor type that will help you better understand the primary impression you're making on others, which you can then utilize in a very specific way to increase your opportunities.
Ideally, you should portray how you'd like to be cast (assuming you have a preference). If not, then I still think niching yourself is the best way to push forward, and then you can show everyone that you have range later once the opportunity presents itself.
THE TRUTH ABOUT YOUR "TYPE"
We need to place parameters on this concept of type so that it doesn't control your world. While I am going to have you ask for feedback from people you know, it has a specific purpose that we'll discuss in a minute.
It is very eye-opening to understand how you come across to other people versus how you *think* you come across to other people because that's how you're coming across to casting directors, directors, and producers that don't know you very well.
However, I hate the idea of you standing in a room full of people that aren't casting directors to ask them how they would cast you. For starters, that's not their job. Also, if you don't utilize that information correctly, it's going to plant very negative seeds into your brain that will grow and fester into your death as an actor by limiting your beliefs about your talent.
Understanding how people see you is not what's important; how you use this information is what's important. Here's the specific way to use your type: I think finding your type is best used to pick comp card looks for commercial modeling photos or to market yourself for co-star roles for tv shows, not for the entirety of your career.
Those roles don't typically require a ton of range and aren't going to be what wins you the Oscar. They're also usually niched into one-word descriptions such as doctor, waiter, or gangster making them easy to book from a simple photo or vibe you give. Can you see why asking a bunch of other actors how they would cast you doesn't make sense for your long-term career now?
Your abilities as an actor could never be summed up into the initial vibe you give. You can, however, use that vibe to book a lot of these "stepping stone" roles for bit parts that are actually booked from first impressions.
Please understand that ultimately I think you should read for any and all roles you're comfortable reading for. I don't believe any actor just getting started is "above" a role, which is different than feeling like it's not a good fit for you. The goal of this post is to give you a strategy for using your type in the most beneficial way possible.
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3 UNIQUE QUESTIONS TO FIND YOUR ACTOR TYPE
I learned this as a student during a summer workshop at the New York Film Academy. I have no idea who created it, but I'm fairly sure the teacher's name that taught it to me was Abbie.
3 Unique Criteria to Find Your Actor Type:
If you have any copyright information about this, or know of its existence elsewhere online, please comment to let me know! To my knowledge, this is not proprietary information.
WHAT'S YOUR VIBE?
Your vibe is best described in temperatures: Hot, Warm, Cool, and Cold. These have nothing to do with how you look, so don't let the "hot" label trick you. Let's look at short descriptions and celebrity examples for each of these to give you more clarity.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
This question should be taken as straight forward as it sounds. Pick from Urban, Suburban, Rural, and Royal. Where were you born in the world? What part of the country? What part of your city? The hard truth for Hollywood is that your answers should be based on the USA.
Production companies see an actor's potential through the lens of why people are going to pay cold hard cash to see them. That means you are literally selling one of the following items listed, which don't need much explanation. You need to understand as an actor that production companies are worried about one thing--making money. They need to be! If they don't make a profit, they can't keep making movies, and we're all out of a job.
Remember, you are a multifaceted person who may portray multiple of these answers throughout the week, but you primarily portray one answer from each of these lists whether you realize it or not. Find out what it is, and use it, use it, use it to ramp up your initial bookings.
Which three answers would you pick for yourself off the top of your head? Go with your gut. Comment and share.
My initial answer to, "Where are you from?" was Suburban because I grew up in the suburbs. The instructor that taught this to me, however, said that because I was from Alabama and sounded as if I had a Southern accent to people in other parts of the country, that I should actually consider Rural. I've lived in both NYC and LA, and inevitably my friends in both locations started calling me Alabama because of the way I say words such as "pie."
Additionally, when I shot a commercial for Audi, the director kept asking me to lose the Southern accent even though I thought I had. I've sometimes had people say they can't tell I'm Southern when I've "turned it off" a bit, but the majority of people can still hear it. I can either fight it or use it to my advantage. Helloooo Holly Hunter.
BRANDING VS TYPECASTING
I also want you to understand that typecasting is slightly different than branding. Branding is used for marketing, and typecasting is used for getting booked, but your branding should influence your typecasting.
Part of my branding is relatability and modesty. Do you know who is not relatable or modest? A Bond girl. She's exotic, urban, and sells sexiness all day long.
That means that you'll never see lingerie photos on one of my comp cards. I'm not going to ever market myself as the co-star girl who has a one-night stand with the lead on a show.
Therefore, my branding is influencing my typecasting. It doesn't mean that I couldn't do those roles, it means I'm choosing not to based on my brand values.
The opposite may be true for you. You might read those descriptions above and think they sound exactly like a role you would like to play. The point is that I've thought through what I want, and I want you to do the same.
Think through your branding, set your brand values, and allow that to influence how you utilize your typecasting results.
Each of the questions we discussed has a few answers to pick from. Pick one word from each column in the download at the end of this post. I would classify Sarah Silverman, for example, as Hot | Urban | Humor/Fun.
These three answers shouldn't dictate the rest of your acting career. I want you to use them for the sole purpose of ramping up your bookings for commercial modeling and co-star gigs so you can get your foot in the door and start making some money!
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