I’d like to introduce a concept that people in the corporate world have known for ages. It’s called targeted marketing.
How do you feel when you get a brochure left on your car that advertises the next greatest burger place in London? Here’s what I feel these ads are saying to me: “Hi, random car owner, I don’t know you and I don’t know anything about you, and I don’t care, but look, I made these burgers, and I hope you’ll buy some.”
This is a spectacular failure to impress me. For one thing, I don’t like burgers.
It’s a very different feeling when my phone company rings me up and says, “Good afternoon, Mr. Timoney. I see that you make a lot of calls to Scotland. Are you aware that we have a flat-rate discount plan that could mean you pay about 60% of what you’re paying now?”
Okay, I’m listening.
Know Your Buyer
In method acting classes you learn to know yourself. In the business of acting that’s important; but it’s also important to know the buyer.
Firstly, identify your primary and secondary types. What roles would you expect to play? If you had one line on a show, how would you dress for it? What would your character’s job be? Do you play teachers? What type of teachers? Do you play the bad guy? Are you the sweet, nurturing mom or the no-nonsense disciplinarian mom? You need to know and understand what you can most naturally deliver.
Secondly, watch TV shows. Watch the current season of any TV series that’s filming in your area. Find out where your primary type lives – in roles that are at your current tier or above. If you’re straight out of drama school and going for co-star roles – meaning the characters with job titles instead of names like waiter, doorman, Cop #2 and the like – then watch the current season to see how those characters vibe. For instance, Ray Romano is a loveable comedy character, but I couldn’t really see him on a CSI show. A cop on Flashpoint is very different from a cop on Mike and Molly. Watch these shows and try to spot someone like you in a role you would like to have.
Find out who casts those shows. Go to IMDB and find the casting director for the current season. Mark this person’s name down and keep him or her on your list of people to target.
Find out who reps the people cast in roles you could play. The paid subscription to IMDB Pro lets you in on a great deal of production info that you don’t get with the free trial. You get to look up locations, production notes, and for your purposes here, the agents of actors close to your type being cast at your next tier. Write these agents’ names down.
Before long, you’ll start to see patterns emerge. You’ll notice that certain casting directors tend to go to certain agents. Certain directors work with the same people. Start keeping a record of these relationships. Set up Google alerts for these people – the more you know about them, the better. When you get an alert that they’re speaking at an event, giving a presentation or offering an acting class; you go too. Slowly get to know these people. Build relationships with them.
Keep the information in one handy catch-all place – be it an Access database on your computer or a binder full of hand-scrawled notes. Keep it organized by name. Then when you’re about to meet the person, you can walk into that contact with more confidence. I’m not suggesting that you go up to a potential agent and immediately mention the school their five-year-old attends – let’s not get creepy – but at least learn whatever you can learn, and keep it to yourself. You never know. The information may come in handy in conversation.
Targeting your efforts is a great way to increase the results you get from your hard work. Work hard to focus your efforts. Don’t be the guy that left the burger flyer on my car. Know your buyer.
Want more practical, actionable advice that’ll help you make a living as an actor? Have you heard about my Ultimate Acting Programme?