See that huge, seemingly impenetrable cast iron door between you and the career you want?
Life would be a lot easier if you had the key, right?
But, what if you are the key?
Opening the Door
So, you’re doing everything possible to make yourself that perfect fit. You’re taking acting classes at every chance. You’ve immersed yourself in method acting. You’ve studied at London’s best acting schools and fill all your ‘down time’ with so many acting courses that you could write the next ‘Acting for Dummies’ book. You’ve stretched your range so far that you could comfortably play any character of any age group or gender. You’ve prepared yourself. You’ve expanded yourself. You have a full range of tools to bring into the room.
So how is it that, somehow, other actors are getting into the room that are not working as hard as you on their craft. Somehow, they’ve made it past that cast-iron door and you’re still frantically searching for the key.
How are they getting in?
When a breakdown goes out, it puts a problem out there that needs to be solved. Everyone behind the breakdown, from the producer to the casting director, is hoping and praying that the next person to walk into the room will be the solution to that problem.
Let’s say the breakdown is asking for a twenty-something female, hard-ass street character with tattoos and piercings. Someone with a past, but with a carefully hidden tender core that comes out at the end of the production. Suppose you go in for that role. You already know you have a tender core. You discovered that in your classes. You normally play nuns, but you know you can put on a few fake tattoos and throw some slummy grit into your speech. You did that in an acting course once. You’re sure you can sufficiently alter your attitude and appearance to give a convincing performance.
A blonde-and-purple-haired, genuinely-tattooed, twenty-something woman, with a gritty face and piercings on most exposed areas of flesh, breezes past you in the waiting room and takes a seat. She did grow up in a slum, and it’s obvious in every wave of energy she sends into the room.
Well, you are a professional. You go into the audition room, and you give it your best shot. Your acting classes, your drama school training, your method acting courses and sheer bravado take hold of the script and try to filter it through all the fake tattoos and gritty speech you’ve heaped onto them. Like a professional, you go away and try to forget about it.
You watch the tattooed gritty woman on TV three months later. So, what could you have done differently?
The reason you didn’t get the part was that the tattooed gritty woman knew she was going for her bull’s-eye. It wasn’t yours.
I know. You have range. You don’t want to limit yourself. You want to be able to stretch yourself as far as method acting will take you – and it can take you very far – into realms you wouldn’t visit in your normal everyday life. That’s what the journey is all about, isn’t it?
The point of branding is to expand you. It doesn’t have to be limiting. It can actually give you an incredible amount of freedom.
When the buyers – the casting people, the producers, the directors – know how to cast you, it saves them a lot of time. It means that they get you. It means they know what they’re getting when you walk into the room. If you’re type is nerd, they know they’re going to get the perfect nerd. It doesn’t mean, necessarily, that you are nerdy. It means you nail nerdy. It means nerdy is your bull’s-eye. It means, most importantly, that your essence, your vibe, your “nerd-ness”, fits you perfectly into that lock on the cast-iron door.
Branding is a great way to describe this process. It “brands” your image onto the mind of the buyer. It creates familiarity and lowers the risk in their minds – leaving room for excitement about casting you.
I have a recurring dream about Starbucks. Now, when I think of Starbucks, I think of this cool, relaxed place with quirky Italian names for cup sizes. I think of the soothing aroma of coffee and the quiet chatter of business; casual people. Most poignantly, I think of rest. My recurring dream is that I’m late for an appointment and I can either go to Starbucks or hurry and try to make the appointment.
Why Starbucks? Why not some other run of the mill coffee shop?
Simple; because Starbucks has the logo. It has the cool Italian cup sizes. It has the murals, the pithy sayings on the cups, the comfy armchairs with the comfortable people in them. It has a brand. It has branded itself so well that it has made it into my subconscious. That’s good branding.
That’s the kind of branding you want for yourself. Make it into the subconscious of the buyers.
Now, let’s go back to that audition room. The breakdown is for a period piece. A 14th-century Italian nun. You look the part. You live and breathe “nun-ness”. Everyone who talks to you can picture you as their favourite Sunday school teacher. Every acting class in London has either given you a nun-type role or told you to put more “street” into your voice and mannerisms for a completely different character. The same blonde-and-purple-haired gritty woman walks into the waiting room, sees you, and quietly takes a seat in the corner.
You go into the room, and with your preparedness and confidence, the words fly off the script, through your body, and into the air, infusing it with your individual magic. You practically don’t have to do a thing.
You leave with a lightness in your step that you haven’t felt since drama school. This felt so natural, it was transcendent.
Now, doesn’t that feel better?
Find your type. Know your brand. Get it out there. Be the key to that cast-iron door.
Be the buyers’ perfect cup of coffee.
Identifying your ‘type’ is just one of the techniques I teach in my method acting courses to help you get work as an actor. If you’d like more information about my courses, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.