Marketing yourself: Insights and advice on getting it right
Brian takes you on a step-by-step journey through the marketing process for actors, with tips and guidance based on his own experience on the Whens, Whys and Hows of getting yourself out there, seen, heard – and cast!
8 things you will learn about:
• Understanding your type – Get out your clipboard!
• Making sure you “give good at…” – Honing your strengths
• Why training is vital – And how to go about it
• Producing a showreel: Quality, authenticity, and no overacting
• The headshot – Why you need a professional
• Your CV – Training first, acting credits after
• The letter: Make it easy for them – bullet points & relevance
• When and how to contact the casting agents: Using a rota
One man – One mission: To rid the world of low-standard and mediocre acting, once and for all.
Brian Timoney, the world’s leading authority on Method Acting, brings you powerful, impactful, volcanic acting and ‘business of acting’ techniques in his special Acting Podcasts.
It’s Brian Timoney’s World of Acting – unplugged and unleashed.
Brian: Hi, it’s Brian Timoney here – and welcome onto today’s podcast. This podcast is going to be slightly different from the point of view that I’m here by myself. I’m normally joined by Joe but on this occasion I want to have a bit of a one-to-one conversation with you about marketing yourself as an actor.
Now, this is an area I think is really important. I think this area is as important as the acting side of the business, because, you know, at the end of the day, you can be a brilliant actor but that could not be seen if you don’t know how to market yourself as an actor. And at the end of the day, I think you owe it to yourself and to the people that see your work to be able to market yourself really well so that your work can get seen. You know, there’s no point in creating great work if nobody’s going to see it at the end of the day. So I want to talk about that – and I think, like I say, it’s an important part of this.
Now, where do we start with marketing yourself as an actor? Well, let’s start at the basics: you have to start with yourself. So, I think the very first thing you should do when you’re thinking about marketing yourself to the industry is to go and have a good look in the mirror first of all, and I want you to look and see what you see and be really honest with yourself and start to get a picture for who you are, what type you are, what age are you, and what look are you?
Now, if you have problems with this – I know a lot of people do, actually, it can be quite tough to kind of remove yourself from this process because you might have a certain way of looking at yourself; you have a certain idea about yourself – you can take this into a public place; go somewhere where there’s a heavy footfall, a lot of people moving, maybe a shopping centre or something like that. And dress fairly neutrally and maybe take a clipboard or something like that just so that when you do this people think you’re doing some research – and you are doing research, just for your own research. And you’re going to ask about 10 people or more, you’re going to ask them the following questions: ‘What age do you think I am? And what job do you think I do?’ And you’re going to get a response to that – and if you do it with enough people, you will start to see a trend that will start to kind of approximately give you an age range that they think you are in, and they’re going to give you some jobs they think that you do. And that will give you a good indication about type – because let me tell you, when you’re dealing with casting directors and agents, they will draw a conclusion about your type quite quickly. And when you walk into a room and you start to introduce yourself, they’re going to start to see and formulate in their mind a certain type.
Now, some people have a problem with this because they say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be typecast. I don’t want a casting director or an agent just to think I can only be that way.’ Well, let me tell you – I’ve always said this – initially your problem isn’t getting typecast; your problem is getting cast. So, first of all, just embrace who you are. Embrace the type that you are. You know, for example, I’ve had all different kinds of people that went through my programme, from many different kinds of backgrounds: I’ve had people that have been lawyers or barristers on the course, for example, and I will tell them to embrace that when they go into the industry. I say, ‘There’s not everybody has that background and knowledge. You know how to conduct/you know how to give excellent lawyer.’ There’s a casting director in LA that I’m very friendly with, and she has this term: she says, ‘What do you give good at?’ You know, it’s like do you give good lawyer? Do you give good doctor? Do you give good druggie? You know, it’s like whatever it is, she says, there’s a type, there’s a certain area that you will be better at than maybe a lot of other people, and she says it’s good to concentrate in that area and make it stronger.
You know, at the end of the day, that is a strength and you want to strengthen that strength and make it very clear that you really can nail that particular kind of type. So, before you even start doing anything else, that is the thing that you’ve got to get clear about.
Now, I’m going to go further into this conversation about marketing yourself to the industry, but let me just pre-set this up, because I’m not saying if you haven’t trained and you have no idea about how the industry works, when you need to understand that first of all – right? So I’m talking now from the point of view of somebody who has done a lot of training and is now coming out into the industry – about how you market yourself to that industry.
But also I think this is good for you to do even before you get to that stage – you know, being clear on your type and who you are and all that is really important from day one. But for the rest of this conversation, this is really once you have been through a training.
Now, I need to make that really clear because if you do what I’m going to describe to you in the following steps and you haven’t done that, and you’re going in cold and you don’t really understand the industry, this probably won’t work for you because you’ll get “found out” pretty quickly if you’re not a professional – and what I mean by a professional is you’ve done a training. It’s like any job – you know, actor is like any job; at the end of the day, if you want to be an accountant, you go and study accountancy – you go to college or university; if you want to be a plumber, you have to learn how to be a plumber – you go and serve an apprenticeship, you go and learn from other plumbers. Acting’s exactly the same.
Now, if you don’t do that, let me tell you, you’ll be caught out very quickly by casting directors and agents because there’s a terminology, there’s a phraseology, there’s a way of doing things, there’s a process and procedure.
So, that’s important for you to have gone through before you even dream about marketing yourself to the industry – right? And it’s important that you, when you think about it, is that part of the marketing process is you want to market a really strong product or service, so from an acting point of view, your acting is a service that you’re going to provide to casting directors and agents. Now, if you haven’t got that product/service to the point where it’s really brilliant or it’s really great, then, you know, there’s no amount of marketing’s going to make that good – none. You could market to hell and back and it’s still going to be crap – right?
So, at the end of the day, you’ve got to make sure that whatever you’re going to put out there is excellent – and again that comes back to training. So, I kind of got ahead of myself in a way about identifying your type but I actually think, whether you’re new to the industry or you’ve been in it years, that is a great thing to do because that stands you in good stead; that’s the foundation of the marketing process that you’re going to put in place.
So, with all that in mind, you’ve got your product/service and it’s excellent, it’s an excellent standard, and you know your type, and you’re going to then market that to casting directors and agents. So, what do you need to do? Right, well, one of the things – let me take you through a few areas that you need to consider. The first thing is that you need to prove to casting directors and agents that you can act and that you’re able to provide them with a high quality of acting, in order for them to even entertain you. So you have to produce a showreel. You know, when people attend my course, part of the course is that they produce a showreel during the course of that year, and I think that’s really important because that is a key marketing tool. That is what they start to put in front of casting directors and agents and say, ‘Look, this is my work and therefore I can prove to you that I can do what I say I’m going to do.’
So, that is key: producing a high-quality showreel. And this is not – again, depending on where you are in the industry right now, if you’re completely new to the industry and you’ve got no idea about how it works – this is not about recording something on your iPhone and putting it on YouTube. This is about creating a quality showreel with high production values, filmed by professional people and directed by a professional in order to get something that is going to be acceptable to casting directors and agents. And you’ve got to remember, they’ve been in the industry for donkey’s years; they know it inside out – so you’ve got to impress them.
Obviously if you’re already in the industry, you know that – and therefore what you send to them, you should be aware of what you send to them and make sure it is high quality.
Something to remember about showreels is that often a lot of that, how much a showreel is watched – and let me tell you, it’s not uncommon for only 30 seconds to be watched. So, for those of you that have already produced the showreel, don’t put montages in the front of it or clever graphics at the front of it or anything like that. Start with the acting. Go straight into the acting part. I’ve seen so many showreels that have all these sort of montages and showing you in different ways and doing a little thing here and a little thing there. Forget all of that. Take it out. Get to the acting – because that’s what they want to see. Get to a good part of whatever it is that you want to show them and get straight into you acting and showing them what you can do.
And, by the way, I would also avoid highly overly emotional scenes. You know, you’ve got to think about what they’re casting and what they’re looking for, and a lot of it is the day-to-day, and they’re looking for something that’s well acted, that somebody’s not overacting, they’re being real, they can produce something real on camera and they can see them walking and talking in a real and believable way. That is the first thing that you’ve got to do.
And then there’s also the nuance of thought: what’s coming across in each thought during that acting process as well, which they’ll be looking out for. So, like I say, the showreel is not something to be put together lightly; it’s something that needs to be put together by professionals that can guide you to make sure you can put in the best-quality work.
So, showreels – I think that’s an important part of this mix.
Another important part of the marketing mix is your headshot. Now, a headshot is basically a shot of you from roughly the chest, the shoulders-up, and it’s kind of a close-up of you, a portrait of your face. Now, it’s really important that you get this done by a headshot professional photographer. Don’t go to a photographer that does landscapes and fashion shoots – forget that. You’ve got to go to a professional that does professional headshots for actors, because there is a certain way of doing this that they will know and other photographers will not know. So it’s important, again, that you get a headshot done by a professional headshot photographer. Yes, because the headshot really becomes your first agent – before you’ve got an agent, what have you got? You’ve got a headshot and you’ve got your showreel, and your CV, which we’ll talk about in a moment. And that headshot is really important. And really what you’re wanting to do is create something fairly close up because sometimes now when we’re putting this stuff online, it’s only a thumbnail, so if it’s too distant it’s hard to see. So, something fairly close up. And I would also say something that shows something in the eyes, that shows you but is relatively neutral as well – as in it’s not too specific, for the main headshot I’m talking about here – for the main one that you have.
Now, you may have different shots that show you in different lights, but for the main one, you want to kind of a shot that could have you playing anything, or has a wide range. Now, I would also recommend that you have other shots that you’ll get that show you in a particular light: you know, you might be really good at doing sort of “hard men”, in which case maybe you’ve got a shot that shows you more in a harsh light; or maybe you’re good at doing “the girl next door”, in which case you’ve got a shot that kind of shows you in that light – whatever it is. There might be four or five different shots that you have in the end. But your main one should have that sort of neutrality about it, so that you are quite versatile.
So, that’s very important, to get the headshot right.
So, we’ve done showreels and headshots. CVs are also important. From the point of view of when you’re first starting out, that’s going to be the thing that everybody looks at after they look at the headshot. So, if they like the look of the headshot, they’ll start to look at the CV.
Now, if you’re new to the industry and you’ve just done a training, then they won’t expect to see a lot on your CV. All they’ll expect to see is what you’ve done at acting school, basically, so don’t worry about that; if you think, ‘Oh, you know, I don’t have enough credits,’ well, it’s to be expected to begin with because they know that you’ve been through a training and that you’re just starting to build up professional credits, so don’t worry about the fact that you don’t have huge amounts on the CV. But what must – and my belief is, and a lot of industry professionals will agree with me on this – is that an absolute must is where you trained, and to show, to demonstrate to casting directors and agents that you’ve taken this seriously enough to go and train and learn the profession, because if you don’t have that on your CV, well, then how serious are you? You couldn’t be bothered to go and learn? Or you didn’t think it was important that you went and learned from professionals how to do this job? Then, look, they’re not going to take you seriously.
So, it’s important initially, when you’re new, to put that on there. As you begin to build professional credits and you’ve been in the industry for 10 years and you’ve got loads of credits, then, yes, that doesn’t become as important, because you’ve been through it, you’ve proved it, you’ve done professional work. But in the beginning, I believe it’s crucial, to be taken seriously. So that’s an important point: you’ve got to get that on your CV. That’s more important than the credits – way more important, because basically you’re saying, ‘Oh, yes, I’ve trained professionally.’
So, headshots, CVs and showreels are very important in that process – and knowing your type within that process as well we’ve discussed is an important part of the marketing mix.
Now, what do you do with all of that? Now, you’ve got all of this stuff that you can prove to them that you’re a serious actor, but how do you get it to people? So, now we have to talk about getting like letters or emails, as most people do now these days. What should be in that, that you’re sending to casting directors or agents? Well, let me tell you, whatever it is, it should be short. Do not send them War and Peace about your life, about why you’re a special flower, about your upbringing in some small village and whatever. They’re not interested! They don’t care! All they care about is, ‘Where can I fit you? Where do you fit? What kind of characters can you play?’ And they don’t have time to read; they don’t have time to read a one-page essay on your life and what you want. What they do have time for is, ‘Where do you fit?’ So, this is where it comes back to type.
So, I often think that when you’re introducing yourself for the first time, make it nice and short and to-the-point – maybe a paragraph that basically says, you know, you’re looking for representation or you think you’re right for this particular project because of X, and then have some bullet points. I think bullets are brilliant, by the way, because it’s easy on the eye, they’re quick to read and it’s easy to take in. I’ve had a number of casting directors agree with me on this so I think it’s a good thing to do.
One of the things I used to do when I was sending in a letter or an e-mail is I would basically guide them through who I was very quickly. So I would say things like, ‘I’m a Glaswegian,’ and I’d give my age range, and I’d also say that ‘I’m very good at playing these kinds of roles.’ So I think at that time I sort of put down that I’d played quite a number of policemen and also hard men, so that was kind of where I fitted. And I was making that clear to them; I was thinking, ‘This is where I am.’ And that makes it easy for them because then they go, ‘Ah, right – so, when I’m looking for that type of role, then yes, maybe I’ll go to Brian, maybe we’ll pull him in for that audition.’ And you make it easy for them, because, you know, things happen very fast within the industry and the easier you can make it for them, the better. That is something that you should do as part of the marketing process, is sit down and put yourself in their shoes, be it an agent or a casting director, and think, ‘What do they want? What are they looking for? What are they trying to achieve?’ because once you understand that, then everything that you do – you know, what you deliver to them – can be done in the right way.
So, yes, that’s how I would deal with letters.
Regarding how often should you contact them and why should you contact them, these are good questions too. So, here’s a general rule of thumb: if you’re going to do an introduction, then maybe it’s not always good to do it like every week – you know, you send a letter or whatever, a phone call every single week to the same person. But you can have a rota, so maybe every quarter, every three months you’re sending in general sort of invitations or new headshots or something you’ve changed, or a particular project you want to tell them about. But there’s so many people in the industry, you can do that on a rota-type system so that maybe every two or three months you’re contacting the same person, giving them more information or something relevant.
The other way to contact particularly casting directors is that when they are involved in a project – and this is by far my biggest preference and the easiest way to get cast – is that you want to understand what they’re casting now, and if there’s something in that that you think you’re appropriate for, that is the very time to send your stuff into a casting director. It’s the best time because you’re really relevant at that moment and they’re really interested in what you’ve got to offer at that moment.
So, as an example, say I knew a certain casting director was casting something about Glasgow and they were looking for Glaswegian actors, then that’s exactly the point, I know that’s the best time to contact that casting director. Now, how do you get to know that? Well, you have to do your research. You have to become like Columbo and do your investigation and really get under the hood of what’s happening in the industry and when – but that’s a conversation for another day.
So, look, I think that gives you enough to be going on with, to consider when it comes to marketing. And there’s a whole raft of other things that we could cover on this subject that you need to think about as an actor, but I think that lays the foundations, if you like, or the fundamentals of things that you’ve got to consider.
Okay, well, I’ll leave it there for today – and I look forward to speaking to you on the next one.
You’ve been listening to Brian Timoney’s World of Acting. For a full transcript of today’s show, go to www.worldofacting.com.