Actors: How ‘Sellable’ Are You Today?

NYCastings - Actors - How Sellable are you?

How To Make It Easier For CDs And Agents To Pitch You To Producers And Directors!

So, look. We all have our own reasons why we fell in love with acting. It’s very likely you love to perform, you love to connect with the reality of the human condition in a way that only fictional characters allows us to, or that you enjoy pretending to be somebody else. 

Or maybe you just like playing dress-up, who knows. I know I do.

Whatever your reasons are, the dirty little secret about acting is that you’re not going to get much of a chance to do it on a professional basis if you don’t have some means of selling yourself. 

Now, I know where you mind probably goes when you hear the phrase, “selling yourself,” and you are a horrible, horrible person for thinking that way. (Just kidding.) But we do need to define our terms. As actors we are generally sensitive people who are in love with the art of acting; by definition most of us tend to lean away from being hardcore marketers and salespeople. But in this day and age, with the competition so fierce, you’ve simply got to get out there and spend a little time looking at how you fit in to the larger landscape of the business of acting. 

In other words, you’ve got to make yourself more marketable – more “sellable.”

“Who’s selling me?” you might ask. Well, you are, for one. But there’s more to it than that, and we’ll get to that in a moment. A more important question is, who’s buying? 

Here’s something to remember about landing roles: in the audition process casting directors and agents aren’t just gatekeepers: they are potential advocates for you. 

“I don’t actually do the casting,” one of my CD friends confides. “I just present [possible actors to the clients.]” 

And that’s true of all CDs. For younger actors it’s super easy to get intimidated when you walk into the audition room, to get all worried about muffing a word as you say your lines or some other silly faux pas out of fear that the casting director might not “cast” you. But as my CD friend revealed, it doesn’t really work like that. A more helpful way to think about it is to – and I know this may sound horrible to sensitive actors, but – see yourself as a manufacturer, and the CD or agent as a salesperson you’re trying to convince to carry your line of products.

In other words, you don’t need to sell yourself to the CD; you need to convince him or her to sell you to  the client. And that’s a subtle but important difference. To carry the manufacturer/ product metaphor further, you can think of it like this: what tools, supplementary materials, and selling points are you offering to the CD to use in marketing the product? Here are a few ways to ensure that you are giving your salesperson-CD the best chance to enthusiastically get on board with this particular product over a different one, and how to make them understand that they’d be foolish to waste their time on selling another, inferior product instead.

1. Marketing Materials

If you’re unlucky enough to have ever spent any time in an auto dealership, what you notice right away aside from the impossibly shiny cars and impossibly greasy salespeople is the brochures. Slick, heavy-stock magazines extolling the virtues of the vehicles on offer are vital to the business. Same goes for your marketing materials as an actor. You must, must, must have a recent, top-quality headshot taken by a professional HEADSHOT photographer, one that reflects the latest style and design quirks. Have you ever clicked past an actor’s IMDb page that uses one of those sepia-toned, gauzy 1980s-looking headshots as their featured image? Now imagine your job involves looking at hundreds of headshots every day. Seeing one that is even a little older or unprofessional – or god forbid, a selfie – is going to scrape on your nerves like nails on a chalkboard. If your marketing materials as an actor, things like headshots and your reel make the CD cringe, he or she is unlikely to pass them on to the client – for fear of looking like an ass themselves, for one thing. Upgrade your stuff so you can give CDs something that will make them want to buy into your style and look and talents, and that will give them the enthusiasm and desire to want to sell you to the director or producer of the project you’re auditioning for. The best audition in the world can be tainted in this way, so set yourself up for success by covering all your bases in terms of marketing materials. 

2. Get Good

In one interview I did a while back with another L.A. casting director he said something that might surprise some actors. He said that when you first get off the bus in Hollywood as an actor the one thing you DON’T want to do is to somehow luck into an audition with a top agent or for a high-profile role like a guest star on a network series right away. Why? Because at that point, the likelihood that you are good enough to pull it off and actually get cast infinitesimal. The far more likely scenario would be that you would fall on your face and embarrass yourself, perhaps in a way that is memorable enough that if and when your name comes up again with these people, they are unlikely to let you in the door just based on that experience, even if you’ve improved tremendously. That’s not to say that actors just arriving in L.A. from elsewhere don’t have talent, nor that it’s impossible to be good enough for high-profile gigs based on what you learned outside of L.A. or New York. But buddy, odds are against you on this one. Long story short, the next thing you’ve got to do to make yourself sellable is to improve your product. You’re no doubt already good, but get better. Take another class, get in an improv group, start an actor’s scene study group and watch and read everything. Not only that, there is also always room for improvement in not only your skill set, but in your preparation. Remember this every time you’re tempted to put down the sides you just received that evening and head out for one quick drink with friends: when you walk into that audition tomorrow, there’s going to be at least one guy or girl who spent just a little more time working on the character, delving into the lines just a bit deeper, and coming up with just a bit more creative and unique way to approach the read. Do yourself – and the CD or agent your trying to convince to sell you – a favor and make sure you’re the one who put in the most time preparing. 

3. Get Confident 

This is one of those “easier said than done” things, but confidence is nonetheless vital to your success, and to ensuring that the CD or agent is fully on board with selling you. And while true confidence comes with experience and previous success, one way you can help yourself to be more confident is the above tip, get prepared. And not only in learning your lines and researching the character and the piece and knowing what you want to do before you walk in the door, but also by preparing yourself to get in front of the camera in the weird, high-altitude atmosphere of the audition room. Now, of course there’s nothing like having done a few hundred or a few thousand auditions to really feel confident going in. But if you’re not in that position, you can really boost your confidence level by taking an on-camera or an audition class. You literally only get better at most things by doing them. You can read about playing the guitar for months, but if you’ve never had one in your hands, it’s going to sound like crap the first time you try to play. Look, this is a nerve-wracking business. People get flustered. They have occasional bouts of nerves, even the most experienced actors. But the CD you’re auditioning for is also auditioning in a way: they’re only as good as the actors they send out. Given a choice between say, an actor with the perfect look who is lacking confidence and one who doesn’t quite look the part but who carries himself with aplomb and grace and exudes an air of quiet assurance, they’re likely to choose the latter. You can’t exactly put confidence in a jar, but just remember that the more self-assured, easy-going, unconcerned with little mistakes you are, the more ready you are to shift gears and think on your feet and offer your own creativity, the easier it is for them to sell your product!

Remember too that once you have your headshots and a reel ready, you can post them today on NYCastings, where hundreds of industry professionals go every single day looking for talent! DirectSubmit and succeed! 

 

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