Are You in Sync

When I look at a page of electronic submissions on a breakdown, I’m faced with, well, your faces. Thousands and thousands of your faces (12,747 as of this moment, to be exact). Yes, your thumbnail headshot is important. Yes, if you’re not someone whose work we already know, your demo reel plays a role in whether you’ll stay in the mix. But that’s not what this week’s column is about.

Today I want to discuss being in sync with the way your representatives market you. You’re a team, right? Your agent, your manager, these are people with whom you signed because you agreed on a few things: That you are marketable enough in this industry that there is commission to be earned on your work, that you are talented enough to sustain a career in this industry, and that your best-matched roles are of a certain type range.

So, if that’s true, why is it when I line up all submissions for one role (looking at submissions from agents, managers, and actors themselves, alphabetically by actor) that I sometimes see vastly different choices for the primary headshot as presented by each member of an actor’s team? Shouldn’t the agent, the manager, the actor himself all be in sync about how the actor should be marketed? About which shot to use when submitting on a particular character type?

The most terrifying disparity I’ve seen came from an actor whose type I thought I knew. She’s someone I know online but whom I’ve not yet met in person. I’ve seen the photos she uses of herself at her social networking profiles and of course on Actors Access and at her website. Total hottie. A vixen. Smolderingly, stunningly beautiful with a slammin’ bod. Welp, there’s her headshot, submitted by her, exactly as I would expect. But, what’s this? Both her agent and her manager have submitted her using a different headshot than the one she used, and it’s “the fat chick.” It’s her, easily 30 pounds heavier, chubby-cheeked with a huge grin, very close-up, and charactery.

My first thought was that perhaps she had once been the plus-sized character actor who is great for wacky neighbor and has undergone a transformation making her the steaming sex kitten I thought she was, based on the way she presents herself online. So, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I opened up her profile as it exists when submitted by her agent and her manager to see if they too had access to these HOT photos of her, because if they didn’t, maybe they were using old photos and just didn’t realize how off-type their submissions were.

Nope. They sure enough had access to not only the two hot photos of her that she likes to use (clearly) but also two other “fat chick” shots, in addition to the one they each chose to submit as the primary shot for this actor. So, if they have access to the sexier shots but are choosing to use the way charactery plus-sized girl shots instead, I now go down the line of questioning that no actor who just wants to get called in and show off her work wants me to start asking.

Which version of this actor do I get, when I call her in? Is she the sex kitten? Or the chubby best friend? If she’s using WAY “too hot” headshots, could she also be putting spin on her credits? Is it possible that I need to call into question quite a bit about what she’s selling? Is it worth the risk to give her one of the few slots I hold for folks whose work I don’t yet know, knowing there’s a gamble as to which version of her is going to walk into the room? Maybe it’s just best to pass on her altogether, rather than risking that.


That’s not good for her.

Let’s extend this beyond the online submission experience and consider whether an agent or manager, when picking up the phone and pitching an actor, might be doing so in a completely different way than the actor would have his team do it. Let’s say the actor sees himself as the yummy DILF, while the team is pitching him as a goofy sidekick, a less-creepy Steve Buscemi type. The CD gets excited about this character actor and schedules him for an audition. The yummy DILF shows up and suddenly the CD is pissed. Not only because the actor doesn’t match the role she’s casting right that moment, but because he would’ve been great for something that she cast the week before. But there was incongruence between the marketing plan the actor and his team had running. Because — even if it’s the agent or manager who needs to change how he or she sees the actor — it’s the actor who suffers at the moment he’s in the room for the wrong role, it’s imperative to be sure you’re all in sync before it’s a problem.

Back to the above-mentioned breakdown: I saw this happen with more than a few actors who self-submitted when I sorted the submissions to display agent, manager, and actor submissions all together alphabetically by actor. Very clearly, there were actors selling themselves one way (based on the headshot they chose to submit on the breakdown) whose agents and managers see them differently. And if that’s happening to you, it might be time to have a meeting with your team, just to be sure you’re in sync.

Now, I’m not advising actors to micromanage their agents and managers. Heavens, no! Assuming you did your research before meeting with and then signing with an agent or manager, you already know you’re with a team you trust and with whom your vision for yourself and the roles for which you need to go out lines up. You know you all agree that you’re the “creepy bad guy” or the “straight-laced lawyer” or the “crazy friend in her own world.” And that should mean you’re all using the same tools (i.e. headshots) to get on the radar the right way.

If, however, you consistently hear folks expressing surprise at how you look when you come into the room after calling you in on a headshot submitted by your team, it may be time to know for sure which headshot your team is using and whether it even looks like you these days. I have to say, one of the most surprising things I’m noticing on this particular breakdown is that actors are submitting themselves using headshots I remember them using on the very first breakdown I put out seven years ago. No one should be using a headshot that long! People age! We change! It may not seem like we’re changing, when we look at ourselves every day, but be sure, we do change. And the photos should reflect that. No, you don’t have to go nuts and change your headshots every year, but certainly every three years at minimum, and more frequently if you’ve changed your type, your weight, your hair, etc.

I guess all of this is to say that there’s more to submitting than just choosing your favorite photo and clicking submit. Your favorite photo does you no good if it’s not an accurate representation of your type, your vibe, and the way you’ll look when you walk into the room if invited to do so. And, should your marketing plan differ from that of your agent and manager, it’s time for a team meeting. Because if their submissions talk us out of seeing you the way your submissions make us see you (or vice versa), the end result is likely the same: We just won’t call you in, since it’s not clear enough WHO you really are.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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