We’ve discussed the importance of knowing — and marketing — your type as an actor before. But one of the themes I’m seeing, among actors who simply do not know their type, is the inability to be wrong. They simply insist (no matter how many thousands of dollars they invest in headshot sessions and reproductions) that they know their type best and don’t need anyone else to define it for them. Here’s what I’d like to know: Do you want to be right about your type or do you want to be working?
Why are actors so unwilling to surrender that they just aren’t the best person to identify their own type? An actor friend of mine actually nailed it for me:
As an actor, you’re supposed to rely on your instincts and go with your gut. You do this all the time in applying your craft. (And you should. That’s part of the gift.) However, defining their own type is the ONE place where actors must do the opposite of what’s instinctual and rely instead on people outside themselves for learning what their type is.
You see yourself one way and your acting coach sees you differently. You select headshots and your manager rejects all of them. You submit yourself for a particular role and you’re asked to read for a different role, once you’re at the audition. Why do these things happen? You may not know your type!
Don’t feel bad. Most actors don’t know their type until the industry defines it for them. And, if you’re just starting out, the industry won’t do that for you very often. They’ll simply not rep you because your headshots aren’t right or they’ll not call you in because you submitted yourself inappropriately. All the while, you’re crying, “Why won’t they give me a break?!?” What you should say is, “I surrender! What is my type?”
If you have a manager, schedule a meeting to discuss your primary type and how you’re being marketed. If you are in an acting class, meet with your coach or classmates to discuss type. If you’re in a networking group, set up a gathering to go over type for all members of the gang. And, if you’re feeling especially bold, head over to a busy commercial casting facility one day and simply poll the waiting actors, most of whom won’t be thrown off by what they know about you. Their assessment of your type will be based on first-impression more than what they’ve seen you do in class, for example.
Understand that there may be (there usually is, in fact) a difference in your actual type (as an actor) and the type your headshot says you are. So, also consider doing typing exercises for your headshots.
One of the best tools I’ve seen for learning what type your headshot says you are is at Talent PIMP (Pipeline Into Motion Pictures). This is a new online service that includes (among many other benefits) a headshot poll. People who have never met you in person can answer questions about your headshot and, in analyzing the results of the poll, you can get a very clear picture of what type those who receive your headshot think you are. If that’s not your thing, you can always do this sort of headshot poll in your acting classes, with networking groups, or even on your own website. Wherever you do it, just be sure you do it. It’s very important!
Now, in stark contrast to this defer-to-others advice, let’s look at the most-frequently abused scenario in which folks with an agenda are telling you what you want to hear: talent scouts. Frankly, “talent scouts” don’t exist. Certainly, there are people in this world who make a living as “talent scouts,” but they are generally earning money off photographer kickbacks, finder’s fees, and advance-fee management scams.
These people will say everything you’ve ever wanted to hear, if you’re starting out (a “newbie”), in order to get you signed up for whatever it is that ultimately gets them paid. Most actors who’ve been at it for any length of time can share a horror story of the time they were almost taken in by a scam. Sadly, many more eager people (who never end up working as actors, often) can tell you about the time they were taken in — and usually to the tune of thousands of dollars on useless headshots, “modeling prep” classes, or false representation.
Golden rule: never pay to be represented. We know that. Agents and managers only get paid when you do. Period. And, while most agents and managers will want you to start out with new headshots, they should only ever give you a list of suggested photographers, never require a certain photographer. Oh, and by the way, those headshots they say are useless (the ones you used to get the initial meeting), well, they worked enough to get you that meeting, right? So you may not have to bail on those shots right away in a new agent or manager relationship. Still, it’s a common request to shoot at the start of your arrangement with reps, so don’t balk unless you’re being required to shoot with a particular photographer. Finally, if anyone tells you that you must take classes with them before you can sign the agency contract, that’s not an agent. That’s an acting teacher posing as an agent to get students. Why, if they make all of their money on tuition for the classes they teach, would they ever need to do the hard work of pitching clients for a commission? Duh. Easy money.
Okay, so why is it that we so love to believe the line of bull that people in these situations are selling us? Human nature. Remember being a teenager and falling in love over and over again? Remember how many times you really thought, “This is the one,” and fantasized about your future together? Remember when you really thought that phone was going to ring? That hopeful, eager, optimistic part of us is exactly what “talent scouts” are preying on. They know, if they tell you everything you want to hear, that you’ll really believe in love again! And, just like you did in junior high, you’ll need a pint of ice cream to get over the heartbreak when you learn it was all a lie.
Know when to go with your gut (and leave a bad situation behind) and know when to go outside your gut (to get advice on your type). Knowing when to (and when not to) trust your gut will keep you from having too many pints of ice cream to work off your gut!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000217.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.