So, I’ve been working with this group of actors for a few months and recently someone asked whether we could develop pitches. Immediately, others in the group murmured approval for that idea. One had a show she was pitching to two networks. Another three had feature film loglines they were developing. Everyone wanted to be prepared for the, “How do you see me pitching you,” or, “So tell me about yourself” question that might come out of an agent meeting or one of those oh-so rare casting director generals.
And so, the Pitch Clinic was born. Now we do this monthly. And it’s awesome. But why keep our gems about how to develop and perfect a personal pitch to ourselves? So, here we go! I was asked, “Bon, what’s your logline?” Oh, that’s easy. It’s the same one-liner I’ve had on every online profile I’ve created since before the days of Friendster. Ready?
Eh… pretty much your standard average everyday sarcastic, cynical, anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive insomniac perfectionist with a great rack.
Okay, so I’m not terribly sarcastic (well, I am, but not by default), I’m absolutely not cynical (I’m one of the most optimistic people on the planet, actually, but “cynical” is funnier and I always go for the funny), and the rest is entirely true, especially the part about the great rack. Thing is, I’d imagine 99.9% of my casting gigs did not come from ample physical blessings, but instead from my confidence, which you sense from the fact that I’m the kind of person who — in a professional logline — would talk about her boobs. I even mentioned at my Linked In profile that I considered editing my profile, since Linked In is more about making professional contacts than it is about social networking, but then realized that anyone who didn’t get me (which you certainly do, after reading my logline) wouldn’t enjoy working with me anyway. I’m raunchy. I’m casual. I’m one of the guys. And I’m ridiculously organized, very creative, and an absolute ninja at coming in under-budget while making everyone feel as though they’re doing everyone else a favor.
But my logline tells you more than that. It tells you how it’s gonna be, working with me. It tells you I won’t sleep (because I rarely need to, although that seems to be changing, the closer I get to 40) in order to get the job done. It tells you I’ll keep the mood light (because I will always go for the funny, as keeping work from feeling like work is something I’m very good at). And it tells you I’m probably one of my biggest fans. As I once Twittered, Gotta be somewhat of a narcissist to be in this. We’d rather hire “can play filled with self-loathing” than “IS filled with self-loathing.” Yup. Healthy self-esteem is a job requirement.
How did I come up with my personal logline? I couldn’t begin to tell you. I was filling out one of those ubiquitous “about me” fields at one of the dozens of social networking sites I would eventually join (way before they were called “social networking sites”) and that’s what I came up with. It stuck. However, I have the benefit of an amazing share from one of the actors I mentioned working with, above. Helenna Santos Levy is relatively new in my network. We met in early December after she emailed me a few weeks before that to ask me to be a guest on her weekly Musecast. I immediately knew that Helenna was totally on-the-ball, ready to “make it” in this biz, and absolutely doing things right to see that happen in a very short period of time, relatively speaking.
Well, Helenna not only participated in last month’s Pitch Clinic, she wrote to me about her process. And being the awesome, open, biz-savvy actor that she is, she agreed to let me share her process with you fine folks. Enjoy!
First we did a typing exercise. We actors have done a bunch of these. You gather adjectives about you and make a list of what keeps getting said. This is to help determine your primary (and secondary) type, age range, perceived ethnicity, etc.
After the most recent typing exercise we did, I took the top descriptors and created this list:
“Helenna Santos Levy: Primary Type”
Typing Game, February 5th/09
AGE RANGE in order of most popular:
PRIMARY TYPE in order of most popular:
sorority girl/college student/high school student (6)
lead’s girlfriend (3)
the best friend (3)
popular/cheerleader type/”gossip girl” (3)
straightforward/tell it like it is (2)
middle to upper class/daddy’s rich girl (2)
hot girl (2)
badass/street smart (2)
(There were lots more, but those are the main ones.)
Then I looked for things that were synonymous and looked for the best adjective amongst them or found a better word (i.e.: “quick-witted”). Then I tried to find phrases that would encapsulate other things. Like… Care Bears for best friend… or the preying mantis for sexy/urban/club-goer/daddy’s rich girl, etc. — things that gave me the FEEL for the descriptors.
After that I just started playing around with phrases. After finding my favorite words I pretty much started with:
“I’m a quirky, quick-witted, exotic girl-next-door; sweet as a Care Bear, with a bite like a preying mantis.”
Then I went to class and we shared our personal pitches in a simulated Pitch Clinic. After pitching to everyone, we did a discussion with each of us in the hot seat to learn what worked and what didn’t. Turns out Care Bears were not good! So I tried to find something better that would give the same feel… but not so “cutesy.” Something soft and sensual but still sweet, hence “honey.”
So the logline became:
“I’m a quirky, quick-witted, exotic girl-next-door; sweet as honey with a bite like a preying mantis.”
This phrase I think kicks ass because it has a ying and yang effect. I’m very quirky and sweet and kind, but can also play bitchy cynical and mean, etc. It shows that I’m smart and sassy, but sweet and energetic too.
The next stage of the process included coming up with my hybrid type match. I tried to look at actors my age doing the things I want to do who are like me, hence: “Mila Kunis meets Jordana Brewster.” Both of them can be somewhat ethnically ambiguous. Mila Kunis plays cute, quirky, bitchy, etc., and Jordana Brewster has the sensual side… and I actually do look like a melding of the two!
Awesome! And one of my favorite things to come out of this whole exercise with Helenna is that she had been struggling with finding the perfect headshot. She had taken more headshots in the past five years than anyone I know. Finally, after nailing down her personal pitch, she went back through old headshot proofs to see if there might be something in there that absolutely nailed her logline. Guess what! There was plenty. And now — without even having to re-shoot — she has her type-nailing headshots. Awesome!
Now, do you have to have a personal logline? Nope. But if you’ve ever found yourself feeling stuck when someone asks how they might best cast you or what you’re best at, as an actor, developing that personal logline is going to do nothing but help you. It’ll also drive your focus when you’re submitting on breakdowns. Sure, it’s fine to just go ahead and click submit EVERY time you see your gender and approximate age range mentioned in the breakdowns, but isn’t it far better use of your energy, your optimism over whether you’re going to hear from casting, and your FOCUS to submit only when the role is absolutely 100% within your brand? And if you’re keeping tabs on the “agents and managers only breakdowns” somehow (I don’t ask; I don’t tell. I think it’s good for research, when that’s how it’s used), isn’t it nice to know there’s a role that is so you that you can send a little email to your agent, stating, “Hey, remember when I took you to lunch last month and we got really clear on my personal logline and primary type? I saw a breakdown for a role that is totally there. Just want to make sure it’s on your radar for me, when you do today’s submissions.”
No fuss, no muss. Done and done.
Now, what if you’re a hyphenate? You write, you direct, you produce your own work (YAY!), and you also act (and maybe even sing or model or dance or whatever). Well, this is where it becomes essential that you know your audience. I signed with an agent late last year and one of the first things we did was retool my resume and my bio. I had this ridiculous five-page resume with every film I had cast (even the ones that never finished shooting — because I figured the casting was done just the same, dangit) and it included all of my writing and public speaking gigs, past jobs “of note” within the industry, loads of non-casting stuff. My superagent said, “Anyone who wants to hire you as a casting director is not going to care about any of this stuff.” And, having said much the same thing to actors who insist on being all things or doing whatever it takes to get somewhere in this industry, I got it. I killed off the babies I loved so much and got down to a lean, mean two-page resume and a tiny little bio that didn’t even hint at my writing life.
And then I created a writing bio that didn’t even hint at my casting life.
But isn’t it all relevant? Sure. To me. And if it’s relevant to anyone else, it’ll come up in conversation. I can find a way to work the “fun facts” in there. And at this point anyone who is meeting with me — either for my casting or writing services — pretty much knows the “other stuff” I do. So I don’t have to put that in my logline. And neither do you. Lead off with how you want the industry to see you. (And if you want to be seen as, “I can do anything and everything,” I remind you that the Jack of All Trades is usually the Master of None. Sure, you may be a master of several things. Save that nugget ’til they’ve bought and paid for your services in the one thing for which you are primarily associated. Trust me. This is the shortest distance between two points — those points being wherever you are right now and where you ultimately want to be in this industry.)
Want to learn more about pitching? Check out these links:
Communicatrix’s Bio-Writing Series
John August (I’d retitle this piece “How To Rehearse for a Pitch Meeting,” for an actor audience.)
The Art of the Pitch
Personal Branding 101
Platform Thinking in Personal Branding
And yes, most are geared toward screenwriters. Use your creative juices to figure out how to apply a story pitch to developing your self-pitch! Sometimes, working up a pitch for something *outside yourself* helps you get better at creating your own pitch!
Do you pitch? Do you fear pitching? Lemme hear from y’all in the comments, below. Let’s see how we can help this whole process along. 😉
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 http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000998.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.