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Whether you are just getting started in the entertainment industry, or you are a seasoned talent with great training and credits on your resume, here are five things every actor needs to land theatrical representation.
First, let us simply recognize the sheer number of actors who are competing for roles in today’s market. Prior to the boom of social media, the system for getting oneself on the radars of casting directors was much more physically involved, and because of that process, casting directors might only receive (at most) a few hundred submissions for roles.
Today, with the accessibility of social media and online casting sites, the number of actors competing for roles has increased tenfold. In fact, a producer client of mine recently had three roles to cast in a short film project, and for each role, more than 1,000 submissions were received. That’s more than 3,000 submissions for a short film project.
This brings up the all-important question and reason for this piece. How, in today’s industry, does an actor compete? What steps does an actor need to take to become an MVT (Most Valuable Talent)?
While many believe that because of the subjective nature of the entertainment industry, a person’s looks are the most important key to success, that simply is not true. Now, more than ever, opportunities are plentiful for all types of talent, from commercials that are almost exclusively seeking “real types” to movies and television series looking to star “character types.”
There are plenty of additional variables that come into play. To discredit the stereotype of “beauty,” one simply has to tune into various popular television series, or check out the movie releases throughout the year, to see that many of the roles are in fact cast with “real” people. So, stereotypes aside, how do talents increase their value? Check out the five criteria below.
The most valuable assets, in my opinion, reside under this heading on a talent’s resume. Specifically: improv, scene study and theater credits. Truth be told, the necessity of training credits tends to be as subjective as our industry (as a whole), It’s true that there are some agents and managers who don’t give as much thought or weight to this type of asset within today’s market. For me, on the other hand, it is absolutely crucial. When I see “improv” listed on a talent’s resume, it assures me that they have the resources on hand to stay on their toes in any casting room, to think quickly on their feet, and to roll with the punches when necessary. There are many training facilities that offer improv classes, but the best in my opinion include Groundlings, Upright Citizens’ Brigade and Second City.
The second (and equally) valuable asset in today’s market is the ability to communicate in more than one language. Regardless of a talent’s nationality, if I see the phrase “fluent in” listed next to any language other than English (e.g. Spanish, German, American Sign Language), my interest is immediately piqued. With respect to fluency or even conversational ability, the more languages in which a talent can communicate, the more value they have in today’s market. For a multitude of free lessons in many languages (including ASL), check out YouTube or download a free app called Duo Lingo.
The third most valuable asset in today’s industry is a portfolio of quality photos. These are essentially used as a talent’s introduction, or “business card,” and more often than not, provide the very first impression of a talent’s overall quality and value to get the initial door open for consideration from an agent, manager or casting director. Realize I said “first impression,” because the truth is, a quality headshot will only get you so far. The other assets listed above are equally important, if not more so.
I receive dozens of submissions from talent seeking representation on a weekly, and oftentimes daily, basis. Over the course of one year, that number can reach into the hundreds and even thousands. The talent I take most seriously from the initial submission do not have just one or two quality headshots in their portfolio, but a multitude of photos that showcase their ability to play a variety of different characters. One of my clients actually has more than 20 different character-specific photos that showcase various types of characters, from a doctor to military officer to a law enforcement official, and the list goes on. It is no surprise that this particular client earns a lot of casting opportunities. If you’re looking for a great headshot photographer referral, reach out to your fellow acting friends, coaches and classmates, and do some research on social media. There is no shortage of quality photographers in Los Angeles and other markets, but do your utmost to make sure you’re getting top quality photos for a price that won’t break the bank.
Similar to the need for a diverse portfolio of quality headshots that showcase various characters, a diverse portfolio of demo clips are also a necessity and instantly add to any talent’s overall value. In the past, a demo reel was the essential ingredient used to showcase a talent’s abilities onscreen. While a demo reel is still great to have on hand for casting opportunities in film, due to the sheer speed at which roles are generally cast today (particularly in television), individual demo clips are the key to showcasing exactly what a talent can do. For example, if there is a casting opportunity for the role of a doctor, having a demo clip of yourself playing a doctor on-screen or onstage will show the casting director exactly what they want to see, and you will likely be a top choice for an audition. If that same clip of you playing a doctor is buried somewhere in a one-minute (or longer) demo reel, the casting director doesn’t have the time to watch the entire reel to see the “doctor” clip, and the chances decrease for you to be seen and earn an audition. There are numerous resources that charge for producing quality demo scenes for actors, but again, do some research to find the best quality and the best deal.
Social Media Presence
If a talent does not have, at minimum, a Facebook Fan Page and a Twitter profile in today’s competitive market, they are living in the Stone Age. The majority of industry relationships in today’s market are developed and solidified via social media, and I can provide many examples of casting opportunities as well as representation opportunities that have been secured because of a talent’s social media presence. A few months ago, I wrote an article specifying the need for social media in an actor’s career, and I encourage you to give it a read.
If you have the five things above on hand and listed on your resume, you will without a doubt earn more casting and representation opportunities. MM
Matt Prater is the owner of Dedicated Talent Management in Los Angeles, a boutique firm that represents award-winning actors, producers, writers and directors. Follow @DedicatedTalent on Twitter.
This post originally appeared on Film Slate Magazine’s website. Film Slate Magazine is a guide to the world of film and television. From craft articles to filmmaker interviews, first-person blogs to insightful opinion pieces, FSM tries to dig a little deeper to find the stories you don’t normally see from the filmmakers, producers, and actors who are making a difference. Follow Film Slate on Twitter and Facebook. Featured image photographed by Melinda Sue Gordon; courtesy of Broad Green Pictures.