How To Find Your True Type

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Quirky best friend. Home Depot dad. PTA mom. Ruthless CEO. Nosy neighbor. Those are all types, right? Trick question—they’re not. Those are types of roles that different actors can play. Type is more specific to each actor.

Film and television are visual mediums. When the camera cuts to you, the audience must know exactly before you even speak, just by the way you look and how you are dressed. The same is true for a casting director, agent, or manager. They must be able to look at you, your headshot, or your reel, and know exactly who you are and exactly how they can work with you by the physical image you present.

If you want to be taken seriously in the film and television industry, and—more importantly—book jobs, you need to know exactly who you are and where you fit in. There is nothing more attractive to an agent, casting director, director, or producer than working with a professional actor. That actor is keenly aware of their specific type and presents him or herself in an image that the industry is buying. Do you?

Turn the camera around and see yourself the way industry professionals do, instead of your own preconceived notions—or those of your mother, friends or significant other (they tend to tell us what we want to hear).

To make sure you are selling what people are buying, you must consistently present a marketable and castable image. An actor’s image can be broken down into three distinct sections: type, brand, and marketability (the specific roles in which a particular actor could be cast). As an image consultant and branding specialist, I work with actors every day. Ninety-nine point nine percent of those actors do not know their specific and realistic types. When asked, they inevitably begin naming roles that they feel they are best suited for: lawyer, doctor, real estate agent—“types” of roles, not an actor’s type.

You have seen a breakdown for a character, correct? It reads: male or female, age range, a specific physical description, and a little bit about personality. The breakdown also states the type of character, which then dictates the exact “uniform” or clothing that you must wear in order to convey that essence. Let’s say you see an audition notice for a female Quirky Best Friend. The age range and description is you, so you submit and get called in to read for the part. When you walk into the room, you notice that everyone waiting looks exactly like you, just like the physical description in the breakdown. The next day you see an audition notice for Upbeat Office Manager. The age range and description also basically describe you, so you submit and again get called in. This time you walk into the room wearing your “middle management uniform” and notice that all the other actresses waiting to read look exactly like you. Once again you all look just like the description in the breakdown. So which do you think is your type? Quirky Best Friend? Upbeat Office Manager? Neither. Type is the marriage of your age range, physical description, and main personality traits.

In order to figure out and hone your specific and realistic type, write a breakdown for yourself: male/female, age range (be realistic), a very detailed and specific physical description, and a few of your main personality traits. Make sure you hit every category you see in the breakdowns, including: level of attractiveness (average, attractive, attractive yet approachable, model gorgeous, etc); economic level (just in terms of general looks—do you look like you parked your private jet out back?) Be specific and detailed so that anyone who reads it can’t help but immediately think of you.

Working as an actor is truly awesome! But you’re not going to get the opportunity unless you go about it the right way. Nail down your specific type. Work on your marketability and most importantly your brand. Package all three together into a castable and marketable image that the industry is buying and start building your career.

Now get out there and book!

Check out Backstage’s film audition listings!

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Tom Burke
Tom Burke is an image consultant, headshot coach, and acting teacher. After transitioning from a successful print model to an accomplished on-camera actor to a proficient on-set acting coach, Burke focused his wealth of knowledge and keen eye to become one of L.A.’s premier image consultants and headshot coaches, and creator of the Castable Actor, a series of workshops, seminars, and advice designed to help actors open doors to a successful career.
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