Why Submitting to Everything Isn’t the Best Approach

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When an actor arrives in Los Angeles, New York, or any other large market, they hit the pavement with high hopes and dreams. They also feel that as an actor the world is open to them and they can play every and all kinds of parts. That may be true in the theater, but when talking about film and television, it doesn't quite work that way.

Every actor has a parameter in which they can work. That parameter is set by their look (which dictates type) and personality (which plays a large part in determining their brand). Within that parameter are the specific roles that an actor can realistically and honestly play. Professional actors, actors who build lasting careers, actors who are out there auditioning, booking, and working are the actors who understand this concept.

More importantly, they understand that the film and television industry is a business. While we all have visions of glamor, red carpets, huge paychecks, and paparazzi chasing us down, the truth of the matter is that to succeed as an actor, you too must understand that this is a business and is run like any other successful industry.

READ: The 10 Best Survival Jobs for Actors

Take for example a young actor who just got to L.A. from Nebraska. During college he worked at the local pizza place as a waiter, so he seeks out the survival job that he’s right for today: waiting tables. It’s important to note that he doesn’t apply at Hooters because he’s not exactly the type they hire. He also doesn’t even go into one of the “Old Hollywood” restaurants because he knows all their waiters are older gentlemen who have been there for 50 years. His buddy from acting class told him about a place that hires good looking Midwestern guys that don’t need a ton of experience, so he heads over there. When filling out the application, he doesn’t apply to be CEO or GM—his current skill level, resume, and background don’t support that at this time. He doesn’t even apply for manager. Our young actor also understands that once hired, he’s not going to get the best shifts right away until he proves himself. He applied and got the job that he was right for both physically and experience-wise at this time.

See where I'm going here?

It's the same in the film and television industry. You have to apply for the job that you are right for—today—with your background, resume, and look. Yes, I get the whole “but if they just see me…If I can just get in there…I know I'm wrong for this but I'm going to send my picture and they're going to see how amazing I am, call me in, change their minds about the role, and I get my big break" thought pattern. We’ve all been there.

READ: 5 Tips to Help Determine Your Type

But that’s just not how it works. I hope for each and every one of you that you get one of those magical moments, but in order to begin and continue working as an actor, you must go after it professionally.

If the young actor from Nebraska had applied for the CEO or manager position, do you think he would have been taken seriously? Of course not. Understand that point. If you’re submitting yourself for roles that you’re not right for, you risk not being taken seriously as a professional actor.

There’s nothing more attractive to an agent, casting director, director, or producer than an actor who’s professional, who knows exactly who they are, what they bring to the table, and where they belong in the industry.

Don't just submit to every role you possibly can thinking it's getting your face out there. Do it the right way: define your specific type, develop your unique and special brand, discover the types of roles or categories of roles you’re right for. Then target those roles by submitting yourself for those and only those. Get the reputation of being a professional and not just a wannabe.

Know your type? Check out our short film audition listings!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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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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