We all have a “special skills” section on our résumé that maybe two casting directors ever have asked about. I’ve been very fortunate to turn my “special skill” into the thing that books me the majority of my commercial and print work but it did not happen instantaneously.
Rather, I spent as much time honing my skills as a yoga practitioner and teacher as I did in conservatory and film school. My journey to making my special skills lucrative started when I turned a few of them into my side hustle survival job. I knew that working in the restaurant industry wasn’t sustainable for me so I took something I was passionate about—wellness—melded it with something I was good at—standing in front of large groups of people and holding space—and transformed it into work that pays the bills without slowly draining my heart of everything good and pure.
If you have on-camera skills, they’re transferable across any scene you have to play, whether that scene is the climax of a movie or selling deodorant while balancing upside down. Knowing how to be on-camera will give you a huge advantage over anyone who is only an expert. So if you’re looking to capitalize on your special talents, book more commercial work, and feel confident submitting for roles that require special skills, follow these three key pieces of advice.
Like anything that is part of your artistry, you’ve got to dedicate time and consistency to maintain and improve your skill level. A dancer continues to take dance class; a singer continues to see their vocal coach; you should continue to hone that special skill of yours so when the time comes, your performance is camera-ready.
Work with experts who devote their lives to your skill, whether it’s clowning, juggling, contortion, kazoo playing—practice. If your special skill isn’t at the expert or advanced level yet and it’s something you are passionate about pursuing or turning into a lucrative side gig, seek out teachers or masters in the field. Often times, the more advanced your skill level, the more reliable you’ll be in performance. You’ll also have the dexterity to improvise if needed or adjust should any missteps happen.
I’ve also found that on set, my level of expertise goes beyond the normal. Particularly in yoga, it’s not only about only executing asana beautifully, but I often advise on the postures and angels that will look the most appealing on camera. Play around in front of the camera on your phone so you can see the way the camera catches your skill.
Make a reel.
You have a comedic reel. You have a dramatic reel. You have a commercial reel. Especially if your special skills are physical, why not make a reel to highlight it? My yoga and fitness reel contains some of the most visible commercial work I’ve done as a yogi. It shows the advanced level of my practice and emphasizes the caliber of my work.
Particularly if you know you or your representative will submit you for skill-based work, it is imperative that you have something for casting to see.
Don’t have a reel? Take a high-quality video on your phone or camera highlighting your mastery of your skill. Usually, for skill-specific work, casting will want proof of mastery.
Use social media.
Sometimes I really dislike social media. Who wants to be reminded of their ex every time they open up Instagram? No one. But social media is incredibly beneficial in building your brand. Instagram is essentially a highlight reel. I turned my Instagram into a yoga, fitness, and wellness channel where I shout out the articles I’ve written, events I’ve taught, and shoots I’ve done. It’s highly curated content that accentuates my special skills (yoga, fitness, wellness) so that when people look me up, it’s the first thing they see and it makes a strong impression that I’m an expert.
Never underestimate the power of social media. Some of the biggest jobs I have booked were because casting searched Instagram to find highly skilled yoga practitioners. Whatever your skill is, post videos or pictures of you excelling at it. Turn it into a regular part of your social media personality. You can even use that content—if it’s high quality—to send to CDs should they ask for it.
Everyone is an expert in something. If you’ve got a high level of proficiency in a special skill, let it shine. By utilizing the tools above, you can turn your special skills into highly visible and incredibly beneficial assets.
*This post was originally published on Aug. 16, 2018. It has since been updated.
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