If You Want an Acting Career, Answer This One Question

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Photo Source: Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

There are some actors who are okay with occasionally getting auditions, randomly booking one, and then going another year or so before they book something else. There are others who spin their wheels and spend more and more money getting new headshots and trying different looks and/or gimmicks to get noticed. Some jump from agent to agent if they aren’t getting enough auditions and wonder why nothing seems to work...ever. There’s another group of actors who look at the business as a mathematical game of numbers: go to 100 auditions and eventually get one. Go to another hundred, book another.

I guess that thinking works for some actors but it doesn't really explain the ones who are constantly going out on auditions, continuously booking, and work job after job after job. You know those actors; you see them on television and in film all the time. They might not be “stars,” but they're constantly working. They have what every actor should be striving for: they have careers.

So why are those actors the lucky ones? What secrets are they not telling the rest of the acting community?

There is no book of tips the working actors are keeping away from everyone else, but there is a difference in the way those actors approach the business. By knowing exactly who they are in the eyes of the industry, treating the industry like the business it is, and presenting marketable images the industry is actually buying, those actors not only audition and book on a regular basis, they also create long and lasting careers. One other very important difference between the last group of actors and all the others is that those actors can answer one simple question: “Why should they choose me?”

With casting directors getting 3,000+ submissions per role, hundreds being brought in initially to read for the role, and in some cases even hundreds being brought back for callbacks, it is incredibly important that every actor know why they should be cast over all those other actors reading for the same part. It’s because you’re more talented or have a better look, right? Not quite.

When you arrive for an audition, the waiting room is a virtual sea of actors all there to audition for the same part. One very noticeable thing is that everyone basically looks like just you. Exactly. The CD has sent out a casting notice looking for a specific type: yours. Make sure you are aware of your exact type and know the difference between your type and the type of roles you are right for.

READ: How To Find Your True Type

Besides looking alike, everyone in the room is also dressed exactly alike. If you’re not wearing the same outfit or category uniform the other actors are dressed in, get out of there and change clothes. Otherwise, you are doing yourself a disservice. Not only does everyone look alike and are dressed alike, but everyone in the room is talented enough to have gotten to the audition. They either have a strong resume and background, comprehensive training, or an agent or someone to whom they have already proven their talent.

So if everyone looks alike, dresses alike, and is talented enough to have warranted getting called in for the audition, it comes back to that all-important question: Why should they choose you? What are you bringing to the table the other actors are not? It’s more than talent and it’s more than your look.

The answer to that question falls within your true essence or “brand.” That thing about you that’s so unique, special, and most of all, memorable. That which is exclusively you.

Think about those working actors you see in film and on television. They’ve already figured this out. CDs, directors, producers...they all not only appreciate the talent and professionalism these actors bring to the set, but they’re remembered and brought back time after time for that special thing that they—and only they—bring to every role.

If you truly want to create a long and lasting career, continue to develop and sharpen your talent, work on creating a marketable and castable image, and begin to hone the individual and unique qualities only you can bring to every role you play. Next audition, look out at that sea of talented actors who look just like you and simply yet unequivocally answer the question, “Why should they choose me?”

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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.

Author Headshot
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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