Every actor wants to show versatility, but if you’re just starting out or even if you’ve been making your way in the business for years, versatility isn’t always the answer. What’s necessary in the earlier stages of a film and TV career is marketing yourself with a very clear message on who you are and what you’re selling.
Here are some tips on staying on point.
1. Don’t swim upstream. From a marketing standpoint, it’s always a good idea to play your strengths. You want the casting director to know exactly what to do with you. You’ll be making it that much easier for them to call you in.
Seems obvious, but consider the perspective of a young actor who shot with us recently. She initially said she wanted to shoot a “mean girl” scene. She said she kept getting called in for goody-two-shoes roles, and she was concerned that casting was only seeing her as this type. She saw it as a problem. Looking at her, I understood why she was always the good girl. It was absolutely her type! She had a great opportunity to capitalize on her believability as the good girl and to carve out that great niche for herself rather than fight it.
2. Choose marketability over versatility. Conversely, if you show casting too many roles on your reel, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. We had a client shoot several very different scenes with us—from an angry Goth to a sweet country girl. And although she did a great job and nailed each role, one casting director we showed the reel to felt that she still didn’t know what to do with the actor. Too many different types on a reel can be confusing. Remember to focus on a few key roles that you can play. Put yourself in the casting director’s shoes. How would they cast you after viewing your reel?
3. Show them one role “outside of the box.” If you’re set with demo reel footage that shows your “usual” casting, perhaps you’re ready to throw casting a slight curve ball and raise an eyebrow or two. If you’re always the “nice guy,” show them the felonious thug. If you’re always the quirky, funny girl, show them something dramatic. You won’t be confusing them; you’ll be adding interest to your overall body of work.
There’s nothing wrong with helping casting directors stretch their imagination a bit when it comes to showing range on your reel, but don’t fight it if you find yourself playing the same roles over and over. That means you’re doing something right.
Retta Putignano is partner and head writer of Create Your Reel (CYR), the Los Angeles-based demo reel production company, which writes, shoots, and edits custom footage for actor demo reels. Since launching in 2009, CYR has created reels for more than 800 clients. CYR was voted “Best Demo Reel Producer” by the Backstage Readers Choice Awards, and is happy to continue serving Los Angeles talent and the many actors who have flown in from all over the globe to shoot with them. Follow Create Your Reel on Facebook, Twitter @CreateYourReel, and at www.createyourreel.com.
Originally from Chicago, Retta is also an actor, producer, and graduate of the Second City Chicago Conservatory. She has appeared in more than 20 short films and three features. One film earned the Best Drama Award from the Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences. She has been a writing mentor for nine years with the Los Angeles-based non-profit www.WriteGirl.org, and her work has been published for as many years in their award-winning anthologies. Follow Retta on Twitter @RettaPutignano.