Today's guest blog comes from a long time Stage 32 member, Benson Simmonds. Benson is an award winning actor and acting coach. His contributions on the site have proven invaluable - and a source of inspiration - for many members of the community.
In this entry, Benson discusses identifying your brand as an actor and how to use that brand to strengthen confidence and secure more work.
Let's face it. As actors we all want the same thing - to work! We want the chance to joyously share our talents and we dream of being able to make huge artistic contributions in film, TV and theatre.
But how many actors set specific goals? Do you know exactly WHO YOU ARE as an actor and what specific movies or TV shows you are right for...and why?
If not, you're not alone. I've done guest stars with faces you'd recognize. I'm always amazed that when I speak with these other actors on set, they also don't have a plan. They coast from job to job, being a series regular for a while, etc., but even they don't have huge careers. Why? Because they don't have a specific long-term game plan.
Once you do have a career plan, the more specific you can get about discovering your unique brand, the sooner you'll have the career you've always dreamed of.
It can be a very difficult process and actors can pay hundreds of dollar to experts to help them uncover their unique brand. I recently coached an actor and within a one-hour session, through asking the questions I'm going to share with you (and using my intuition) I was able to help him develop a strong new way to brand himself and his work.
When coming up with your brand, you're searching for something that is unique and yet it is general enough to cover a variety of jobs in film, TV and theater. I'll explain by sharing my process with an actor who came to see me last week. We'll call this actor John.
John came to see me because he really wants to work more, have more auditions and get on with his career. He had already done the exercises in my e-book and wanted to get my help to further develop his brand. John is tall, all American looking with dark hair and a nice guy energy. The first thing I noticed that was unique is his voice. John's voice is a little gruff and sounds blue collar to middle class. He could play a detective or a lawyer with that voice. He wouldn't be the guy who went to all the right schools and became a high-end business lawyer. He'd be the guy who always worked hard, perhaps being the first one in the family to go to college. John also could be an all American family guy, a blue collar to middle class hard working father and husband.
So this is where I began asking him the 3 TOP QUESTIONS to help us discover his unique brand.
What movie and/or directors do you love and (most importantly) WHY?
This is an essential question to ask yourself when developing your brand because it helps you become aware of WHO YOU ARE as an actor and what you relate to most.
John had a diverse list of directors, so we began searching for a common thread. It didn't take long to realize that all of the movies and specific directors John admired shared a common theme. They were all "inspirational stories". They ran the gamut from Christian themed movies to major blockbusters to cool independent films. They all featured lead characters who were struggling against some kind of injustice. We were now able to begin to identify John's brand.
What are the dream roles you'd like to play and why?
When John got very specific about his dream roles, it became clear to me that he identified with the UNDERDOG. He was not attracted to playing characters in a position of power, but rather to the underdog who the audience roots for and who eventually triumphs or at least goes down trying.
What are the roles you have already been cast in and what do all the roles have in common?
John brought in his demo reel. We watched it together and we also reviewed his resume for theater roles, etc. He had also played a "bad guy", but even that "bad guy" was actually a "good guy" who had been wronged and was seeking justice. John had also done a lead in a comedy independent film. We realized that role was also that of an underdog living under the tentacles of an overly domineering mother. The pattern became clear.
After analyzing the answers to these 3 questions, we arrived at the following brand:
John - the likable underdog fighting against injustice (with a sense of humor)
John had been getting auditions for TV detectives and pro bono defense lawyers. This made complete sense as cops and criminal lawyers are definitely underdogs fighting against injustice.
We decided that John needed to portray his brand in his new headshots. I suggested that he get a good detective and lawyer shot. I also suggested that John should share his new brand with his agent and manager so that they would all be on the same page.
Using these 3 simple but powerful questions can help you begin to identify your brand. Ask your other acting friends or teachers for their opinions once you've begun to narrow it down. But when you do discover your brand, it will feel right and it will inspire you to share your brand with others. Your pictures, your reel, your website and all of your communication with producers, casting directors and directors should reflect your new brand.
There is a huge power for you as an actor when you get clarity. Once you determine and begin to focus on your brand, you'll be amazed at how the universe will bring you auditions and roles that fit your brand and begin helping you build your career.
And don't be afraid of limiting yourself. One of the biggest mistakes an actor can make is to think that he/she should not get a specific brand for fear of being typecast. Get smart and don't worry about typecasting. Learn to be the "type" of actor who gets "cast" consistently! You can always expand your range of characters once you have a consistent career. Also, remember that the brand still has a big range within it. The underdog fighting against injustice can be a father fighting to save his family, a cop, a lawyer, a social worker, a character in an action adventure film, a romantic comedy, a crime drama, etc.
So start off 2013 by making a commitment to yourself, your dreams and your career. Take the time to answer these top 3 branding questions and power up your acting career!
Benson Simmonds is an award-winning actor and acting coach. He is the creator of the 90-minute breakthrough audition video MASTER YOUR AUDITION and the successful marketing e-book entitled POWER UP YOUR ACTING CAREER. He has coached hundreds of actors to success in film, TV and theatre.
Benson is available for questions and remarks in the comments section below.