Guest Post - Bill Oberst Jr. - Branded in LA

Posted by Richard "RB" Botto

The Stage 32 member base is diverse in both ambition and experience. Many of our members are still looking for their first break. Many, like Bill Oberst Jr., have been working for years. For either group, one thing remains the same: It's always a challenge. You can never rest on your laurels. In our first Stage 32 Blog guest post, Bill speaks about the actor as a product and how branding that product can lead to success. Enjoy. -- RB Check out Bill's Stage 32 profile and his IMDb page.

Branded In LA
Bill Oberst Jr.

Los Angeles is a brutal market for actors. I came here from an east coast stage career. I'd been making my living as an actor for 13 straight years. LA almost broke that streak. Almost....

In 3 years here I've done over 50 film & TV projects. They ain't all gems, but I work. I make a living as an actor. In an industry with a 98% unemployment rate; in the toughest environment in the world for actors; a middle-aged white guy with acne scars and a face only a mother could love is making a living as a film and TV actor.

How? Branding and marketing. Relentless, endless, aggressive, consistent, tenacious branding and marketing.

Because my modest LA success story is considered unusual, I get asked to speak at seminars on this stuff. And I do. I go on and on about using html and upping your IMDb rank and crafting your web presence and blah, blah, blah, but it all boils down to this:

If you are an actor, you are a product (I'm speaking specifically about camera actors here, and even more specifically about being a camera actor in a jungle like LA.) And if you are a product, you'd better know what you are and how to sell it. And make no mistake, you are the one who has to sell it. No one will do it for you. No one. No one cares. That's a hard truth, but the sooner it is learned the better. This is no business for rose-colored glasses. You are in business for yourself.

What is your brand? The camera will tell you if you let it see you - I mean really see you. Michael Caine said the camera is your lover and you had better tell it the truth or it will love someone else. I just wrapped a role opposite the great Robert Loggia, who told me almost exactly the same thing when I asked him the secret of his screen presence. He said "The camera is your Father Confessor. Tell it everything." Don't lie to the camera, and the camera will tell you a secret...it will tell you your best shot at not drowning in the sea of failure that is the norm in our craft...it will tell you who you are in its eyes. The camera will tell you your brand.

Knowing that brand and relentlessly exploiting it is how we get work. My brand is creepy. It's what I do and it's who I am when I am working. All of my marketing and all of my professional energies go into reinforcing that brand. I am "the actor known for an unsettling screen presence." It matters little how much that brand does or not comport with who I am as a human being. I am an entertainer. I have a persona. I know that persona, because I created it. I built it brick by brick. I built it out of necessity. I built it to stay alive in the craft I love. I built it to put groceries on the table in LA. And I thank God that it does.

I'd advise any actor who is thinking of coming to the jungle to do the same. Your brand won't be mine, but you better get comfortable with branding and online marketing. There are no guarantees, but your authentic brand is your best chance. If it works, so will you.

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