Whether you are just getting started in the entertainment industry, or you are a seasoned talent with great training and credits on your resume, here are 5 things every actor needs to land theatrical representation.
First, let us simply recognize the sheer number of actors who are competing for roles in today’s market. Prior to the boon of social media, the system for getting oneself on the radars of casting directors was much more physically involved, and because of that process, casting directors might only receive (at most) a few hundred submissions for roles.
Today, with the accessibility of social media and online casting sites, the number of actors competing for roles has increased ten fold. In fact, a client of mine (a producer) recently had three roles to cast in a short film project, and for each role, over 1,000 submissions were received. That’s 3,000+ submissions for a short film project.
This brings up the all-important question and reason for this blurb. How, in today’s industry, does an actor compete? What steps does an actor need to take to become a Most Valuable Talent?
While it is believed by many, if not most, that because of the subjective nature of the entertainment industry, a person’s “looks” are the most important key to success, that simply is not true. Now, more than ever, opportunities are plentiful for all types (and shapes) of talent, from commercials that are almost exclusively seeking “real types”to “character types” that are starring in movies and television series.
There are plenty of additional variables that come into play today, and all one has to do to discredit the stereotype of “beauty” is simply tune into various popular television series, or check out the new movies releasing throughout the year, to see that many of the roles are in fact cast with “real” people. So, stereotypes aside, how does a talent increase their value? Check out the five criteria below.
The most valuable assets, in my opinion, reside under this heading on a talent’s resume. Specifically: improv, scene study, and theater credits. Truth be told, the necessity of training credits tends to be as subjective as our industry (as a whole), and it’s true, there are in fact some agents and managers who don’t put as much thought or weight into this type of asset within today’s market. For me, on the other hand, it is absolutely crucial. Particularly with respect to training, when I see “improv” listed on a talent’s resume, it assures me that they have the resources on-hand to stay on their toes in any casting room, think quickly on their feet, and roll with the punches when necessary. There are many training facilities that offer improv classes, but the best in my opinion include Groundlings, UCB (Upright Citizens’ Brigade), and Second City.
The second (and an equally) valuable asset in today’s market is the ability to communicate in more than one language. Regardless of a talent’s nationality, if I see the phrase “fluent in” listed next to any language other than English (i.e.: Spanish, German, ASL – “American Sign Language”), my interest is immediately piqued. With respect to fluency or even “conversational” ability, the more languages in which a talent can communicate, the more value they have in today’s market. For a multitude of free lessons in many languages (including ASL), check out YouTube, or download a free app called Duo Lingo.
The third most valuable asset in today’s industry is a portfolio of quality photos. These are essentially used as a talent’s introduction, or “business card,” and more often than not, provide the very first impression of a talent’s overall quality and value to get the initial door open for consideration from an agent, manager, or casting director. Realize I said “first impression,” because the truth is, a quality head shot will only get you so far. The other assets listed above are equally important, if not even more so.
I receive dozens of submissions from talent seeking representation on a weekly (and often times, daily) basis, and over the course of one year, that number can reach into the hundreds and even thousands. The talent I take most seriously from the initial submission have not just one or two quality head shots in their portfolio, but a multitude of photos that showcase their ability to play a variety of different characters. One of my clients actually has over twenty different character-specific photos that showcase various types of characters, from a “doctor” to “military” to “law enforcement,” and the list goes on. It is no surprise that this particular client earns a lot of casting opportunities because of the abundance of head shots in their portfolio. If you’re looking for a great head shot photographer referral, reach out to your fellow acting friends, coaches, and classmates, and do some research via social media. There is no shortage of quality photographers in Los Angeles (and other markets), but do your diligence to make sure you’re getting top quality photos for a price that won’t break the bank.
Similar to the need for a diverse portfolio of quality head shots that showcase various characters one can portray, a diverse portfolio of demo clips are also a necessity, and instantly add to any talent’s overall value. In the past, a demo reel was the essential ingredient used to showcase talent’s abilities onscreen, and while a demo reel is still great to have on hand, especially for casting opportunities in film, due to the sheer speed at which roles are generally cast today, particularly in television, individual demo clips are the key to showcasing exactly what a talent can do. For example, if there is a casting opportunity for a role of a doctor, having a demo clip available showcasing oneself playing a doctor on screen or stage will show the casting director exactly what they want to see, and therefore, that talent will likely be a top consideration for an audition. If that same clip of the talent playing a doctor is buried somewhere in a one minute (or longer) demo reel, the casting director doesn’t have the time to watch the entire reel to see the “doctor” clip, and therefore the chances decrease for the talent to be seen and earn an audition. There are numerous resources that charge for producing quality demo scenes for actors, but again, do some research to find the best quality and deal.
SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE
To put it simply, if a talent does not have, at minimum, a Facebook Fan Page and a Twitter Profile in today’s competitive market, they are, without question, living in the Stone Age. The majority of industry relationships in today’s market are developed and solidified via social media, and I can provide many examples of casting opportunities as well as representation opportunities that have been secured because of a talent’s social media presence. A few months ago, I wrote an article specifying the need for social media in an actor’s career, and I encourage you to give it a read by CLICKING HERE.
To recap, here are the five things every actor needs to become an MVT…
- Knowledge of and (preferably) fluency of at least one additional language in addition to English.
- Diverse portfolio of quality head shots.
- Diverse portfolio of quality demo clips.
- Social media presence.
If you have the five things above on hand (and listed on your resume), you will without a doubt earn more casting and representation opportunities.
Matt Prater is the owner of Dedicated Talent Management in Los Angeles, a boutique firm that represents award-winning actors, producers, writers, and directors. Follow @DedicatedTalent on Twitter.