To be clear, I WOULD cast Mariah Carey in anything. Ever. Mariah, get your people to call my people.
We all have types, whether it’s romantically or in terms of our business and/or personal branding. As actors, we must know our types! In fact, we should know them prior to even going in for our headshots, as knowing our “type” will inform our looks that we bring to that particular appointment. Basically, you need to know how to stereotype yourself.
Typing Yourself Out
Hear me out - stereotyping or generalizing other folks is not a normal, everyday practice we should partake in, though I would argue it’s human nature to judge others; doesn’t make it right, but it doesn’t make it untrue, either! That being said, in the acting world - particularly in the film acting world - stereotyping is a good thing. Knowing your type means that you know your brand, and that only helps you play to your strengths.
How to Lean Into Your Look
For example: if you frequently get cast as The Girl Next Door or The Jock, those are character archetypes that you should lean into. Bring outfits to your future headshot appointment that fit whatever your brand is. I often go out for Girl Next Door, Hipster, or Mean Girl roles. If I’m going to a headshot appointment and have booked three looks, I would bring one “main” look that could be dressed up or down with accessories - so, a brightly colored shirt that brings out my eyes that I can add hipster glasses on to (be sure to buy cheap, fake glasses that you can pop the lenses out of!). That way, I’ll get a “normal” headshot and a headshot with my “look” or “brand” in it. In fact, in some headshots I took a few years ago, I’m wearing a bright blue shirt that I bought just for the occasion (I kept the tags on and returned it!) and a leather jacket, so I would have a headshot for a “Mean Girl” character.
To nail down your type, start talking to your teachers, coaches, and fellow actors. Ask what they think your type is. There is legend of a class in Los Angeles, where, on the first day, the actors sit in a circle, and write down the type of each of the other actors. They are told to be brutally honest. While it may be hard to hear what your type is, trust me when I tell you that it will only help your acting career. Knowing is half the battle. The other half is leaning in.
My husband worked as a commercial talent agent in 2016. I remember one day, he came home and said to me, “I just heard that we shouldn’t even look at submissions or actors’ profiles, unless they have demo reels.” I was surprised, but not by much - it makes sense. After all, how is a casting director supposed to glean your acting chops based on headshots and resumes alone? Demo reels are key to showcasing your abilities and are an industry standard.
Creating a Demo Reel Out of Thin Air
The number one question my students ask me when I relay the above story to them is, “How can I post or send a demo reel to an agent, manager, or CD if I’ve never performed and am just getting started in the industry?” The answer is simple: DIY-it! But doing-it-yourself doesn’t mean to do it unprofessionally. There are plenty of talent development studios - like Studio 27, for example - that offer services like audition taping and/or demo reel filming as well as offering a demo reel class. As long as you vet the studio and coaches beforehand, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to take a class in something like how to make an excellent demo reel.
All that said, if you’re looking to just go ahead and shoot your demo reel, then make sure you prep beforehand! Prepare two scenes - one dramatic, one comedic - and two monologues (same for the monologues as the scenes, meaning, prepare one dramatic monologue and one comedic monologue). That way, you’ll have plenty of material to choose from when editing. Make sure that all of the scenes and monologues come from film or television shows.
A Good Reading
Be sure that you also choose an excellent reader. If your reader is also an actor, even better - just make sure that they don’t upstage you. However, a good reader should know never to do that, especially when they’re shooting another actor’s demo reel! A well-trained instructor would likely be your best bet.
After all that, you should be able to edit your demo reel scenes in free, simple-to-use software, like iMovie - or, you can use Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro X, if you’re feeling especially fancy. iMovie works just fine, though!
Interested in having your demo reel critiqued or just have one you really want to show off? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us more!
As a writer with over 11 years of professional experience, and over 16 years in the theatre/film world(s) with college degrees in both areas, I've read and studied countless articles and textbooks on how to be an actor. The aforementioned documents would offer similar pieces of advice, but one point that was confusing to me for a long time was how I should spend my hard-earned money and what I should spend it on.
Without beating around the bush, the answer to this question that actors often ask is a simple one: headshots, acting classes, and online submission portals. So, technically, you're paying for more than three things, though I promise that I'm not trying to be click bait-y with my title! It truly is fairly simple - I'll explain below:
I mentioned this in a previous post, and you will hear it time and time again as an actor: you. need. good. headshots. The key to getting a great headshot is finding a headshot photographer, i.e., one that specializes in actors' headshots! It sounds easier than it is. Our actors often use Jason Vail Photography in Atlanta, Michael Justice in Buckhead, or Mike Colletta. These photographers are, of course, all local to Atlanta and/or the surrounding area - and they know how to take actors' headshots! Make sure that you're bringing enough look options to your headshot appointment, and lean into whatever your brand is - are you a nerdy hipster? A conventionally attractive model-type? An alpha jock? Whatever your look, bring options! A good headshot photographer will know how to help you choose the best outfit for your photos.
#2. Acting Classes
I know what you're thinking: we were bound to suggest this. You would be correct - it certainly makes sense that we would promote our acting classes on our own blog! However, I will say this: wherever you take acting classes to truly hone your craft, whether at Studio27 or elsewhere, make sure you properly vet your teachers or coaches and the talent development studio itself by reading reviews and/or by asking around. Have your friends and family heard of the studio? What is the studio's reputation? Do your research before spending the dough. It is, however, imperative that you do eventually settle on a studio to call your acting home - constantly and consistently educating yourself is important in any field, and acting is no exception! You will need to find a training facility to match your needs and to help you focus on your goals.
#3. Industry Boards
In Atlanta, you will need to sign up for three main services: actors access, 800casting, and Casting Networks. They all cost money (you save money by paying an annual fee), but you may be able to work around some of those fees, if not all, if you already have an agent or manager. Some, if not all, also have a convenient month-to-month payment option! The great part about paying for the premium services, even if you don't have an agent or manager, is that you can self-submit on projects - and no one works harder for you than you (or at least, that's how it should be!).
What other acting services have you paid for that you found valuable? Let us know in the comments!
Hi. I’m Anna. I’m a coach at Studio27 in Tyrone, GA, owner/co-owner of three companies, and a freelance writer and producer - and I have been on both sides of the casting table. There are plenty of articles by casting directors, agents, and managers about what you should be bringing to the audition, and probably plenty more by folks like me, who were actors, yet focus primarily on being behind the camera now.
Doing your research and reading articles like the aforementioned is key to your growth as an actor. So, read on to discover how my experience in casting microbudget films helped broaden my own knowledge as an actor, and gave me one more tool in my acting toolbox!
Your Competition Numbers in the Thousands…
...or, at the very least, in the hundreds. For one role that I cast - a single role - I had to wade through over 600 submissions on LA Casting. SIX. HUNDRED. And I can tell you right now, while the role wasn’t necessarily cast off of headshots, if an actor didn’t send me a good headshot, I more than likely skipped over their profile entirely. Time is money! And once a script is locked, there is generally a timeframe in which you need to cast - and that timeframe is usually ASAP.
One interesting thing I’ve noticed in Atlanta vs. Los Angeles is that more time is spent on casting in Atlanta - the auditions I’ve gotten in Atlanta will often have one-week turnarounds if they’re video-taped (and they often are), or 2 - 3 days before I need to show up at the casting office! In LA, that’s pretty rare - usually, it’s next day. That being said, here’s the main takeaway: get. some good. headshots. Please! Joanna Degeneres in Los Angeles is one of my personal favs, and Studio27 has plenty of info on local headshot photographers - give us a call to find out more!
But You’re Like, Really, Really Attractive…
...and that’s totally great and all, but so are thousands of other actors. In casting, it’s not always about looks or even talent, but it is always about who is right for the role. Part of being “right” for a part does mean that casting directors are looking at your personality - do you act professionally in-person and/or during your self-tape? Are you kind to everyone in the audition room, including the PA and others actors? People don’t want to work with divas, unless you’ve earned that divahood (or have the numbers to back it up).
Another thing: looks are great and all, and can certainly get you some roles, but what I noticed during my time in LA was that having some more unique features makes you more bankable. Model looks are a dime-a-dozen in Los Angeles - it’s the City of Angels, after all - so lean hard into whatever makes you unique, looks-wise.
Seriously, don’t be rude.
I was running an in-person audition one time with an actor that looked perfect for the part. I started off by asking her fairly mundane questions about her day, what she did as a side hustle, etc., and she interrupted me to say, “Can we just get going?” Guess what? Her headshot and resume got thrown out. You will not get ahead in this business by being rude - particularly to someone in a position of authority, whatever that may look like - especially when you’re just starting out! If you’re going to cop an attitude the second you walk into an audition, why are you there?
Casting directors are human beings, too - if you mess up, if you act grumpy, then just apologize for it and explain. I’m not saying make excuses - there’s a difference between an explanation and a defense!
Have you sat behind the casting table and are a professional in the industry? We’d love to hear your insight! Let us know by messaging us below or commenting!
Studio27 is a Tyrone-based acting studio on the outskirts of Atlanta and Peachtree City with nightly classes for all ages, from 5-year-olds to 100+year-olds at all levels. Literally. We’re not kidding. Contact us today for more info on how to nurture or get your acting career started!