As an actor, especially an actor in Los Angeles, there are literally thousands of options of which courses, classes, workshops, and seminars to attend. One must have an acting coach, and maybe even multiple acting coaches, for different scenarios from technique, to cold-reading, to on-camera, and the list goes on. Outside of an acting coach, there are dialect coaches, life coaches, red-carpet coaches (yes, these exist!), there are people who will help you pick out your best clothing color choices, your best headshots, your best makeup looks, and the list goes on and on and on.
One area that I want to talk about in this month’s Coffee Chat, is branding. When I first started out as an Actor in Los Angeles, I don’t remember hearing about branding, it’s something that’s become popular in the last five or so years. My first acting coach, Ivan Markota (rest in peace), didn’t talk about branding, he spoke of being your best self, always looking like a movie star, it was presentation and professionalism that he was big on.
Now, one could say presentation is similar to branding, and it is, but there’s also a big difference. Presentation is about cleaning up your appearance, making sure you’re putting your best foot forward so to speak, whereas branding is a highly targeted method in which you’re choosing a few key personality traits OR personality traits that people *think* you might have, and then honing those traits into a marketable brand – you.
Is this a helpful tool? Is this something that you should seek out? I believe it can be helpful in a number of ways. It can help in determining if a headshot is working for you or not. Do people describe you in person, the same way that would describe the person you are in your headshot? If not, then there’s a disconnect that needs to be addressed. Are your agents submitting you for roles that you feel are right for you? If not there’s a disconnect that needs to be addressed.
However, I caution you to not OVER brand yourself. What I mean by that, is to be careful not to get too caught up in the whole “what’s my brand” world. I was recently at a networking brunch, with 2 dozen actors, a top agent, a top manager, and an Indie Producer. As we went around the room and introduced ourselves, one girl was nearly in tears over her frustration from what branding experts and exercises were telling her. She did not feel that she was authentically any of the descriptive words that people were giving her to be or become.
For me personally, I feel my career, sort of skidded to a stop a few years back when I became too concerned with branding and marketing myself. I’m a very natural, what you see is what you get, transparent kinda gal. My career in the entertainment world, which started with music (booking bands, promoting clubs, touring), and transitioned into acting and producing, has always had a very spontaneous, in the moment, magical kind of quality to it. Cool things happened. They happened with a regularity that came to feel like my norm. Just before I joined SAG, I was experiencing a very magical period in my career. I ended up getting Taft Hartley’d into the union, and for the next year, I was working as an actor on 2 Emmy award winning television shows at the same time. Doors seemed to be opening all around and I felt like I was on the verge of a really big break. And then, it sort of screeched to a halt, and even felt like it went in reverse.
Now, there can be many contributing factors to that, some in my control and some not, but the one thing that stands out to me when I look back at that period, is that I had become really focused on branding. Did I know my log-line, and my pitch, and my this, and my that, and I was constantly making sure that everything aligned with my brand- in a way that – I became a walking advertisement. See, ‘cause as actors we are the product, and some folks might say, we’re in the business to sell ourselves, to be what the buyer is looking for. And that’s true, but I believe, when your entire focus is on your brand, and how to market yourself, that you can lose the essence, the heart, the artist inside of you. I’m not a classically trained actor, I’m not a triple threat. I’m not a bombshell knockout, and I’m not a super quirky looking person. What I am, is someone with a big heart, and a passion for performing, with an energy and a smile that can be contagious at times, and that’s the gal that had magical moment after magical moment, and found herself working on two Emmy award winning television shows, after only 5 years in Hollywood. That’s the gal, that I’ve been rediscovering, and guess what? The magic is happening again. Just by being ME.
Is it important to know your type, to know your strengths and to present yourself in a way that your strengths line up with your talents? Absolutely. Is it important that your headshot look like you and your online profiles are all up-to-date and consistent? Of course. Just don’t go overboard. Don’t become a walking advertisement. Remember, there is only one you, and you are such a unique individual, that when you truly shine from the heart, and are being completely authentic in any given moment, THAT’s when the magic happens. DO YOU.
*featured photo courtesy of gratisography.com