Being a working actor requires more than skill and talent. Successful actors market themselves effectively so they can land roles and get casting directors familiar with their body of work. To join these ranks, develop a marketing plan that includes such standards as excellent headshots and a resume -- along with more creative options like postcards and show invitations.
Picture Yourself: Headshots and Resumes
Find a photographer experienced in doing head shots by getting recommendations from fellow actors. Photographer Nina Robinson suggests wearing simple clothing that won't distract from your face and wearing your hair down or in a very simple up-do. "In head shots, you want people to see how you normally look. You don't want to do glamour shots from the 90s. You want people to book you." Your headshot will go with you to every audition and will eventually be seen by casting directors. An effective headshot will also have your resume attached to the back. And so, you'll want to start auditioning for plays and short films, so you can develop your resume. These credits will help you establish a presence in the community -- and might even get the attention of agents and casting directors.
Show Thyself: Demo Reels for Screen Actors
It's not just how you look, it's also how you sound and what you can do with your body and your voice. Screen actors need to show off acting abilities with a great demo reel. Keep your reel short and professional; include your best and most recent work. Develop a demo reel by acting in short films or commercials. A good place to find these opportunities are at colleges and universities with film departments. Work with an editor to put together an effective reel of your best scenes -- keep it simple, a reel should not be longer than two or three minutes. The focus should be on your acting abilities, not scenery or other actors.
Show Thyself: Monologues for Stage Actors
Stage actors audition with monologues that show casting directors their capability. Choose monologues from published dramatic literature that show off your abilities and are age-appropriate. Your monologue says a lot about you and what type of acting choices you make. After your headshot, it is the most important marketing tool a stage actor has as every audition will call for them. San Francisco Bay area casting director Meryl Shaw says, "Look for pieces where the action is going on right now, right here, and where the character has something at stake. Pieces where your character wants something from the scene partner, or is having an in-the-moment discovery are the most dynamic."
Always Auditioning: Be Professional
Audition constantly. Sign up for every audition appropriate for your skill set. Let directors see you and get to know you. You may have to audition for a particular company multiple times before they will hire you. Also, keep in mind you are always auditioning whenever you are around theater professionals. Your professionalism, on and off stage, is an important marketing tool. When you get a job, work hard and keep conflicts to a minimum. Avoid bringing your "personal drama" into the theater. Directors talk to each other and how you behave on one job will affect whether you get another one.
Virtually Speaking: Marketing Online
Register your official union name as a domain website, even if you aren't ready to use it. Also, make sure you are able to get an account with your acting name on social media websites such as IMDb, Twitter and Google+. For your own website, post your headshot, resume, demo reel, comments from critics who have reviewed your work and photos at theater and film events. If you are a good writer, publish a blog or webzine where you talk about work that you are doing. Always be active on social media. And make sure to post your reel to IMDb, and update it as necessary.
Making the Connections: Networking
Be active in your local community. Volunteer to help with special events. This might include serving at an opening night reception, acting as an usher for a play or putting up posters for a local film premiere. Go see other plays, especially on opening night when casting directors, agents, actors, directors and artistic directors are in attendance -- don't be shy, strike up a conversation with these people. Another excellent way to make connections and market yourself as an actor is to find an acting class; if the teacher is worth his salt, he will also have at least some knowledge into the "business of acting," and give you insight into effective marketing strategies.
Getting Creative: Expand Your Marketing
Get creative as a way to reach casting directors. Send out emails that introduce yourself and talk about your recent roles and types. If you get a positive response, send your headshot and resume. Send out one-page notices about upcoming shows that you are in. Create a postcard with your headshot and details about you. Create a one-sheet that has a photo promo, mini bio, recent bookings, quotes and a list of roles you've done. Invite casting agents to your film openings or plays. Join a theater showcase that highlights your acting strengths. Commit to inviting at least 25 casting directors and agents to your performances. Send them your headshot with resume and a short invitation with all the pertinent event information.
- Sears & Switzer: Marketing Your Acting Talent
- Backstage.com: 10 Ways to Market Yourself to Industry Professionals
- Cast It Talent: How to Market Yourself as a Professional Actor
- Backstage: 5 Tips From a Professional Photographer on Posing for Head Shots
- Theatre Bay Area: 10 Tips for Choosing Your Audition Monologue
- Photo Credit IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images