Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art
So last post we talked about the idea of - 'Actor Plus' - that most actors start out or continue with a part-time job while pursuing acting opportunities.
But there must be more, right? There must be a way to maximise your chances to get the roles you want.
There is! - and it takes time to create - but not a lot of money.
It's done by building a personal brand online.
For the actor new to industry, it's a competitive marketplace. So what you need to do is have a presence in that marketplace. You can apply for as many auditions as you want - but nowadays, casting directors will ask, what else will you bring to the role besides your skills and training? In other words, will you bring an audience?
The reality is we live in a social media world. Social media, in all its forms, is how we find out what's going on and when and where. Actors can tap into this by building an online presence with followers who will come with you to each role you place. This is seen as credible currency in the industry. These days, if it comes down to a choice between two actors, the actor with more twitter or facebook or Youtube followers is more likely to be selected for the role.
Ultimately, someone has invested in making that film or production and they want to see a return on their investment. So when it comes to selecting an actor to play a role, it's now legitimate to look at that actor's following as part of the overall cash cow. When the actor posts photos from days on set, or memes, or videos of funny moments or interviews and attracts more 'likes', the actor is effectively preparing his or her audience to receive their next project. Producers spend big money on marketing and if an audience is ready-made it takes some of the pressure off. So when a new film, TV show or production is released, the actor's audience is already pumped to dish out the dollars and go see it.
But, I hear you exclaim, I want to be valued for my skills as an actor! I don't want to be caught up in some kind of selling machine! I am an artist!
Well, yes, you are an artist. But you are also part of an industry, and it's helpful to understand how that industry works and some of the drivers. Hence the need for social media.
So here's a few tips on beginning to build your presence and personal brand.
Your website. There are two types of actor websites - fan sites, and sites initiated by the actor (or the actor's agent). It's the second kind you want to build when you're starting out. You can do this for very little money as there are numerous free website-building setups out there (weebly.com, wix.com, etc) and you can just register your domain name as your own name. If your name is a common one, and it's already taken, come up with a URL that's similar to your name but easy to remember. Or use your stage name.
Your social media accounts. You can set up social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on. These are not 'personal' but professional accounts. You may bill them as "Sarah Smith - Actor" or "Actor/Director" or "Entertainer". In Facebook, for instance, you can select an option that puts you as a "Public Figure", for instance. Even though you will be controlling the accounts, you may want to make a distinction between your personal and professional social media.
Then it's about posting content.
The personal brand you communicate through these channels should be genuine - not something fake. That's not to say you have to reveal personal details about your life, or who you're dating or where you live. No. Instead - what's your story? What are you working on right now? How did you come to acting? What are your personal values? What causes do you support? All these things can be incorporated into your your social media feeds, alongside news of any films or theatre productions you are working on. They create a big picture around who you already are.
But what to include? Snapshots from a shoot. A video tour of the set of your current theatre production. A candid chat with someone you're collaborating with. A review of your latest play. A sneak peek of your next costume on a hanger. A selfie with someone you met at a networking event or opening night. And always ask permission to post these if someone else is involved.
The trick with social media is to keep it coming. It's time intensive but won't cost money you don't have when you're starting out. There are also ways to link your accounts and upload to all platforms at once - it's worth looking into those to save time. And ask for likes and clicks. Ask them to come to your shows. Tell people what you want them to do, and those who support you will do it. At first it's going to be family and friends following you, but as you begin appearing in projects, your audience will increase, and your social media is a key asset in maximising your chance to get the roles you want. How many followers do you need to hit the big time? Thousands. There is no magic equation for that viral post that builds a mass audience overnight. But just remember, every actor who got there in the end started with a single click.
Next time: Maximising Your Chances To Become The Actor Of Your Dreams, Part 2: Building Relationships