8 Marketing Exercises to Pinpoint What An Actor Can Sell

How is one shampoo different from another?2

How do I know which one I want to buy?

Where do I find the answers to such epic questions? Easy.

The company selling the shampoo TELLS ME.

As an actor, part of your job (as the CEO of your company) is to tell your buyer what you are selling, to differentiate yourself from other actors, and go give them a reason to “buy,” or hire you. Not just because you are talented. You MUST be talented. Beyond that, marketing savvy will help you get that talent HIRED. 

It is wise to take the path of least resistance. What is in front of you? This is what the universe is offering. Why dismiss it? Embrace your strengths rather than struggling against your weaknesses. Last night at Act Now I did several exercises with my clients to help them pinpoint how others see them. How others see us is not always the same as how we see ourselves. But we must know how others see us, how casting directors, producers, writers, and directors see us, in order to know how we are likely to be cast.

Those roles in which you most naturally and effortlessly fit are the roles in which you can most effectively contribute to the production, the audience, and the world. 

You don’t have to be all things to all people! You’ve got to be YOU.

Rather than limiting you, this appraoch will help you get your foot in the door more quickly. Later, you can branch out to other roles, but you will have your niche.

Here are the 8 BEST marketing exercises to pinpoint your niche.

1. Who are your top five competitors? What can you learn from watching them work? Who is casting them? 

2. List your ASSESTS and LIABILITIES. Ie: beauty, sex appeal, business sense, great agent, great cold reading skills, supportive community, age, contacts, etc. 

3. Choose 5 TV shows or films (preferably currently casting) and find out all you can about them. Do your research.

4. One Minute Pitch: You’re in a elevator with Stephen Spielberg. He asks you, so who are you? What do you tell him? 

5. Write a recommendation letter for yourself. List 3 strengths. List 3 things you need to work on. What do you admire most about this person/ What is this person’s best overall quality? 

6. List 10 actors of the same sex that you admire. Now list 3 roles each actor has played, describe the part, not just naming the film, but actually who was the character? Now, list ten roles you feel you could comfortable play, plus their main action.

7. Sit down with a few friends. You sit in on a chair with NO EXPRESSION on your face, silent, and just look forward. Don not interact. Your friends list 3 QUALITIES of your personality (ie: quirky, offbeat, innocent, sexy, reliable, clever, clean-cut, sleazy, elegant). Then they list 3 PROFESSIONS you might be employed in (ie: military, doctor, salesperson, prostitute, mother, policeman, father, nun, priest, movie producer, etc.). The more you can do this one the better. Note what surprises you about the list, and what you expected to see. Pay special attention to anything that is repeated again and again: that is a strong sign about how you will be cast. 

8. With a group of friends (preferably other actors), stand one person at one end of the room, and the rest of the group at the other end. The lone actor walks toward the group, and then back to his/her side of the room. The the group walks toward the lone actor mirroring his/her walk. Each actor gets his/her turn to see him/herself mirrored. What can you learn from the way you walk? What are you presenting? Authority? Femininity? Enthusiasm? This is part of what you bring into the room just by being you? What characters does that lend itself to? 

If you find you still need more help, there are many studios in Los Angeles that offer specific marketing classes. Sam Christiansen is one whose approach I found personally enlightening and profoundly revealing. You can find out more about him in my upcoming interview or on his website. 

“Let every actor achieve outer characterization by using material from his own life and that of others, real or imaginary. But in all this external search, an actor must never lose his own identity.” – Constantine Stanislavski

 * Photo credit to Vanie Poyey 

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Comments (5)

  1. GREAT blog Dufflyn, I truly love all the suggestions and the challenging yet achievable steps. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. PS: What a great pic!

  2. Great post, thanks very much.

  3. The first exercise is one of the best ones, and one of the most avoided too it seems. I’ve found a lot of people seem to want to stick their head in the sand and not look at what their competition is doing, because they want to “figure it out on their own” – that’s nonsense, I say. Look at what they’re doing, find what’s working, and COPY IT. Why go through trial and error when there are people out there who have already spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars doing it for you?

    • Well said! If they want someone “like Johnny Depp” that means they can’t AFFORD Johnny Depp, but if you are similar (and younger) you can make a career for yourself by branding yourself in a way that has worked for others, because clearly there are parts for that type. It is a proven market. The best writers “steal” and of course you are always making it your own because you are a unique human being. Don’t be hung up on TRYING to be original or break the mold, and certainly not on trying to reinvent the business. In the words of Colbie Callait, “You don’t have to try”!

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