As a director I am never happier than when I’m working with people on camera. These people may be from a creative or corporate backgrounds, but surprisingly (as we are all human beings) the questions asked, and the solutions I give, are pretty much the same.
One question I get asked frequently by actors is “Can you give me a monologue?” It’s difficult to say yes, and here’s the reason why.
You – Are you a Brand?
Kelloggs is a brand, Apple, Jaguar and Sony also. But what about you? Tom Cruise has a brand…he has a specific genre of film he works in, a specific (and evolving) look he works with, and if the rumours are true, the rider in his contract stipulates he will film one running scene in every movie.
So, what about you Mr, Mrs or Miss Actor?
Have you given thought to the types of film, theatre or TV projects you want to work on…and why? Do you have skills that you’d like to develop to work towards those particular goals? Or do you see yourself as a more flexible ‘jobbing actor’? BTW for me, the term a ‘jobbing actor’ is a complement and not a pejorative as some people chose to see it. What could possibly be bad about an actor building a body of work by toiling consistently in a job they love? Ronnie Barker freely referred to himself as a ‘jobbing actor’ as do many other higher profile actors.
I digress, either way I am describing an actor, like you, who wishes to have some control over their career and the contents thereof.
Lets get back to that monologue.
Imagine, for this allegorical tale, that we are talking about clothes rather than a script for a showreel or something similar. I am the man in charge of selling you those clothes. I like my customers to be happy with their clothing choices, so they will tell other potential customers about me and my shop.
It’s a Wednesday, just after lunch, (I had a BLT by the way). I’m just wiping my hands when, while my back is turned, someone walks into my shop and stands behind a rack of clothes. Unseen by me, the person asks, in a nondescript voice, “Do you have anything I can wear?”
I think you’ll agree it’s a difficult question to answer – I know nothing about the person. Even knowing how the person identifies only reduces the problem slightly. But let’s say the person is a woman, before I can offer any suggestions, even on a superficial level, I’d at least need to know more about: height, build, age, ethnicity, hair colour etc. All this just to offer an answer that I would base on a stereotype, having no idea of what the woman wants or needs.
This will generally lead to one of two outcomes:
- If I am an honest experienced shopkeeper (which I am), I will give you an honest answer. But given what we said above, it may not be an answer you want, or like.
- If I am a less than honest shopkeeper, I’ll sell you what will get me the most money regardless of what you want or need.
This tale is the same as asking someone else to chose scripts or monologues for your showreel.
It means that you’re unsure who you aspire to be as an actor. Worse, it puts your fate in someone else’s hands and makes you a passenger in your own career.
In such a fickle profession, do you really want to go there?
Actor know thyself!
As I teach in all of my courses, find out who you are as an actor. Define your ‘Brand’ and find out what you have to sell and work with the glorious gifts the Universe gave you. That way, questions about the roles you go for, the classes you take, how you dress, the style of your character shots (not headshots) AND what material you need on my showreel…Will all answer themselves simply by asking one simple question: Does this enhance or distract from what I want as an actor?
Acting on Camera is a hard but beautiful lifestyle. I will always spend time working with people to define their goals, and help in achieving them. BUT I do run a business, so treat this as a business investment and come prepared.
The people who enjoy the career of acting best, know where they fit into ‘the business’ and work to be the best in that area of the business. Spend some time, hard as it is, to think of yourself from a business perspective, regard yourself as a brand, take control and invest wisely.
I hope this short post will offer some proactive thoughts and those thoughts will move you closer to your creative goals.
Thank you for reading this far. Drop by again and keep in touch.
Written by Mark Alexander Todd
Writer/Director & Filmmaker at Pocket Pictures Ltd.