On Thursday, the Screen Actors Guild Foundation is producing the grand finale of a four-part series on personal branding. After months of smart people sharing wise words about blogs, social media and other tactics to network with employers (in this case: casting directors, producers, directors and development executives), about 200 people are gathering in the grand auditorium to hear two hours that might be titled: “The Ugly Truth About Your Reputation,” which is not coincidentally the name of my new book, coming this August. No coincidence about my book title, because this audience is coming to hear me talk for two hours. Just me. Two hours. Hmmm.
So, I have been pouring over fresh commentary from the world’s most important people in show business, the decision makers in film, television, stage and online entertainment venues. What I want to pin down is how these moviemakers find lesser-known or unknown actors, select them and give them a career. It’s clear the same rules apply for young managers or college students breaking into business.
What’s the secret to a great audition?
I caught some huge light-bulb moments from Bernard Telsey who cast “The Normal Heart” and “Catch me If You Can, ” Daniel Swee, of Lincoln Center Theater and Jim Carnahan of Roundabout Theater.
Commenting in The New York Times, these casting directors answer this question: “What’s the secret to a great audition?” Their answers are profound for anyone else who is trying to establish a personal brand and find meaningful, well-paying work.
Telsey: “When somebody surprises you and takes you to an emotional place that the material is demanding but you wouldn’t have thought of … it makes you want to be in a room with them longer.”
Swee: “The key to preparing is spending (your) time … figuring out who this character is.”
Carnahan: “One of the biggest traps … is trying to be what we want (you) to be… You’re better off being yourself.”
Spend time, figure out the character
Personal brands: spend time figuring out who you are. Take assessments, indexes, quizzes, or journal, doodle, leaf through paint swatches at Home Depot, and decide what you would do with your first million. Figure out what makes you laugh, cry, feel engaged, gets you excited and keeps you going. Learn to express exactly that, all of it.
Be you so authentically that revealing yourself gives us goose-bumps, our own light bulb moments and leads us to demand that we want to know you better. Make us feel that our organizations, productions or deals won’t be as great as they could be if we fail to get you on-board.
As actors and screenwriters hear from me constantly: I cannot make you better at your craft. I can only make you act and write better in the online and on-ground environments that get you the opportunity to use your skills. Be earnest about improving your skills and relentless about getting visibility for them.
For the rest of us non-theatrically inclined – don’t dismiss what the casting directors are saying. They could easily be the hiring managers or dealmakers you want to connect with. And, you could be the star they are looking for.
Consider every opportunity to communicate an audition for the greatest job you’ll ever have.