Dear grasshopper, many of our tribe members experienced a world-view shifting “aha” moment when I mentioned that you have to be in the “You Business.”
Here’s what I mean. You’re not an actor, you’re a product. This is the way the industry sees you, and since they make the decisions on whether or not you are a working actor, it’s best that you start looking at things from their perspective.
When you do this you open your mind to all kinds of things, that you would have otherwise been blind to. When you think of a successful product, in any market, what made it succeed was that it filled a market need by solving a problem. This is true from food products, to cars, and yes even actors.
So if you are a product, and all successful products fill a market need and solve problems, wouldn’t it make sense that you consider what problem you’re solving.
You have to solve a problem the industry has and fill a need in the market if you want to be successful in the industry. You do this by being different. If you look around an audition room and fit right in, you’re in big trouble.
This is why child actors tend to go from 0 to 100. Yes, the Disney machine is a wonderful thing but the real reason that they can take off like wildfire is that “tweens” who can act well, fill a market need that always exists.
So, what market need are you filling?
If you can’t come up with an answer to that, then again, you’re in big trouble.
The secret to success is to start with your unique angle and differentiator in mind.
Remember Awkwafina, the Asian female rapper costarring in the upcoming Ocean’s 8, alongside a star-studded cast? This is a great example of differentiator and unique angle.
Pitbull was one of the first guys to rap in a finely tailored suit, instead of Nike’s, and he rode that wave to become a worldwide phenomenon.
Matthew McConoughey became the go to guy to play the trusty, home grown fella because of his obvious, yet fitting southern drawl.
Kristin Bell’s career skyrocketed when she positioned herself as the only 20 something in the industry that could play a mature, 16 year old convincingly. In early interviews she says this with some dejection, because she truly wanted to play roles with more depth. This is what “paying your dues” really means.
Most people take that to be some badge of honor that is earned by moonlighting as an actor (instead of the other way around) and clinging to roles as an extra for 12 years, hoping that something falls in your lap. That’s not what it’s about.
Paying your dues is about being patient and playing the long game.
When you go down this road of becoming an industry of your own, realize that it’s not going to happen overnight. Realize that it will take some effort on your part, though there are certainly shortcuts to success.
Right now, I want you to pull out a notepad (or open the memo app in your iPhone) and brainstorm what you want your angle to be. What will make you different and what need will you fill in the marketplace?
A great way to come up with this, is to list all of the special skills you have or skills that you can acquire.
Can you play guitar and do you have a knack for doing comedic song parodies? This was a big part of launching Adam Sandler.
Did you do Karate as a kid? Brushing up on your moves might also give you a great differentiator. Piper Perabo used this angle to resurrect her career with the hit show, Covert Affairs.
Can you pull off impersonations like no one else? Think about that one for a second.
The only thing keeping Alec Baldwin relevant in the industry, is his impersonation of The President.
Also, remember that Tina Fey was kept top of mind for years with her impersonation of Sarah Palin on SNL. As you think of this, it doesn’t have to be a political figure (that’s just an easy one). A great Cosby impersonation might serve you well these days, for example.
A little known secret about the inner workings of the industry is that, even though Hollywood is considered to be the world leader in entertainment, we actually borrow a great deal of our content from overseas.
Mark Burnett has built a fantastic career by simply taking what is working around the world, and adapting it in the US, which in turn gets distributed back across the world but that’s a subject for another post.
Looking to other markets to see what’s catching on, is a great way to stay ahead of the curve. Chances are, if the current European pop culture craze was teenage vampires adapted from an existing book series, it would be pretty safe to assume an American version was imminent.
Once you figure out what your unique angle will be, then you have to become “that girl” or “that guy” that is synonymous with your angle.
Think of it like this: The Fat Jewish is basically a male Yenta. He’s unhinged and has a big mouth, with no filter whatsoever.
For anyone who has succeeded in creating an industry of their own, you could describe their unique angle to someone and they would instantly know who you were referring to.
It might go something like this: Who’s that big guy that says whatever he wants all over Instagram, has no filter and weird hair? “The Fat Jewish!”
Your unique angle should have the same effect. This is how you build an industry of one for yourself even if no one has heard of you yet. The trick to it is to get in front of as many people as possible and give them something they can’t forget.
There’s two ways to go about this. The hard way is to hope that someone finds you and likes you, then tells their friends about you, so on and so forth.
The smart way to do it is by design. Get the scoop on that here.
See, in order to be a part of the conversation, you have to start one and this is the way to do it. So come up with your unique angle and then put yourself and your angle in front of as many people as possible.
Doing this is what insulates you from the ups and downs and uncertainty that comes with being in the industry.
If you already have all of the stability you crave and have your next year of work lined up, then good keep at it!
If that’s what you crave, then go here now and get the details.
See you at the top,