“Casting directors only want me to play inner-city drug addicts and gang members. How do I break out of those roles?”
I thought to myself a moment.
“Do you not enjoy playing those kinds of characters?” I asked.
“They’re fine, but I wish I could get cast for other roles outside of that. I feel stuck right now, like I can’t be as creative or free as I want.”
This conversation took place in a group coaching call I held last year.
As a small business owner who started by shooting business portraits, I actually had a similar feeling of being stuck doing something I didn’t enjoy.
For me, it wasn’t the kinds of roles I was playing, but the type of work I was doing.
Corporate headshot photography was what paid the bills. I did a great job and it came naturally to me, so people were happy with the results and referred me to their friends.
But after some time, I realized I wasn’t passionate about it. What I enjoyed most was the occasional actor headshot I did and the conversations we’d have about their career afterwards.
Seeing actors go from brand new in the industry to booking their first TV or Indie film role was amazing!
Well, after years of feeling stuck, I realized I had to make a choice: continue in something I was not passionate about… or start from the ground up to build a brand I was passionate about (while hiring people who WERE passionate about corporate headshots to keep that part of my business running).
And so began my long journey towards becoming an actor marketing consultant (www.martinbentsen.com).
Nowadays, it feels really good when people ask how I was able to transition from “corporate photographer” to “actor marketing consultant” who has the opportunity to work with lots of actors each month.
I love this question because I feel truly proud of what I’ve created. Rather than just feeling like I “got lucky” with my success, I actually put in the effort to create a brand new business from scratch.
I built a career I really wanted from the ground up and figured out how to get the world to listen to what I had to say.
And that’s what today’s article is about:
How to build a brand you’re proud of… rather than just paying someone or attending a workshop to tell you who the industry thinks you should be.
But before you can create a new brand, you must first know your current brand. If you’re not sure of it, here’s a video where I personally walk you through this process.
Think of your brand as a combination of your Type (your look) and your personality.
If you’re extremely funny, awesome! And if you look like a police officer and often get called in for those roles, that’s perfect!
You could be the “hilarious cop.”
Or if you’re extremely caring and generous, but the industry sees you as a delinquent teenager, perhaps you can be “a caring and generous delinquent teen.”
Sometimes it’s the brands that don’t seem to make sense on the surface that capture the attention of casting directors because they’re different and unique.
But now I’d like you to go a step further.
Let’s take a look at your “type,” which is how the industry sees you.
Do you truly enjoy playing those kinds of characters? For instance, if your type is “delinquent teen” or “drug addict,” do you enjoy it? If so, great!
But if you don’t enjoy those kinds of characters (many actors I’ve worked with don’t like their type), it’s actually possible to change how the industry sees you.
So the final step is to ask yourself, “what kinds of characters would I truly love playing?”
Instead of drug addicts, would you prefer to play fathers? Or teachers? Or detectives?
Once you figure that out, you know the road ahead.
What do you need to do to get the industry to start seeing you differently?
Do you need to change your physique?
Do you need to get contacts and stop wearing glasses?
Do you need to change your hairstyle or the clothing you wear? Or even start speaking with a different voice or accent?
Changing how the industry perceives you is absolutely possible.
But it takes time, effort, and focus.
Many people are unwilling to do what it takes to change the way the world sees them. It took me 2-3 years to change how people perceived me.
The world saw me as a corporate photographer, but I wanted to be seen as an expert who helped actors book more work.
At first, no one was willing to listen. I mean — why would anyone want to listen to me? I’m not even an actor!
But instead of developing imposter syndrome, I kept at it. I didn’t look at all the reasons I wasn’t qualified, but instead asked myself what I could do to become qualified.
I knew that all people really care about in the end is results.
You can have every credential in the world, but if you can’t deliver, no one will pay you.
And you can have zero credentials, but if you constantly get people what they want, you’ll be paid handily. This is why many casting directors care less about your credits and more about how right you are for the role (and how good of an actor you are).
I kept at it, and eventually a few actors started to listen, and some began to see success when they tried my techniques, like my Casting Networks® article How to Start a Relationship With Any Casting Director (Even If You’ve Never Met Them).
Over time, more and more people began to listen to what I had to say, and I started to change the way I was seen.
I didn’t get to where I am by sheer happenstance — It took over two years of concentrated and strategic effort.
It’s not easy, but if you’re truly committed to your acting career, you owe it to yourself to build a brand you’re passionate about.
Because once you do, everything will change.
Are you willing to put in the effort to make it happen?
Martin Bentsen has helped over 6,000 actors with their careers and headshots since 2009. His photography studio City Headshots is ranked #1 on Yelp, and he’s taught marketing to actors at NYU, The New England Theater Conference, and numerous other major venues. Want to start booking more work by thinking strategically? Check out his completely free mini-course called The Practical Performer.