Kevin E. West

Acting Career Coaching: You are a Product!

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What do you mean I'm a "product?" I'm more than that. I'm a person... an actor. Here let me show you...

You Are a Product...

For sale.

Yes, you are.

If you have decided you want to make money as an actor, get hired as a performer and be paid for it, then you are officially a product.

On a shelf waiting to be pulled and placed in a cart and ready for check-out.

So let me break this down a little more clearly with some context.

And this is the part of Hollywood that has just never bothered me.

I’ve said it before.

I’m a commodity and I learned this long before I came to Hollywood. I learned it in a smaller market. — and just because it was smaller didn’t mean I was going to book every “male” role that came in to my agent.

Not at all.

Sure my rep might have submitted me to a few more categories just to see how I’d be received, but I wasn’t right for everything.

The bottom line is, if you’re auditioning for “on camera” or “on stage,” then the reality is your body — your physical being — is a huge part of the equation and it makes up your product.

And this exactly how I want you to look at yourself because you’re a product for sale.

You just happen to be a person.

Admit it. We get caught up being frustrated by this business, by stereotypes and by being judged by what we look like.

Well, I’m being really sincere with you when I tell you that if you’re going to be frustrated, depressed or upset by the fact that casting wants  “40’s, very athletic” and you are “40’s, athletic,” then you might be overestimating your type or fundamentally don’t understand the difference on the two samples above.

The cold, hard reality is that the old cliche: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is now something a little different for Hollywood. 

“Casting is in the eye of the employer.”

And I’m not even talking about the casting director.

I’m talking about the directors of films.

I’m talking about the producers and show runners in television.

I’m talking about the ad agency and the client in commercials, the people paying the freight.

You don’t get to decide whether or not you’re the physical type that they want in their show. That’s their right. 

You may be “leading actor” to someone else, but you may not be “leading” in for whatever show/episode you’re auditioning.

Sure, people back home may think you’re really pretty but people out here, the decision-makers, they have a different opinion.

That’s part of the problem with Hollywood is. Somebody may think that you’re a “character look,” but not “character-enough.”

Sigh…

So much of how you’re viewed as a product does come down to your physical exterior — your outside. Conversely, your art, your craft, your talents/skill is what’s on the inside.

That’s the juice.

And it’s what you get a chance to show when you get in the room.

But before we can get into the room, a lot of what gets you called in is your face and your body type. And it’s all relative to the project and its surroundings which you don’t have control of. 

Understand the following: No matter what anybody says to you, you’re always going to be the right type because you’re just the right type.

That doesn’t mean we always need your type.

Read that again.

Now just know that when you look in a full-length mirror, there is somebody in your city that is pretty close to your type. And of course there’s a whole lot more in the larger, more competitive markets.

AND THEY’RE WORKING!!!

There is always somebody that is your type who’s being sought out and who’s actually working.

This is your very simple encouragement.

Yes, you need to take care of yourself, present well and all that sort of stuff. But the bottom line is, I would rather you focus less on what your type is and more on a good headshot, industry knowledge, the castable realities of your type and then make sure you’re damn good actor!

Because when it’s all said and done, what I also want you to know about the product is the following. 

Your essence. 

It’s the center point in your chest. What makes you — you! 

Granted, we all sort of idle at a different pitch. We tend to call it personalities. Some people are more shy, more outspoken, etc.  Your general personality emanates out of you because that’s the center of you — your essence.

I’m not telling you that you can’t stretch artistically. Hell, some actors have won Academy Awards doing that.

For now, the truth of the matter is that in film and television most of the time you’re going to get hired for the stuff where you make us believe you and your character share your natural essence. 

I say it all the time. A really bad guy on a soap opera doesn’t look like a bad guy on a primetime television drama. And neither of those actors/characters may look like the really bad guy in a feature film. 

It’s just different. 

Things get cast differently because of the medium, the tone of the project and the surrounding cast. Once you realize all this, it’s no different. 

For example, how many kinds of burgers are made in the world? Regardless, the foundation of it is still a burger just like the foundation of you is your essence and what you look like. 

But casting is way more than just a face. 

It’s everything. It’s exterior information. It’s the project. It’s the cast. At the end of the day, your job is to make sure that your craft, the juice inside you is awesome, brilliant, fabulous. So that you’re always doing a good job with the show part of show business when you get an opportunity. And that you work on self-promotion beyond your representation to make sure that you create opportunities for you —the product. You need to create product awareness in your marketplace so that they know you’re there and can consider you for auditions. 

But please understand, there are so many factors that are involved in why you get called in on any given day for any given project, that you need not preoccupy yourself with “why” but focus on the process. Get in the cart, get to the checkout stand, get scanned and be on your way. 

And this is why we go on as actors. Hopefully in our lives we understand ourselves well enough to know that, that when we truly find what we think we want, that we actually know that. It’s fulfilling emotionally and spiritually. And at times that comes with the proverbial “booking” phone call. EXCITING!!

But leading up to that, do understand that casting doesn’t see that many people. In fact, like dating, they give themselves a chance to go on a speed date with 15-20 people in an afternoon. Well, if you did that, you would naturally pare it down to two or three that you’d want to see for a second date, which we’d call in this business a callback. That’s what you would naturally do if you did that. And it wouldn’t necessarily always be based on the same type. But there would be some consistent things within that that would be common and similar for each person that you called back. Just as my general philosophy about this profession as a product has always been to make sure I do intelligent promotion and then make sure that when I have an audition that I go in and that I’m as terrific as I can possibly be, because those two things I can control, I cannot control whether or not I get cast, which is why you cannot under any circumstances take casting personally.

You’re a product for sale. You’re unique, you’re wonderful. You’re only like you. But there are a zillion factors as to why we do or don’t need you on a given day.

Remember acting is a wonderful, wonderful art. But the second you think about wanting to have some stardom or success or make some money at it, it becomes a business.