Branding Can Be Limiting

How can an actor be realistic about their career while still holding onto their big dream?

There are plenty of acting schools, coaches and workshops out there that emphasize how to “brand” yourself as an actor.  There’s no shortage of people (agents, managers, Casting Directors, etc)  ready to put you in a box or label you, which is not necessarily the wrong approach but it can be limiting and I think it’s more important for actors to empower themselves by knowing who they are in the marketplace while still dreaming big!

Sure, if you are in your twenties, you are probably not going to be cast as Lady Macbeth or Henry the IV or as Meryl Streep’s sister or Morgan Freeman’s best friend and the business is certainly full of people who will only see you as your “category”, not unlike the old studio system where the contract players were labeled as “femme fatale” or “swashbuckler” and were limited to playing certain roles.

So how can an actor be realistic about their career while still holding onto their big dream and not feeling limited by their “brand”?

In my workshops I ask actors to make a list of movies and television shows in which they can see themselves being cast. This exercise allows the actor to

-be aware of what is out there (in the marketplace) and
-become clear about where they fit in.
-It is very important for actors to know what’s happening in the business.  I’m not suggesting that one should obsessively pore over the Hollywood Reporter and IMDB – that can actually be counter-productive – but to be business-minded.  An actor should know what shows are currently on TV, who the working feature film Directors are, what films are winning at the various film festivals, etc.

Then, take this knowledge and figure out where you fit in.  Can you see yourself in an arc on Girls or in the next Hunger Games or guest starring on Empire, etc? What shows excite you but are also realistic?!

You and you alone are in charge of which direction you’d like to take your career, so own it and keep moving forward!

 

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Joanna Colbert began her career as a casting director in association with Juliet Taylor on Interview with a Vampire for which she conducted a nationwide search resulting in the discovery of Kirsten Dunst. Colbert then went on to work at Universal Pictures as the Manager of Casting and then Senior Vice President of Casting, overseeing such blockbusters as The Mummy series, American Pie, Meet the Parents, and Bruce Almighty. She formed Joanna Colbert Casting in 2001 and Colbert/Mento Casting in 2006. Her credits include: No Strings Attached, the Step-Up series, Cedar Rapids, The Mummy, Everything Must Go, Hollywoodland and The Good Girl. Colbert is currently producing several projects, including a documentary about casting and its influence on film titled Casting By, a feature film titled Atticus Run, The Black Version tv series and Kate McClafferty’s blog, 356 til 30.

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