What's My Casting Type?
Updated: 4 days ago
As soon as you start thinking about producing your own 'showreel from scratch', we think one of the first things you need to decide is: What's my casting type?
I've had numerous conversations that went something like "I always get cast as...", with an added hint of frustration - fortunately for anyone who is complaining about always getting cast as someone means they are working regularly! Yes, casting types can be viewed as a somewhat restricting label for an actor, but if you're just starting out and want to take your career seriously and work consistently, I think it's vitally important that you know what your natural casting type is, because it will greatly inform what roles you're more likely to succeed in securing. So if you're thinking of producing a 'showreel from scratch', the first thing you need to do is understand how people view you and where they would 'put' you. The result will likely be your natural casting type, and my recommendation is to make sure this footage is up front and first in your showreel - casting directors and agents want to see YOU, after all.
How do I know what my casting type is?
Perhaps the easiest way of finding out what your casting type is, would be to ask friends and family how they view you. What sort of personality do you have? Are you bubbly? Quiet? Thoughtful? Extroverted? Writing up and listing the replies you get would hopefully give you a good sense of your natural casting type - think of it like a dating profile but less embarrassing. I must stress that the info you get back doesn't necessarily dictate the roles you're only ever going to get as your casting type will change, but if you want to work, you've got to take advantage what you have and what sets you apart from someone else. Once you start to work regularly, then you can branch out and try different things, but all the successful actors I know work regularly in the same sort of roles. These can be viewed as stereotyping, yes, but most of the industry works this way - not only in low-budget, student, independent film, but also for secondary characters in larger productions (we want to know who they are quickly without much need for backstory). It's best to accept that it's how the casting process works and learn to take advantage of it. As a producer of my own content, I am often looking for an 'easy' casting as I want to know that someone can do the role without much work - call me lazy! But I don't have the budget to spend weeks and weeks in rehearsals trying to get someone to do a role they're not naturally suitable for. The best performances are always the ones I didn't have to do much directing.
I know my casting type but what to branch out
This is where a range of footage in your showreel comes in useful. Once you've established your natural casting type (i.e. what types of roles you're more likely to get) then you can think about branching out and demonstrating your acting ability through range. I appreciate watching a reel that starts off with a clear and precise presentation on the actor in question and their natural-self, but then goes further to offer something different - because repeating the same character over and over in your showreel may actually harm your chances of getting cast. Often I suggest making sure we 'do something different' with the character which will give my client an opportunity to demonstrate their range-ability. By demonstrating range you also demonstrate that you can act outside your casting type, which is also a great skill to have (perhaps later down the line) as it opens you up to a range of different roles. Watching a showreel that has someone playing the sarcastic housemate, but then the distraught son, followed by an angry car driver, demonstrates a whole range of characters and situations. If done well, this will show a casting director that you probably have the ability to take direction on set if needed - making you more hireable!
Would you consider demonstrating a variety of accents?
An accent is probably the first thing someone is going to notice and use to judge your casting type. I predict that a fair amount of people are going to disagree with me, but sorry, it's true. Accents bring with them a whole history of stereotypes, characters and general impressions that we may not be able to get away from. Often I will suggest to use what you have available and 'own it' as this is going to separate you from the rest of the pack. I naturally have an Essex accent, and whilst I've lived in Brighton for almost 10 years (at the time of writing) it's still there and so I can amp it up or soften it when required. It would be harder for me to put on a 'posh' or 'well-educated' accent, but that's not to say with some work that I could do it. If you want to work consistently, your accent needs to be spot on. If your attempt at an American accent is off, even by 1%, the audience will be able to tell and you probably won't get cast in the role - with so many actors around now, the casting director will likely look for a native American first if they're available. My advice is the same as before, if you want to work consistently as an actor, you've got to work with what you've got. You can either 'up it' or 'dampen' it, but know your accent and what connotations it may have with an audience and use it to your advantage.
Be ready to take direction
Just because you've been hired in a role you feel comfortable in, i.e. your casting type, don't neglect to do the necessary script and work on the character to make them feel unique. If you can bring yourself to the role, great, but your showreel will suffer if you're always doing the same character. Try to treat each role as something new to discover - the producers will probably prefer something unique as well. This is a difficult one again because you've probably been hired because they've seen something in you they feel is in the character written, but from my own experience, whilst I want the actor to 'bring themselves' to the role, I also want to create something new and fresh, so often I'll chuck in a bit of direction to keep the actor on their toes. I recently had an actor say "but I don't think my character would do that", which in hindsight you could argue is good because it suggests the actor knows their character, but you have to be careful with this attitude because it means you're going to fall back on what 'you know' rather than finding something new. It will result in the same performance over and over, which most filmmakers will want to avoid.
Lastly, don't be scared of your natural casting type
Working on your acting-ability is paramount if you want to have a successful career, but if you look at your favourite actors, you'll likely be able to describe them and who they are in 2 or 3 words. This is their 'casting type', and I guarantee they use it to their advantage. Successful actors know how the audience are going to judge them, and this is what casting directors look for when casting roles (I often mean the secondary roles, unless you're already an a-lister!). They want a 'quick in' for the audience, and casting type is that key. Know how people view you, and how you come across to people you've just met. Encouraging this will help you carve a place for yourself in the industry. If you don't know your casting type you're probably going to apply for roles you are not suitable for and then start to think why you're not getting anywhere. If this is you, perhaps consider re-evaluating your casting type and make sure you know what it is.
If you agree or disagree with any of my points, I'd love to hear from you. Tweet us @DHshowreels with your suggestions!