But isn’t USP just typecasting yourself?
When I first introduce the idea of a USP to actors that have just started training with me I can see their brains rattling at the idea of being “typecast” or “put in a box”.
Having a USP isn’t limiting creatively, it’s just being realistic and smart about your strengths and what you have to offer, owning it and using it to book jobs.
Once you’ve created a platform then the versatility will happen naturally.
When you’re still new to the industry or have a sparse CV your potential employers want to know first and foremost that you can actually deliver the goods, that you can do the job.
What I mean by this is the reality of being on set: the time pressure, the technical stuff, hitting marks, who’s who, taking direction, cheating eye lines, drinking a drink at the same time every time or being in danger of ruining a take and pissing the whole crew off.
That is the job, whether you like it or not, so before you get carried away worrying about how versatile you are you need to be able to deliver the basics, time and time again to a high standard, and that’s where the USP helps.
Knowing your strengths – what does your aesthetic say about you?
The casting process starts with a headshot, ALL the casting director has to go off initially is a picture of your face. It BLOWS MY MIND that someone who naturally looks very villainous has their main headshot (or in some cases their only shot) as “trying to come across friendly”.
Why? What are you doing that for?
Yeah great, in real life you’re a top guy, but your face, when neutral SELLS villain, USE that. Get a strong headshot that amplifies that villainous quality and get your arse in the room for the right roles and books jobs! Once you’ve booked a few and have proved that you can. Do. The. Job. Then we can worry about what a lovely guy you are.
Further to this, your spotlight should have 3-5 strong/different headshots, each of them selling something different.
Think about chocolate bars in a shop. You know what you want and they are easy to find. “I want something with caramel.” You choose the bar that quite clearly has caramel in it, you don’t pick up a dairy milk and hope that it might have some caramel in it, or maybe once you take the wrapper off it’ll actually be a caramel bar.
Casting directors know what they’re looking for and they want to be able to find it in a time-efficient way – so make that process easier for them by being clear with what you sell and play to your strengths.
This is tip of the iceberg stuff when discussing USP, I’m going to do some case studies with famous actors to demonstrate this theory. I’ll also cover how you can find your USP and how it can be applied to headshots, showreels, script analysis and approaching castings in future articles.
Thanks for reading.
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