Unique Selling Point Part 1: Doing the job

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.

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.

Lee Lomas, headshots

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.

Coming next

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.


Recent posts from Lomas Approach to Acting

Auditioning Part One: Getting it ‘Right’

“I just want to make sure I get it right!” The audition process can be a terrifying experience for most actors, especially those new to the industry or those who haven’t booked a job for a while. Here I hope to alleviate some of that pressure and make auditioning something to enjoy. Before I delve […]

Objectives: If you’re excited so are we

Finding an objective is one of the most, if not the most, important aspect of preparation for an actor. Regardless of the approach/philosophy or practice, finding the character’s objective is paramount for understanding the text and enabling yourself to “step into” the shoes of the character. So why does it still trip so many actors […]

Auditioning Part One: Getting it ‘Right’

“I just want to make sure I get it right!”

The audition process can be a terrifying experience for most actors, especially those new to the industry or those who haven’t booked a job for a while. Here I hope to alleviate some of that pressure and make auditioning something to enjoy.

Before I delve into this from a creative point of view I think it’s important for me to acknowledge that this issue is as much a human problem as it is an actors’ problem. Unfortunately the fear of getting it ‘right’ comes from a place of insecurity, a need to please and to seek validation from external sources. When you realise that you don’t need the approval of others, your work – and life – will flourish.

In approaching your audition from the point of view of “what do they want?”, you are no longer approaching the material with wonder and curiosity, you’re approaching it from a place of “what can I do so that they will like me” and suddenly your creative process becomes a task of pleasing a stranger, creating stress and anxiety – neither particularly great for auditioning.

One of the main reasons that this way of doing things is completely flawed is because you literally have no idea who you are trying to please – it’s all based on your own assumption “I hope they will like it and cast me.”

Who are “they” anyway? 

It isn’t just one person. The decision will be determined by Casting Assistant, Casting Director, Director, Writer, Producer, Exec Producers. So which “they” are you tailoring your performance for? Whose interpretation of the work are you trying to get “right”? 

Can you see how impossible this all is? It’s madness.

So let’s have a look at getting it right in a healthy way.

Serve the scene

As discussed in my last blog on objectives the character wants something. It is your job to try and achieve that objective, truthfully and with courage, thus pushing the narrative along and creating the illusion of character. 

If you are in line with the character’s objective and your decisions within the scene are in service of that goal then any creative choices you make can’t be wrong on a technical level. It then becomes a question of preference and how the writer/director “sees” the character. Trying to guess that is like having one of those late night conversations on how the world came to be – frustrating and pointless.

Make a bold choice

Now unfortunately there are, in life, always going to be people who make stupid choices and call them bold and, worse still, there are always going to be directors/tutors who tell you to make a bold choice and allow you to make a stupid one and congratulate you for making a tit of yourself in service of your “fearlessness”… But we’ll try and overlook that and actually give some sense to the meaning of a bold choice.

Remember this: the text is doing ONE job. YOU are doing another. If you remember this very simple truth you will more often than not make an interesting choice. 

Any person/actor with an average level of intelligence can interpret a scene and identify what tactics the character is using, eg: provoking, pushing, being direct.

Therefore you can hand that script to anybody (within reason) and have them read it out loud and we will see the character being, on some level, provocative, pushy, direct.

Ask yourself this, if anybody can do it, why would you?

Offer something new to the scene. You can always play the text, playing the text is easy, the work’s already been done for you and if the director wants to see the simple read then trust yourself to give it to them.

(I will elaborate on how to make a bold choice in Part 2 of this series.)

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Seneca

Everything in life is preparation, prepare your script in a way that is in line with the writer’s intention whilst offering something new and I guarantee 9/10 you will have a great audition.