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Tom Burke


Can Clothes Really Book a Job?... Aspects of the Castable Actor

Not only can the right clothes play a part in booking a job, more importantly, the wrong clothes can lose a job for an actor as well.  Think about it. This is a visual medium. When the camera cuts to a character whether in a television show, a movie or especially a commercial, we (the audience) immediately have a sense of who they are and what their role is just by the way they look…their type, age, and the clothes they’re wearing.

The same is true for any actor walking into an audition or a meeting. A casting director, director, agent or manager must be able to look at you or your headshot and know instantly who you are and how and where you fit in. Every type, every category, every marketable role has a certain “uniform” way of dressing that speaks to the viewer eliminating the need for unnecessary exposition.

I have been working with a very lovely actress on her specific marketable image for commercials.  She is in that early forties, mom of teens category. In real life, she has a very cool arty way of dressing. You see her and think “funky” “offbeat” “very hip” “very cool.” Words you don’t necessarily equate with the 40-something mothers portrayed on television…juggling home and career while trying to clean the bathroom and make dinner. And yet, “very hip” “very cool” is how she was dressing to go to auditions. Her reasoning was that her personal style set her apart from the other actresses in her category. Memorable, yes, but not in the way she thought.

Imagine a commercial director looking for the perfect harried housewife and in walks a woman looking, albeit great, like she just came from the Avant-Garde challenge on Project Runway. Without even saying a word, she has either lost the interest of or confused everyone in that room. Why? Because visually, she is not presenting herself in a marketable way…she is not selling, what the industry is buying.


We discussed the “uniform” of women her type in television commercials; layers, little to no skin, denim shirt over pastel tshirts, khakis or nondescript slacks, and loafers or flats…basic mom clothes.  She proudly came to our next meeting with armloads of new clothes: a little denim dress cut high above the knee, beautiful high-end designer blouses in pastel colors, and the most kick-ass high-heeled loafers that make you wonder how the hell does she walk in those things and who cares ‘cause they are “fabulous!” Mothers portrayed in television commercials wear basic mom clothes…the kind you find at Target or JCPenny…nothing with designer labels or expensive fabrics from high-end stores. I told her, that in her everyday life she can wear whatever she wants, but when she is going up for a “mom” role, it’s Target or JCPenny. She was crushed…and then she asked the question that every actor I work with poses: 

“If I’m supposed to look and dress like everyone else, how am I going to stand apart and be noticed?”

My answer: The star quarterback wears the exact same uniform as the guy on the bench,…what sets them apart? (I know right, Project Runway and sports analogies in one article???) Mainly, it’s talent. You need to bring that which makes you unique or special (talent and branding) to every audition and meeting within the parameters of your category. What does that mean? Wear the Uniform. Be You. 

Blow them away with your talent.

Your job as an actor is to study television, movies, and commercials, not only for the current acting styles and trends, but also for the current clothing, hair style, and makeup (women only, please!) trends of your specific type and categories. Start to look at yourself the way the industry sees you.

If you truly want to be castable, you need to know who you are and what you have to offer…and if you want to get on the field and play with the big guys, you MUST wear the uniform. Clothes really can play a part in booking a job.

Dress the part, and you may just be asked to play it!

Tom Burke is an Image Consultant, Headshot Coach and Acting Teacher. After transitioning from a successful print model to an accomplished on-camera actor to a proficient on-set acting coach, Tom fused his wealth of knowledge and keen eye to become one of LA’s premier Image Consultants and Headshot Coaches. He's the creator of The Castable Actor (, a series of workshops, seminars, articles, and advice designed to help actors open doors to a successful career. He is currently teaching the classes Not Just A Pretty Face, All-In-One Headshots Package, and The Castable Actor at Keep it Real Acting Studios in North Hollywood.



The Castable Actor: Keys to get you in the door

So what exactly makes an actor castable? That’s easy, right? It’s an actor who is talented and can act whatever part they are given…uhmm…Not exactly. We all know actors, from classes or work or life, who are not really all that talented. Some don’t even seem to care or want it as much as the rest of us, and yet, they keep getting called in for auditions, and often, they even get booked. What’s up with that?

Simple…talent will always win out in the end (so keep working out those acting muscles in classes and workshops), but just being talented won’t get you in the door.

The Castable Actor is a series of workshops, lectures, one-on-one coaching sessions, and sequence of articles that helps actors acquire the keys to open those doors. Agents, managers, casting directors, and producers need to be able to look at you or your headshot or your reel and know that you are castable before they even decide to bring you in for an audition or meeting. Meaning, they need to know exactly who you are and what they can do with you…they need to know that you are a marketable commodity. After all, this is a business.

The Castable Actor helps actors find their places in the business…who they are and how they fit in. It teaches actors to expand how they view the industry, and most importantly, how to look at themselves the way the industry sees them.

Before we look at some of the castable traits that I explore throughout the course of The Castable Actor, there are three words that you need to etch into your brain: Honest, Realistic, Specific. These terms are extremely important in all aspects of your acting life, but it is especially vital to keep them on the forefront as you try to incorporate into your acting life the aspects of The Castable Actor:

-Knowledge. The actor that is not only castable, but also capable of building a career, is one who understands the business of this industry. Film and TV is so much more than red carpets, premiers, and huge paychecks.  The Castable Actor is one who can pull back the illusion and magic of acting to reveal a job with rules and parameters like any other profession.

-Self –Awareness. Knowing who you are and how you fit in this industry is the first and most important step to becoming castable. I am still amazed that 9 out of 10 actors I work with don’t even know their specific Type. As I always say: “No one is going to get you, til you get you.”

-Marketability. Part of knowing who you are and where you fit in is knowing what jobs or roles that you can be cast in today…not roles you want to do or dream of doing, but understanding and accepting the level you are currently at…this is when those three words (Honest Realistic Specific) play an important part.

-Presentation.  You know who you are, how you fit in, and the roles you can be playing today…now you need to start presenting yourself in that light. This is a visual business…look the part, and you will be asked to act it.

 -Individuality/Branding. When you are sitting in the waiting room with 25 other actors all your same type and marketability, what do you bring unique and special to the role that the others don’t? This is your Brand.

-Packaging. Understanding the importance of Packaging separates the actor who is castable from the part-time “I think I want to act if I don’t really have to do anything” actor. It is bringing everything together in a recognizable, branded, individualized package, including you, your image and presence and all marketing materials: headshots, reel, postcards, website, web series, etc.

-Image Maintenance. Once you figure out who you are, and how to best package your self and your brand, if you want to remain castable, you need to learn how to maintain and alter those aspects, while always staying true to yourself, in an ever-changing industry.

-Flexibility. Being flexible is a great quality of the Castable Actor. Not only do you need to be able to “Yes and…” in the acting arena, you should be as open to changing your image, look, dress, branding, etc. in order to constantly present the best most marketable you.

-Acknowledging Limitations. No, you can’t do everything, no matter what your mother told you, but what you can do is “be you” better than anyone else. Becoming the best at doing what you do within your own limitations not only creates a Castable Actor, it creates a memorable actor.

-Confidence not Cockiness. Confidence is an attractive attribute. A Castable Actor is one who knows who s/he is and more importantly, owns it…warts and all.  Cockiness is just a cover-up for insecurities and no one wants a cocky insecure actor on set.

-Goal Setting. Start thinking about your acting career from today plus five years. Let go of who you were or what you did in the past. That year you booked a couple jobs, or that month your hair looked amazing, sure, they were great, but the Castable Actor is far too busy to stay in the past. Look to where you want to be and set realistic honest and specific goals to get you there.

So there you have a number of the aspects that we will fully explore throughout The Castable Actor; aspects that can help make an actor more marketable, more desirable, ultimately, more castable, I invite you along on the journey, to take a workshop, read the articles, and put the information to work in your own acting life (remember Honest, Realistic, and Specific). Along the way you’ll acquire the keys you need to get in the door…not only for an audition or two, but if you’ve got the talent to back it up, The Castable Actor could lead you through the door to a successful career.


Tom Burke All in One Headshot, Not Just a Pretty Face, The Castable Actor Tom, a working model and actor, teaches seminars and gives lectures on the importance of headshots and discovering an actor’s image. He is currently consulting and coaching at Keep It Real Acting Studios in North Hollywood, CA where he also teaches the exclusive classes: All-In-One Headshots Package, The Castable Actor, and Not Just a Pretty Face.



4 Things Every Actor NEEDS to Figure Out If They Really Want to Work

Seriously…no matter where you are in your career, just starting out or entering a new category…before you have your headshots taken, or retaken…before you meet with an agent, or go into your current agent to discuss why you’re not going out more…before you go to any castings or more importantly, any casting workshops…if you want to work as an actor, you need to know your true image and marketability. In other words, understand who you are and exactly how you “fit” in the industry. BECAUSE…if you don’t “get” you, no one else is going to “get” you either.

You want an agent, a casting director, a director, etc., to look at your headshot or see you work and know exactly who you are and what they can do with you. A generic headshot, a generic performance, an audition in which you’re just trying to be what you think they want, will reap absolutely nothing. And if you think your headshot is going to land on someone’s desk and that they are going to snap you up and start developing you into a star…think again. No one has time for that anymore (unless you’re a breakout Disney tween).

So how exactly does one figure this all out? It’s not an easy process. Most of us have a difficult time exposing our true selves…and yet, it’s our true selves that set us apart from everyone else. In order to discover your true image and marketability, you need to be HONEST, REALISTIC, and SPECIFIC. This is why I strongly suggest actors seek help…and not from your mother, girlfriend, or roommate (they tend to tell us what we want to hear). You need someone who will keep you HONEST, REALISTIC, and SPECIFIC. Casting directors or consultants tend to keep it real…acting teachers are also a great resource since they not only know your work, but also know the business.

There are four steps to figuring out your image and marketability:

1.  Know your Type. It’s very simple: sex, age, physical description, and a couple main personality traits. Write a breakdown for yourself so that if a friend read it, he or she would immediately think of you…remember Honest, Realistic, and Specific.

2.  Know your Brand “Brand” just means what is unique and special about you. Think about it this way…when you’re at an audition and there are 25 actors all looking like you (same type) in the room, what do you bring to the party that they don’t? Be specific. I have dimples. I’m tall. I’m thin. I’m crazy. I have a rubber face. I am shy. I’m sensitive. I’m an excellent cook. I write poetry, etc.  Every aspect about you, both physical and personality-wise, sets you apart from all the others in the room making you unique and special within your type.

3.  Know the roles you can play TODAYNot what are the roles you want to play, or that you played five years ago, but what are the roles you can be cast in today? Watch television, movies, commercials, web series, etc. Look for actors your type, your age, and most importantly, your level of career. (If you are just starting out, you’re not about to be cast as the lead of a film.) Write these roles down, and make note of what those characters are wearing as well as their hair and makeup. If these are indeed the parts you will be auditioning for, you will want to incorporate those looks into your auditioning wardrobe (more on that another time.)

4.  Know what you will bring that is unique and special to each role.  Don’t make this more difficult than it is: take that list of roles that you can be cast in today and next to the role write down what is unique and special about you that you would bring to the role.  A very simple example would be for a role of “Mom.” Don’t try to think what kind of Mom are they looking for? What kind of mom are you in real life? (Even if you don’t have kids…how do you relate to children in your life?) Are you the mom that gets dirty with the kids? Or the mom that organizes everything right down to the last detail?  Playing your reality within the confines of the role will only deepen the character, so bring that “mom” to the audition, and definitely show that true image in your headshot session.

You are unique and special and awesome and amazing and no one can do you better than you. One gem of wisdom I try to impose on every actor I coach is this: You Are Enough. You don’t need to try to be what you think they want you to be, because in reality…they don’t know what they want. All agents, managers, casting directors, and directors want from the moment you walk in the room is an actor who knows who they are (image), knows what they have to offer (talent and marketability),  and who brings something unique and special to each role they play. They are looking for YOU…just make sure that you show up…to your headshot sessions, to workshops, to your meetings, to your auditions.

Now YOU get out there and start booking some jobs!


Tom Burke, working model and actor, teaches seminars and gives lectures on the importance of headshots and discovering an actor’s image. He is currently consulting and coaching at Keep It Real Acting Studios in North Hollywood, CA where he also teaches the exclusive classes: All-In-One Headshots Package and Not Just a Pretty Face



The 5 Worst Headshot Mistakes Actors Make

Why does the thought of taking headshots send so many actors into a state of anxiety?  Is it the fact that the actor’s most important marketing tool needs to look just like them, convey their true essence, create interest and intrigue, all while showing confidence, talent, and marketability?

The problem is that actors never really learn the art of having their headshot taken. It’s a process. And just like learning every other aspect of the business, it gets easier in time. But if you know what you’re doing, not only can you become successful at it, the process can even be enjoyable.

As an image/headshot consultant, I see actors making the same mistakes over and over throughout the process. It doesn’t matter where they are in their careers, the level of their acting abilities, how long they have been doing it, or their age…actors continuously make five of the Worst Mistakes when having their headshots taken. How many are you guilty of?

  1. Not knowing who you are and how you fit in.You would think that every actor knows their type, but it amazes me how “off” most are when asked. If you don’t know who you are or how you fit into the marketplace, how do you expect an agent or casting director to know what to do with you? You as an actor must know your type (physical/emotional/ability), your brand (what is unique and special about you) and your marketability (the roles you can be cast in today)…and you must present all of those specific aspects in your headshots.  If you are unsure, it would be in your best interest to get out there and find out. The way to do that is by asking people…and in people, I don’t mean your mother, or husband, or girlfriend, or even your “bestie” …they have all been programmed to tell us that everything we do is wonderful. People who can help are those who are knowledgeable and who can be truthful; agents, managers, consultants, and acting teachers. Fellow actors you see once a week in classes are also a great source since they know you and your abilities but aren’t actually friends.  Oh by the way, an actor’s type and brand are ever changing…so for you thirty-five year old guys wearing hoodies and that fifty year old woman still rocking “The Rachel”…keep up…life changes.
  2. Picking the wrong photographer. As you all know, there are hundreds of photographers out there.  Anyone can buy a camera and set up a website, but that doesn’t make them a good headshot photographer. Charging huge sums of money also doesn’t guarantee a great shot. Many photographers are more concerned with their own egos and creating their own stylized shots. Those shots only get the photographers more work, not the actor. Recommendations are a great way to find a photographer, although what works for one actor doesn’t always work for every actor. Agents and managers all have a list of preferred photographers, however, you have to ask: When did they last update the list? and Why are they preferred? Far too often, actors give over all control to the photographers thinking they know best. They may know what lens and light to use, but they don’t know you. You must know exactly what you need and want from your headshots before you even meet your first photographer. Find a photographer who “gets” you and understands the importance of bringing out your unique individuality
  3. Not putting in the necessary work.This is by far the number one worst headshot mistake actors make. If you think getting your clothes together, having your haircut, and showing up are all you have to do…then don’t question why your shots look so generic.  Actors put more work into their scene study class then they do into their single most important marketing tool. When I work with actors, I have them fill out worksheets in order to identify their type, brand and marketability. We then translate those aspects into specific headshot looks or set-ups unique to each actor and the roles s/he can or should play. But the work doesn’t stop there. The entire headshot session should be treated like an audition or acting job with each look or set-up as specific scenes. Next I coach actors in the art of connecting with the camera while creating interest and intrigue within each specific scene…oh, and do all this while looking comfortable, confident, and exactly like you on a good day. All this prep work must be done before the actor even shows up to the photographer’s studio! Remember, we are talking about your career. Are you willing to put the work into getting amazing headshots, or do you want to put all control into the hands of someone who doesn’t really know you or your abilities?
  4. Picking your own headshots. Come on…you all know we only pick pictures of ourselves where we look great. Unfortunately, those are usually not the best shots. With casting directors receiving over 2500 submissions per role, a headshot needs to be so much more than an actor that looks great. There has to be that spark, that something intriguing that makes an agent or casting director stop and take note…something so unique that they want to know more about that actor. Picking the right picture is extremely important. You need to seek help…. and once again, I am not talking about your dad, or your wife, or your roommate. Agents and managers are not known for picking the best pictures, however, they do know how they are selling you and what roles are out there for your type. Acting teachers are also a good resource since they might see glimpses of your unique abilities or personality rather than how great your hair looks. 
  5. Over-processing the final picks. Step away from the Photoshop!  Yes, there are certain things that need to be airbrushed…stray hairs, a zit, something odd in the background, but that’s about it. I once coached a very talented disheveled heavyset comic. He was right on point with knowing his type, specific about his brand, and talented up the wazoo, but just wasn’t getting out there. I had him bring his old shots to our first meeting and almost fell out of my chair. The picture looked like a porcelain doll. Everything unique and memorable about this cute chubby scruffy-looking funnyman had been blended away to look like Nicole Kidman’s more attractive sister.  Our flaws are differences that set us apart from others. They make us who we are…learn to embrace them…to embrace you. Every line tells a story, every freckle a secret.  Your acting is unique and different from all those other actors out there, so is your face. Don’t make it generic and forgettable.

Tom Burke, working model and actor, teaches seminars and gives lectures on the importance of headshots and discovering an actor’s image. He is currently consulting and coaching at Keep It Real Acting Studios in North Hollywood, CA where he also teaches the exclusive classes: Headshots A to Z and Not Just a Pretty Face