In today’s world of emails, the web, and social media it has become increasingly easier for actors to make direct contact with casting directors. There are great opportunities for actors today which weren’t around even five years ago, communication between actor and the industry is more open than it has ever been before. This is terrific news for actors as it saves us money on stamps, stationary, and headshots. It is also great for casting people as turn around is so much quicker. With this new method of communication becoming the norm, and with postal mailings now decreasing, it is vitally important that you don’t make any stupid mistakes or basic blunders when you are trying to make a new contact and perhaps establish a good working relationship. As Uncle Ben put it so wisely in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility”!
Just when I think everyone knows this… I get another actor email where I, along with A LOT of other folks, am cc’d instead of bcc’d. I’m not sure that any single email etiquette blunder raises the ire of industry professionals more than this one does.
CC stands for Carbon Copy, when you put email addresses in this area you are sending each of those recipients a ‘carbon copy’ of your mail. This is great for doing mass mailings to people but the big problem is that every one of those people receiving your email can see the To field and the CC field, in other words they can see exactly who else you have sent the email to, and they also have their email addresses. BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy. Using BCC can solve all of the problems associated with sending out a mass mailing. No-one gets to see who else has been sent the email and more importantly everyone’s email remains private. I would always put my own email address in the TO field and then use BCC to address the email. Often the BCC field can be hidden in your email program but with some searching you should easily be able to enable it.
Don’t waffle on and give them too much information, don’t bore them. Casting directors and agents are busy people and don’t have the time to read a long email. Follow the KISS principal, ‘Keep It Short and Simple’. I would show some kind of genuine interest in the specific project if you are applying for a job, tell them why you would fit the character, or what it is about the job which interests you. Tell them a little bit about you and your experience. And that’s it.
I’ve also received some outrageous/creepy/bizarre emails… I’m guessing in the name of creativity? Well, use extreme discretion when writing those clever emails. They can backfire in a big way.
Remember that you are essentially ‘cold calling’, no one likes to get one of those telephone marketing calls where they try and trick you, so don’t try and be clever and trick the casting director or agent into reading your email with a clever or peculiar subject line, they are more likely to delete it than read it. Back in the days when postal submissions were the norm I heard a story about an actor who made their CV into a chocolate bar wrapper called Bribery, wrapped it around a Galaxy bar, and sent it to Susie Figgis when she was casting Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory …. she didn’t get the joke, the choclate bar had melted and it looked like a dirty protest. The actor wasn’t seen and all their efforts were seen as desperate (and no, it wasn’t me!)
Think about when you get an email from a stranger which has an attachment, are you likely to open it? Nope? Me, neither. I don’t know of any industry professional who would open an attachment from an applicant, it is very likely that your email will simply be deleted. If you need to send them photographs or your resume, send it as a link. If you have an Actor Design website you can send the direct link to your CV page and from there they can quickly see your credits and main photograph, as well as a link to your printable PDF resume. If you need to send them your showreel or clips, then send the link to them on Youtube or if you have an Actor Design site you can simply send the one link to your media page and they have all your clips and voice clips in one place.
Having worked in casting you would be surprised and shocked at how many actors don’t do this one simple thing and it really does get on a casting person’s nerves. Remember that one of the jobs of an actor is to follow direction, follow the casting instructions, and demonstrate that you can do this. If they request a specific subject line, it is because they will be sorting the applications automatically so follow their instructions. If they ask for no attachments, don’t send an attachment. If they ask for attachments, then send the attachment, but look out for any specific instructions regarding size and number of attachments.
When replying to a breakdown and they do not ask for a specific subject line I would follow this simple rule: Submission: YOUR FULL NAME for CHARACTER NAME in Production (eg: Submission: SARAH KEMP for OLIVIA in Twelfth Night)
Also check over your spelling, with spell check there is little excuse for bad spelling and grammar and it can sometimes p*ss people off, so double check your email for any mistakes before hitting send. Also check your links are working, and re-read before you send it. Sending an email which doesn’t read right, or which doesn’t point to the right links is as bad as sending a hand written letter to an agent through the post with some passport photos! Don’t do it, don’t appear unprofessional, double check it!
It never ceases to amaze me how many actors sign off with only their first name. Your full name is your brand, it is your ‘company name’, so make sure the recipient knows exactly who you are. Also create an email signature which links to your website (if you have one) and has your contact details. Yes, all of this would be available to the casting director or agent if they follow your links, but make it easy on them.
Your email address should be professional sounding. If your current email address is ‘cutesy’ or a nickname, you should consider changing it. You want to appear professional, and an email address with slang, cute nicknames, a strange collection of numbers and letters, is not going to make you appear the skilled professional that you are. Think of emails from companies, would you trust a business sending its emails from firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, if you think your email doesn’t sound professional then it is easy to open a free email address through Gmail, or to get a perfect email address get a site built with Actor Design and you will get your own personal email address using your domain name.
If you follow these rules then getting in touch with the industry can be useful, valuable, effective and fun.
Not sending emails to any industry professionals? Ever? You probably should. It’s a great way to stay in touch, or even possibly to establish a relationship
Send out an email telling people what show you are doing, and offering them comps. Let people know that you have just been cast in a national commercial, a tour, a new sitcom. Email them to let them know you have some new pictures, new representation, anything which you think might be of interest and might make that person decide they need to meet you.
And remember rules are made to be broken, if you think you have a terrific marketing idea then go for it. Think through the consequences carefully and as long as you are acting professionally and you would be happy to receive such an email yourself from someone you don’t know then give it a go, it might just work.