I have been delighted to receive so many positive tweets and email comments about the first two parts of my latest B.A.B.E branding series. If you missed them, I have covered business cards (just in time for the Cannes Film Festival) and websites. It’s all part of the USP series… See I want you to find your Unique Selling Point (proposition or position) rather than be in an Uncompromising Silly Position. Brand yourself well! It all starts with the foundations of actor branding, be that your website, your business cards, your images, your showreel, the emails you send. You get it.
And last week a famous blogger (I mean this guy is BIG!) blogged about branding in the same vein as what I’ve been sharing these last two weeks… I nearly jumped off the tube to get above ground and shout “See! Told you!”. Here is what Seth Godin said that got me so excited (read the whole post here):
“Great marketers don’t make stuff. They make meaning.”
Yeah I know, it’s not like you didn’t already know that. But really, did you? You aren’t selling anything as an actor, right? Wrong!
You are absolutely selling you! You are selling the meaning of you. You need to create meaning in your acting proposition. What does it mean to hire you for the job? Every day you step out of the house you are selling yourself and you need to be selling something that matters.
I recall my old acting teacher in Australia saying to us in class one day that once we graduated, every day we stepped out of our house we needed to remember we would be in the public eye. That really stuck with me. Not in a posh-spice-watch-me-leave-the-house kind of way, but in a realistic, choose-how-you-want-to-be-perceived kind of way. How you present yourself in your everyday environment is a direct reflection on you, the professional actor. I hear about it all the time. I talk to agents and Casting Directors, Producers and Directors, and I ask questions. I enquire. I am intrigued. Why him, why her, why this, why that. I want to know what makes them tick.
And when you attend a casting director workshop they give out very significant key clues as to what they want to see and hear from you. And when they say these things remember that this applies specifically to that Casting Director only. They are not speaking for the other 40+ who are running around town doing castings. No. They are only talking about what THEY like to see. So if you think it’s important to remember this information (I certainly do) then get in the habit of keeping it somewhere. It will be particularly handy when it’s time to send an email to them…Yes I do always get back to the topic 🙂
So today, lets talk about emails. This is an interesting one because just like the age old debate of colour vs black and white headshots or montage vs no montage on a showreel, you never truly know what a Casting Director wants to read on an email from you. But interestingly, there are still things you can do wrong very easily.
Dan Hubbard guest spoke a few months back at the UK Actors Tweetup and I remember him sharing a funny story about an actor who emailed him every week. EVERY WEEK. Wow. Does that wreak of desperation – certainly. Is he going to hire you because he hears from you EVERY week? Certainly not. He went on to explain that he would prefer to know when you have done something significant, or have something significant coming up. This is a similar story to so many other Casting Directors I’ve heard speaking. They don’t need to chat to you every week. Not that much changes in a week…unless you’ll be on the Bond set next week as one of the leads. Ever had a guy talk about a stalker girlfriend? Same applies with actors bugging Casting Directors too often. They don’t need you to check in weekly. Or even monthly for that matter.
So here are a few points on those precious emails you are sending and how they relate to your brand:
- Send an email when you have something to say – need I say more! Okay perhaps I should elaborate as we are all learning:
- If you want to suggest yourself for a casting make sure you fit the description perfectly. Remember they can receive in excess of 500 submissions from actors and agents for any given casting. Don’t be the one they stop opening emails from because you put yourself forward for the model-esque blonde when you are 5.1 and brunette (yes people do this!).
- If you don’t have anything on right now then is there a way you can talk about something coming up that is significant enough that they’d want to hear about it? This does not include a non paid short film that you are writing, filming, co-producing – unless it has made it to the Oscar short list or the Cannes official selection (not Short Film Corner).
- If you are emailing about a show you are in, offer them free tickets to that show on a night that suits their busy calendar – and, do this even if you don’t get comp tickets and have to pay it out of your own pocket. If they are willing to come and see you it will have been worth the money spent.
- Know your audience: Research and find out what they are doing and be sure you are getting in touch about something that is relevant right now. I attended a recent Casting Director’s (CD) talk and heard him say that an actor had been in touch about the next series of a show he was working on. Only issue – his company wasn’t going to be working on it. The next series was being done with a totally different Casting Director’s company. Way to get yourself on the Do Not Bring In For A Casting List!
- Don’t be over friendly: Unless the CD is actually your friend, (and most Casting Directors aren’t your buddy, they just work with you) keep the tone professional. Just because you did a rocking job in that last casting, doesn’t mean they are wanting to know your personal life, or have you chat to them like you are giving them a virtual high five.
- Keep it short and punchy: Less is more, especially if you’ve gone through a few re-writes and have taken out all the extra word fluff that you first included.
- Don’t blind cc or bcc: If you want to send one generic email to lots of CD’s rather than writing a tailored specific email to suit them, why should they take the time to bother looking at your showreel, photos and links.
- Add a single headshot that is only a small file: Don’t send the CD any big files. Anything under 400kb is fine but they do not need the 3MB version of your file. Sending a big file not only wastes their time, you are helping them to crash their already very busy and full inboxes. And make sure it’s the picture that best sells you. This is a branding exercise remember! Show a picture that matches how you want to be cast. Being pretty won’t always be right for a role. In fact I have a friend who books a lot of work because she is an incredible character actor who has a great profile of quirky looks. She knows her casting range.
- Use your full acting name: There’s little point sending them something if they don’t know your actual industry name so they can look you up. I’m hardly going to write to a CD or director and call myself ‘Ang’. Also, while you are at it with names, as I said in part 1 of this series, check your email isn’t something silly that they’ll not remember or be able to search for in their inbox. If possible just use your stage name. Follow the marketing principle called ‘KISS’ – Keep it simple stupid.
- Don’t back out: If you’ve taken the time to write them an email then don’t turn around and back out with negative phrases that detract from you and what you are about. You are SELLING and MARKETING you the brand. If you write things like “if”, “maybe”, then you are surely saying you aren’t entirely confident you are good enough either.
- Be crystal clear about your message: Are you emailing them to let them know about a show you are in; to show them your new headshots; to announce your new amazing agent; to ask about a specific project they’re casting for that you are PERFECT for (read that: make sure you absolutely suit the role); just generally following up from a workshop or casting where they said it was fine to email them? Be clear about your content and intention.
- Don’t lie: Please don’t make stuff up. When you tell lies you go against every actor out there who is trying desperately to make it because you make us all look stupid. Also 99% of the time you will be found out. IMDB Pro is an amazing tool for showing what people have done or have coming up in development. And CD’s can ring and ask people about you. Trust me, if they need to they will…and they will if they think you’re lying. Be totally honest (with a little sprinkling of how extra awesome you are)! Here’s why:
- If you are fresh out of school that is totally okay. Everyone starts as a beginner, even Picasso.
- If you recently returned to acting after having a baby that is great…think of the life experience you have now!
- If you are just starting out and you’re in your 50’s, that is awesome. There’s less actors in that bracket.
- If you’ve just landed an episode on a great television show, awesome!
- If your agent is ridiculously ridiculously good-looking…I mean hardworking….fantastic.
So there you have it. The B.A.B.E. guide to writing what we hope will be a simple, concise, effective, targeted email to a Casting Director about you. And remember, even if they don’t reply, you’re a B.A.B.E.. Keep at it! They are just busy and it can’t always be about you, can it?