Grab the Casting Directors' Attention
by Ruth Kulerman
Three essential ways to grab the attention of the person opening an actor's self-submission envelope.
"How do I grab casting directors' attention when I self-submit?"
There are several professional ways to grab the attention of someone who opens self-submission envelopes. A complete answer would fill a book. There are three essentials before a casting office (or agent/manager) will take your self-submission seriously. Let's take a look at two of those essentials today.
First thing they see is your ENVELOPE. As an assistant to a manager I have probably opened three or four hundred headshot envelopes during the past five years.
Here are some examples of how NOT to get your envelope opened. These make a bad impression before they've even seen your cover letter and headshot.
An envelope addressed in pencil, or heavy black felt pen, handwritten illegibly or printed so fancy it looks like Louis XIV channeled it.
Addresses typed on regulation labels in black ink. Simple bold font, size 14 minimum for the larger label. For the smaller return label: Smaller, same style font. I personally like Arial. The Times New Roman is done to death. You also don't want anything too fancy. Arial makes a firm business-like impression. The letters march like little West Pointers, all spiffy and neat.
Incorrect or misspelled names (people and company).
Research everything well enough to know the correct name and spelling.
Sending a request to be considered for xyz TV show when that casting office only casts for commercials. Or sending to a commercial casting office a request to be considered for any appropriate regional theatre role. Not too many casting offices really cast for everything.
Do your homework until you know which offices cast for what. If you are interested in print work, for example, no sense in sending to a casting office that only handles feature films.
Nailing or cementing the envelope flap down so tightly that it takes a champion WWO to open it. I have thrown unopened envelopes in the trash after spending three minutes wrestling with a flap. A casting office weekly receives hundreds, sometimes thousands of submissions envelopes. The harder it is to open an envelope, the more likely it will get thrown out (unopened). Numerous requests from casting offices ask that the submission envelopes not be sealed.
A couple of pieces of Scotch tape (not covering the clip). Or a lightly pasted flap. Self-sticking flaps cause a ruckus also.
COVER LETTER-TYPED, of course
Once you have passed the self-submission envelope test, next comes the COVER LETTER. Here briefly are some simple suggestions.
1. Invest in really handsome top-of-the-line expensive business stationery. WHITE, heavy weight (32 ounces is good), with watermarks.
WHY SPEND THAT EXTRA MONEY? A fine sheet of stationery tells the reader that you have self-respect, that you care enough to want to create a good impression, and that you have good taste. Even if all this is subliminal, still their fingers feel the difference when they touch your cover letter. No, your resume need not be on expensive stationery. Just the cover letter.
Recently I saw a letter written in pencil on lined notebook paper. No headshot. Just a letter in a small plain envelope addressed in pencil. Actually I felt like crying when I read the heartfelt desire of this twelve-year-old from the Southern backwoods. (Perhaps because I too was raised there.) She wanted to be a movie star and make lots of money.
I wrote her that a manager could not represent someone who lived more than an hour from her. But I really wanted to tell her to get an education, prepare for a profession where she could earn a decent living, and to live a normal happy life. Although my sympathy went out to her, I promise you, a white typed beautiful sheet of stationery will create a better impression than a handwritten note in pencil on lined school paper.
2. Design a handsome, simple heading for your handsome stationery. Have your name, Website, e-mail and cell phone info in this heading. No personal phone numbers. No address unless it is a Post Office box.
3. The letter MUST follow the acceptable formal format for a business letter.
4. Type the letter in print large enough to be read in a hurry. I've seen letters that could be read only by an ant wearing bifocals, crawling across the page. And please print dark enough so that we don't need a flashlight to decode the alphabet.
5. Dear Mr. or Ms. is the correct salutation. If you cannot tell the gender from the name, then address the letter "Dear Mr./Ms. Smith": But it's better to call the office and ask if "Avi Smith" is male or female. And keep searching until you find a name to address the letter to. Just "To Whom It May Concern" isn't good enough. If necessary, phone the office and ask to whom the submission envelope should be addressed.
6. Do not be cute, or "hi guy" friendly. Don't even try to be clever. Be simple, be polite. Very simply, state your reason for writing. Always do a spell check. Use correct grammar.
6. KEEP YOUR LETTER SHORT. Do not compete with War and Peace. Remember a lot of information is on the resume. Tell why you are writing. If you have used 12 words in a sentence, rewrite, edit, and revise it until you give the same information in 9 words. Be courteous by recognizing the necessity not to intrude on their time. I have seen lengthy letters used as ideal examples in "How To" theatre books. This is wrong. NO ONE has that kind of time.
A one-sentence introduction [This is being submitted for consideration for an audition for etc.] is essential. Write three short sentences stating your special qualification and a one-sentence conclusion. NO MORE. Have a point and get to it! End with Sincerely, or Yours sincerely, or Very truly yours. These are professional business letters. Follow the code.
7. Do not presume anything. I really dislike "I look forward to meeting you." Do not for one minute think it is a positive upbeat ending. NO. It is presumptuous. It is much more courteous to say that you would like to be considered for an interview. Someone lost a role because, at the end of a fabulous callback, he said, "I look forward to working with you." You cannot make that statement until they have offered you the role. You cannot "look forward to meeting" someone until they have asked you to come in to see them.
People are still judged by their appearance and their language. Have the appearance of your envelope and your letter create great expectations. Have the brief content of your letter fulfill those expectations.
SUMMARY: HOW TO GET ATTENTION:
Present the best you in your envelope's appearance.
Present the best you in your cover letter's appearance and content.