Written by Gywn Gilliss
Most actors are overwhelmed when it comes to creating a marketing campaign or even just contacting Industry professionals. Many actors don’t even KNOW the concept of a marketing campaign or that they should be creating one- What is it? What do you DO actually? And then there comes the following questions:
WHO To contact?
WHEN to contact them?
HOW OFTEN to contact an industry professional?
WHAT to say?
HOW to say it? ( i.e. postcards, cover letter, email, phone call, facebook, twitter)
There’s a lot of misinformation out there by well meaning folks about what to do. It can be nerve-wracking to think that your efforts to get an audition or work can go awry. Yet, most actors make a huge investment of time and energy doing one big “blow out” effort.
If you wait until your marketing kit is complete – new head shot, new website, demo reel just edited…all the things are ready and then you make up 100-200-300 packages to be mailed out to the industry – top agents and casting directors what should you expect?
The expected rate of return on your investment like all mail order efforts is about 1-2% no matter how brilliant your cover letter. There are exceptions but most likely the highest rate of return is for those who are exceptionally beautiful – a 16 year old model, exceptionally senior – A Betty White look alike, or exceptionally odd / uniquely different. That doesn’t mean normal looking or attractive – it means..well, really odd, “extremely scary” OR you speak 5 languages OR you’re a concert pianist You get the picture-WHATEVER an agent DOESN’T ALREADY HAVE in their files or on their roster AND THAT THEY MIGHT NEED someday- roles that might come up frequently. Just being different or having skills doesn’t make you marketable. Pretty, average, girl and boy next door types, attractive, plain or just plain normal…well that is the surplus commodity. Agents already have dozens of those types …they weren’t born yesterday nor were their businesses.
So if ONE agent ( 1%) calls you for a meeting was it worth the $300-500 for the head shots, resumes, staples, envelopes, stamps, time and resources spend putting it together?
There’s a better way.
A really smart Strategy is to start with small strokes - Bullets” first, then “Cannonballs” (thanks to Jim Collins in his book from Great by Choice).
Steve Jobs and even Bill Gates tried this out… as did many highly successful entrepreneurs…a lot! It’s also called “split testing”. So stick to trying “bullets”. They’re smaller,faster, cheaper and more effective. When you know WHICH bullet hits the target, THEN shoot the CANNONBALL!
What are bullets? Small (test market) communications:
1- email – short intro (charming- show your personality) about your recent roles and type
2- postcard – mentioning your type and range with photos to back it up
3- e-zine your personal newsletter- showing style, personality and bookings
4- blog- article about your recent success and great praise for the pro’s you worked with
5- facebook two liner – happy wish and link to your website
6- tweet one liner -link to your website and awesome sizzle
7- flyer- one page ( upcoming show)
8- one sheet- photo promo( with a mini bio,recent bookings, quotes and a list of your castable roles-mention specific shows)
9- invite- to a film opening or live show
10- comp card- showing the 4 roles you book “all the time”
Each of these is a “tease” filled with plenty of information about how to market you, audition you, HIRE you. You leave them wanting MORE. So then, they call.
To get an Agent or to build your network of Casting directors, here are some tips:
WHO To contact? Chose 6-12 agents …offices that are somewhat new or agents who are recently franchised. Some may have young agents just getting their franchise license ( they must work for 6 months-1 year with an established agency first) and are looking for new clients to build their roster…
OR agencies that say distinctly looking for a “specific type” – athletic, high diver, senior citizens, roller-bladers, Latino, Mid-eastern, Asian, Opera singers.
OR if an agency mentions the phrase “accepting developmental clients”. That means they might take a chance on you even though you have no viable major credits but look good and probably will book because your type is so much in demand- policeman, lawyer, doctor, forensic expert, action- adventure hero, pretty teen, spy. Study the market- these are the most popular roles in 75% of all series. You can also check with SAG which agencies are fairly new or have NEW agents.
For Casting Directors- research, know the shows they’re casting and what “types” they need.
OH! #11 on the bullet list above-? Send a Congrats card-
… “congrats” on your NEW status as a franchised agent…can I be the first to say well done and be the ace on your new roster?” Know which department they’re in- commercial or legit( acting) and appeal to that area in which you are obviously brilliant.
WHEN to contact them? When you have at least a brilliant head shot and perhaps a 50 second demo that is recent.-so they can see your work and your “look” or type…OR when you’ve booked something substantial.
HOW OFTEN to contact an industry professional? Once every 12-14 days but ONLY with well-prepared and SIMPLE info nicely formatted- 3 sentences, charming, full of your personality as if you were talking to them in the room and reaffirming your marketability, cast-ability (“Just booked another film!”) and likeability.
WHAT to say? Exactly the above.Your Marketability, cast-ability and likeability- “I get my own work all the time, I play the quirky neighbor with a psycho edge, I booked a film last week.”..something that shows you are pro-active, positive and WORKING!
HOW to say it? Simple…like the above 3 phrases. Agents jump on anything that bespeaks WORKING,i.e. Making $$. CD’s jump on anything that is clearly a type they use frequently. It saves them time and the producer from going over budget. WIN! WIN! WIN!
Gwyn Gilliss is the Founder and Executive Director of TAM, The Actor’s Market, a marketing firm for actors. They provide monthly FREE seminars/teleseminars, FREE weekly marketing tips as well as access to top photographers, graphic artists and videographers who provide every marketing tool an actor needs. Gwyn’s acting career spans several decades during which time she appeared on and off-Broadway, in classical roles in American Repertory companies in over 18 contract and recurring roles in Daytime/Prime time TV, Films and dozens of network commercials/V.O.’s. As the foremost Marketing/Career Coach she is available to work One-on-One with ready-to-succeed actors.