As an actor, a major part of your job isn’t just to act, but to market yourself. His is how you get the auditions that get you work and how you convince casting directors that whatever level you’re currently at that as an actor you’re ready to move to the next one.
Here are some basic tips for actors that will help increase the frequency with which you are called for auditions and therefore the amount of acting work that you book.
Actors should get their headshots reproduced on collateral other than the standard 8×10 headshots. Having business cards with your headshot on them is extraordinarily convenient to an actor. So is having a postcard featuring one or more looks to send through the mail to refreshing casting directors as to who you are and your availability.
Actors should be sure to send out regular mailings. Different casting directors have different policies on this. Some only want to receive actor headshots once or when the actor has updated the headshot or has a significant resume addition. Others like new copies for their files every so often. The listings in Ross Reports are an effective way to find out a casting director’s policy on contact from actors. You’ll notice some only want postcards from actors, or prefer that all follow-up communication from actors be sent in the form of a postcard.
Actors should consider what type of envelope to send their 8×10 headshots in. Some actors use only plain envelopes. Others have taken to using window envelopes that allow the actor’s headshot to be seen before the envelope is even opened. There are several theories on the efficacy of these window envelopes for actors. Some say they are unnecessary as only interns and lackey’s open casting directors’ mail from actors anyway. Otherwise criticize them because they take all the mystery and narrative out of opening a headshot for the casting director (who must, in fact, like mystery and narrative to be in this business). Still others say that these are a valuable tool. I don’t use these envelopes all the time, because they are expensive, but I do use them for urgent castings where I match a unique type. In stationary stores these envelopes can cost as much as $1.00 each, but if you order them in bulk on the internet that price can be reduced to approximately $.20.
Always, always send a thank you for acting work booked or an audition appointment. This is a great use for an actor’s headshot postcards. If sending a thank you for the audition, it is appropriate to mention that the project sounds interesting or exciting. It is not appropriate to beg for the job or in any way apologize for your performance at the audition. Just say thank you. It’s about keeping your face and your professionalism top of mind.
If you do background work (and despite what people say, there is no reason for an actor not to), unless a casting agency says not to send materials so frequently, sending a postcard once a month listing your current availability for work is not inappropriate.
As an actor, it is important that you have a professional looking website. This means buying a domain name (so that you are http://www.YourName.com and not http://www.somerandomsite.com/yourname.html) and having a page that is easy to look at (this means no bells and whistles that may slow down older computers and no horrible things like blinking texts or sound files that play without the viewer specifically requesting them). Basic HTML is not that hard to learn (I designed my own website), nor should it be terribly expensive to pay someone to design a basic website for you ($50 to $300 is a reasonable range if you’re looking for something simple – peruse Craigslist). An actor’s website should contain your headshot, resume, sizes, union status and some sort of contact information. Obviously, an actor should consider their personal safety and do not post an address or home phone number. Additionally actors should have the good sense to separate their web presence as a performer from other activities they engage in online. I blog, but my blog is not linked from my acting website, as it’s not about acting! Do seriously consider putting photos from productions are in as well as the text of reviews on your website. If you do voiceover work or have a reel, these are also valuable things to include on your website.
While I mostly discourage everyone but the most beginning actors from taking work for no pay, there is a certain value in doing TFP (time for prints) photography work for student, amateur and stock photographers. Even if you don’t do commercial print modeling, there is value as an actor in having professional images of yourself in many different looks (corporate, casual, even homeless!). Having these images available to send to casting directors with specific needs can help you book work or get auditions you wouldn’t normally (especially if someone only thinks of you in one way). Seeking out TFP opportunities on Craigslist can be very beneficial to the actor. Just use common sense.
Finally, never forget that marketing yourself as an actor means always responding promptly and politely to any queries about your availability, skills and interest in a project. Additionally, actors should remember when leaving messages for casting folks who have asked them to call in, to be concise, specific and leave their phone number twice.