I’ve emphasized in plenty of entries here how important I think it is that actors follow-up on all professional interactions. Auditions, callbacks, meetings, on-set work… Fact is, once an actor knows how to act, the business they’re really in is the name-collecting and follow-up business. In A Universal Career Jumpstart, I put down three lists I think every actor should draw up and add to on an ongoing basis. Setting to the side any and all internal work the actor might do to keep themselves moderately sane, and all the forward-gazing goals, mantras, and conceptualizing, if an actor can do these two things – act well and follow-up – those two skills alone, pursued with discipline over time, will beget more acting work.
So. What to say to these people? Not for me to dictate, as clearly it’s too context-dependent. BUT, I can say this: Communicate on a peer-to-peer basis. By this I mean that too much of the correspondence I have occasionally been able to review comes from a lowly, I’m-just-aspring, you-are-a-god-and-I’m-out-of-work, look-how-clever-I’m-being-to-get-your-attention place. That stuff reeks of insecurity and low esteem. Don’t do it.
Don’t be clever. Don’t be cute. Don’t trick them or play stupid games. Don’t speak from an I’m-less-than-you viewpoint. Speak to them as fellow story-telling professionals. You’re a story-telling professional, looking to work with other story-telling professionals. That’s it. That doesn’t mean you write Scorsese and say, “Marty! You’re a pro! I’m a pro! Let’s make movies, baby!” You can have high regard for someone, you can express admiration for their work, you can be respectful, and do so without coming off a self-invalidating and/or presumptuous schmuck in the process.
Peer to Peer: The business actors are really in is the name-collecting and followup business. Why? Click To Tweet
This is partly why I advise actors to get some nice cards made up, with simply their name and contact information. No photos. No schmaltz. No bells or whistles. Just a card embossed with their name, and matching envelopes. I can already hear you: Oh my god but what if they don’t know me or what I look like?!?!?!?! Isn’t it important that my PICTURE be there?!?! Maybe more than one photo? Like, maybe six photos with different looks? Different castings that I could fulfill? Now, it’s just a point of view, don’t kill me, but you might notice where these questions come from: A place of I’m-unknown-and-unknowable, etc. My view is that there’s this crazy thing called the internet, and if you have your admin in any shape at all, if they type your name in, a photo or two or six might come up. So relax. And while you’re at it, perhaps you use Google and its showbiz-specific brethren to find a thing or two out about the person you’re writing to, beyond what you think you know. The panicked desperation about whether your photo is attached and what photo to use smells to me as if you’re looking for a job off this one note. Don’t look for job off of one note. Look to create a relationship. Enough of those, and jobs will come. Really.
Peer-to-peer. Professional. Sincere. Respectful. Act well, collect names, and communicate, at a rate of 200+ a month. You don’t have 200 industry contacts? I bet you have more than you think. And if you really don’t, get some. As Jerry Goldsmith said to his film composing class I once observed, “Go fucking know someone.” Repeat for five years. Talk to me then about how the career has moved.