Dear Bon,

Please look at the attached headshots and tell me which one I should use. I can’t decide between these 200.

Please also look at my demo reel, which is at my website. It’s long, but I think it’s really great. Do you agree? Can I come read for you now that you know my work?

Also, I am desperately looking for representation. Please send me a list of your favorite agents. And let me know if you are willing to recommend me to them, now that you’ve seen my headshots and demo reel. I know you’re a good friend to actors everywhere, so I appreciate you getting back to me ASAP on this.


Okay. Where do I begin? Wow.

Those who know me already know the diatribe I can launch into after receiving the Nth email per day of this ilk. (Seriously, I get thousands of emails like this every month.) There is only so much patience I can muster when I’m on the receiving end of a seemingly nonstop parade of calls and emails from actors who refuse to understand that a referral is a major favor (and that my opinions on your headshots and demo reels are nearly totally irrelevant, unless I know you).

Yes, of course, you get the answer “no” 100% of the time if you never ask, so I understand that you have to “go for it,” especially when you feel that a casting director is exceptionally accessible. That said, I think it’s all in the approach. You need to know exactly what it is that you’re asking of someone, when you put together a request like this. And you need to let us know that you “get it” too. I say this because emails like the one above are usually followed by emails in which the same actors say, “Hey. Did you get my email? I’m still waiting to hear from you. Which headshot did you like? Have you watched my reel? What about the agents? Time is ticking away here and I’m not getting out this pilot season without your help. Please at least let me know you got this email, wouldja? I mean, I thought you were so actor-friendly.”

Okay, first of all, I’m busy. I get hundreds upon hundreds of emails every day. I cannot possibly answer them all. Ever. Second, I have written about what elements make good and bad headshots. Several times. I have also written about my feelings on attachments in unsolicited emails. As for demo reels, I’ve written about those too. Several times. And sometimes you just have to learn how to apply what’s been written in general to your specific situation. As for the representation issue, if you’re not getting yourself out (with or without an agent), there is nothing any referral is going to do to help you get an agent, even if you do get a meeting with one.

But I guess I need to make VERY clear how big a favor a referral is. My ability to get an agent to send me his very best clients on even micro-budget feature films relies on the strength of our relationship. And that means he has to trust that I’m going to cast excellent scripts on which amazing crews are working. And I have to trust that he’s going to send me the best-matched clients on his roster. When I see an outstanding actor doing exceptional work and that actor has no representation, I will occasionally reach out to an agent or manager with whom I think the actor is a good match and make an introduction (and I usually will offer to do this, rather than being asked to do so). The reason agents and managers will even consider meeting with someone I recommend is because they too want to keep our relationship healthy. If I suddenly become a pimp for every actor (even those I’ve never cast, never called back, HECK — never even met), I will never hear from agents or managers again, no matter what cool project I’m casting. Because they don’t value casting directors who are really just spaghetti-slinging actor pimps disguised as CDs.

So, please, know when you are asking a favor of a casting director (to look at your headshots, watch your reel, or recommend you to an agent), that it is indeed a favor. It’s not in our job description to do these things for you. Sure, we sometimes may! And absolutely, you have to ask because we’re not generally running around begging you to let us do favors for you. But please don’t expect anything, demand that we do things for you, or slam us with guilt trips when we don’t take care of your needs. If I were to simply reply to every email I get from an actor every day, I would never have time to cast a film, write a book, turn in this column, see a showcase, or speak at a SAG event. I am not kidding. I could have a full time job as an “email answerer” if I wanted to. (And it’s not just email. I get calls. I get asked for very specific advice by actors at social gatherings. And no one ever seems to think it’s rude to stop me from having a meal out in public with “one quick question” about an agent’s reputation or where to find the best cold reading class.)

I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me! Just like celebrities KNOW they’re going to get hounded by the press or asked for autographs, I KNOW that I’m going to be asked for my opinion on just about everything actor-related and I don’t mind, as long as the appropriate amount of “I know this might be an imposition and please feel free to tell me to go away” comes with the request for information. But if you wonder why I sometimes need “non-actor downtime,” understand that it comes with the territory of rarely being treated like a “normal person” who has absolutely nothing useful to say to actors at all. Heck, I guess it’s like comedians who dislike hearing, “Be funny!” when they’re at a party. Being “on” is exhausting after a while.

Oh, and don’t feel sorry for the poor kid whose email I copied and pasted above. The actor who sent it will never know it’s his (or hers) since I changed it a little bit (and because I’ve received thousands of variations on it, which means it could’ve come from anyone). And if you’re reading this Your Turn in the archives because I’ve replied to your email with a link directly to it, then this is your reply. It’s not that I don’t love you with a fiery passion. It’s just that I’m busy. And I’ll always do what I can to help as many actors as possible in as efficient a method as I can. Believe that.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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