Submitting on Everything

I’ve often heard actors say, “I submit on everything I’m right for — and even the stuff I’m not right for!” That statement gets a laugh, but it’s not the best submission policy to follow.

However, it seems that many actors do use this philosophy when self-submitting on projects — especially with the advent of electronic submission tools. It’s no longer an issue of an actor choosing a headshot, updating a resumé, writing a cover letter, addressing an envelope, buying postage, and mailing a submission. Now actors can point and click themselves into the inboxes of dozens of casting directors a day. Are they using that opportunity to their advantage or their detriment?

Targeted marketing is always encouraged. Track the shows that use your type consistently. Track the CDs of the films in which your type is most often cast. Since directors are loyal, you have to assume that directors will most likely go back to the same CDs again and again, so tracking a director’s style will help you target CDs. From this tracking work, create a list and select a Top 20. These are your 20 key CDs. You’re going to submit on pretty much everything these 20 CDs cast. So, whenever you see a project cast by a CD who is on your Top 20 list, that’s an easy click.

For other projects, take a second look to be sure you fit the breakdown. You may think, “Aah, I’m just a few years north of the age range on this, but I’m really talented. If they bring me in, they’ll see I can nail this role.” Let me show you how that looks from the casting director’s end of the screen (or from our side of the heaping mail bins).

We put out the breakdown and begin receiving loads of submissions. We click on the list of unviewed submissions on role number one (female, age 23 to 28, blonde, overweight, 5′ 6″ or less, wounded type, fiercely intelligent). Wait a sec. What’s this? A 5′ 8″ redhead with maybe an extra two pounds on her, clearly over 30, with special notes left: “I’m actually a little heavier than this, and I can dye my hair.”

Or this one (way worse): clicking on submissions for role number two (male, age 10, skinny brat with freckles, really annoying kid, any ethnicity) and finding TEN men over 20… and a female! What?!? Yes, in fact, I had one project on which the same actor submitted for all 22 roles. Look, I understand you’re an actor. You’re a chameleon. You can be anything in the world. But honey, I guarantee you that you, age 22, can play neither a six year old nor an 82 year old. Why are you submitting on these roles?

How can we ever believe you are right for a role when clearly you believe you are right for every role?

Granted, it’s usually the newbie, the wannabe, the out-of-market-non-union-non-repped-Polaroid-pic-using thespian who tries this, “throw spaghetti at the wall and something will stick” method of self-submitting. However, it is often enough also the brilliant, well-trained, SAG, repped, working actor who submits incorrectly that I felt this column was necessary. Getting in front of a CD is not the same as walking through a casino in Vegas, finding a chip on the floor, and saddling up to the table to play it, figuring, “I can’t lose!” You are putting your reputation on the line with every submission. It actually does make an impact on our impression of you, if you are overly enthusiastic in submitting yourself.

Here’s another example of that concept. Recently, I received three mailed submissions for the same role on the same project from the same actor. Now, I’m used to receiving submissions that overlap (an agent submits, an actor self-submits, a manager calls and pitches, etc.), but this was clearly an issue of poor self-management on behalf of this actor’s submissions. Curious to see why each of three cover letters was identical (Perhaps he had friends submitting on his behalf?), I fished the envelopes out of the wastepaper bin. All three were hand-addressed (I assume, by the actor himself) and postmarked within a day of one another. So, one guy creates three identical submissions with identical cover letters (each mentioning how the actor really wanted “to be apart of this production”–honey, when you say you want to be “apart” of a production instead of “a part” of a production, and submit three times, I can assure you, you will be apart of this production!) and identical headshots. Why? Was he trying to make an impression? Well, if that’s the case, it worked. But it wasn’t the impression he was likely trying to make.

I now open the mail and click on those submissions knowing to expect those “submit on everything” folks. I move past those and on to the actors who have specifically targeted me and this particular project for a reason they make clear either by being absolutely right for the role, per the breakdown or by saying that they’d done their homework right there in their cover letter. Someone who submits on everything seems to say, “I just want to make it,” whereas someone who submits when appropriate seems to say, “I am right for this role in this project at this time.”

Who do you think I want to introduce to the director?

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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