I’m in the midst of putting together my demo reel. Once that’s done, my agent is going to send it out to various casting directors (and I’m sure you’ve read on Canadian Actor Online how we feel that CDs here in Toronto have their top five to ten actors and it is otherwise very difficult to be seen), and she’d like me to include a note with each of them introducing myself. I think this is a great idea, but I’m not sure what to put. I’m not interested in a form letter; I’m going to personalize each one. Of course I’m interested in meeting with them, and I’m willing to put something on tape if they’d like to see it. I’d like to keep them short and sweet, but what’s the best way to go about it and what’s good to put in it?

This is going to be one of those topics that is both easy for me to answer and difficult at the same time. While I have a definite opinion on cover letters and how to do them, I also know that the Toronto market is very different than the Los Angeles market in which I live and work. I have read several times both at message boards like Canadian Actor Online and in interviews with Toronto-based actors that the relationship between actors and casting directors is much more formal than the relationship experienced in LA. Self-promotion in the form of postcards, email notification of shows and bookings, and headshot photo thank you notes for callbacks are all commonplace in the CD/actor relationship here. Many of these things are considered overly showy or distasteful in other markets. So, I’ll do my best to both answer your question and leave room for others to write in with tips specific to your market so that I can include those bits of information in a future piece.

A Los Angeles-based actor would be advised to only send a demo reel upon request by the CD. Unsolicited demo reels are almost always discouraged by casting directors, when asked about them. You have to remember that we have a LOT of stuff to look at, every day (reels we’ve requested, reels the producers have requested, session tapes, auditions submitted on tape from out-of-market actors, etc.). So, it’s not like we’re out looking for free time to spend watching demo reels from actors we’re not actively hoping to cast on a project right now. For Hollywood actors, I’d advise a great cover letter of introduction with a headshot and resumé submission, including the fact that a great demo reel is available, if they are interested in seeing it. You may find that CDs are happy to request it (and then you have the added benefit of delivering something that is “requested material” and that always helps).

If, however, in your market it is absolutely acceptable (or even encouraged) for actors to send unsolicited demo reels to CDs, you should find a way to describe the demo reel‘s contents to the recipient in your cover letter. The footage has a tone, a style, and you, the actor, have a dominant type. You want to present all of that right up front so that the viewer is almost primed for the material before popping in the DVD. Think of your cover letter and demo reel artwork as your movie’s trailer and advance marketing material (the poster art, the little write-up in the trades, the tagline). You want to have your viewer going into the viewing experience wanting to see a great reel (and knowing what to expect, generally). So, if you’re a funny character actor, your cover letter should come across as witty and specific to the quirks of the characters you most often play. If you’re a romantic lead, you want to craft a cover letter that confidently presents you as attractive and charismatic. And if you’re the evil genius type, you should have an intimidating edge to the materials you present (but without being disarming).

Take a look at ads for movies in magazines. A ton of money is spent on the FEEL of these ads. And, when you create a cover letter to send out to CDs for any purpose, you are really doing some advertising (or at the very least, you are confirming your brand in the marketplace). So, you want to have an overall feel to your materials that really sell what YOU sell, in your work. Run your package by your agent to be sure it’s really great and then get it out there so that the CDs can begin getting to know you! And don’t get discouraged if it takes awhile for CDs to begin calling you in. It often takes time for your first blip on the casting directors’ radar to translate into auditions. Good luck! And let us know how it’s going for you.


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 http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000450.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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