After your agent, the people you are likely to have most contact with in the industry when it comes to getting work are casting directors. These mythical beings are the conduit between actors and directors, connecting agents and their clients with projects and the people behind them.
Casting directors are a vital part of professional productions where they will sift through submissions and select actors prior to the live auditions. Depending on the size and budget of a project, a casting director may work alongside the director and producers throughout, or if they are very well established CDs can have full remit over the casting with the rest of the team giving a final rubber stamp.
You will interact with casting directors whatever the type and scale of acting work you pursue and it is important to cultivate these relationships. In general it is your agent who will communicate with CDs on your behalf but there can be opportunities to contact them directly, perhaps to introduce yourself as a new talent, because they are casting a project you are particularly interested in or to follow up on meeting at an audition.
Casting directors are always on the look out for new talent but there are a number of things to keep in mind to ensure your contact is welcome, relevant and useful for all concerned. Follow YAFTA’s top tips to make sure you get off on the right foot with casting directors:
Do your research.
In the first instance find out how each particular casting director prefers to be contacted. Most have websites and this will include an email address or details for old fashioned postal mail. Avoid phone calls; casting directors are busy people and an email or letter can be read at their convenience rather than yours. Also do your research on the type of projects they cast and tailor your covering letter and CV to what they will be looking for.
This ties in with your research on each individual casting director. Make sure that what you’re telling them is relevant. While there is overlap, many CDs do specialise into film and TV, theatre, musical theatre etc. Don’t focus on your theatre work if they cast for screen and that’s what you want to be seen for. Similarly they’re unlikely to attend a show or screening hundreds of miles from where they are based so be discerning with your invitations.
Keep it brief.
To be effective your communication needs to be read, so to encourage a busy casting director to take a look make sure your letter or email is clear, concise and spellchecked! Ensure your CV is well laid out and include direct links to your Spotlight and showreel. Don’t skimp but don’t waffle. A brief introduction about who you are, your unique selling points and your casting type should be followed by any relevant, recent credits, upcoming projects/premieres/productions and finally the relevant links. When attaching CVs and headshots be certain they are of a manageable size for email. You won’t do yourself any favours if you clog up their inbox!
This refers to when and how often you should contact casting directors. The golden rule is to only get in touch when you have something to say. A new showreel, new headshots, major new credits, a screening or performance etc are all good reasons, as is writing because you know the casting director is casting for a specific project and your casting type is a good fit. Don’t write again until you have something else to say, giving yourself at the very least 6 months to pick up new credits but generally more than a year.
Casting directors should be treated with the same respect you give other professionals in the industry. You are a business, they are a business and you are seeking a professional, business relationship with them, albeit in a creative, individual industry. Take the time to make sure your communications look the part and give the right impression. On that note, while many casting directors now use Twitter and this is a great way to connect on a basic level and learn about their work, social media is not the place to extensively engage. Expressions of interest regarding projects or invitations to events should be sent through traditional, professional channels. A tweet asking a casting director to come to a show or take a look at your showreel doesn’t take much effort, doesn’t look professional and is likely to be ignored.
Compliment rather than flatter. If a casting director has cast a particular show you love or recently gained a new job, feel free to congratulate them and compliment their work. You can let your personality show in your missive, just don’t write something flattering for the sake of it or go overboard with your praise. At best it’s likely to fall short, sounding insincere, or at worst you’ll appear sycophantic. Your showreel, headshot and CV are what will get you an audition or meeting, not your turn of phrase!
We hope these tips are a helpful guide when connecting with casting directors via email and letter, though nothing can beat a face to face meeting. YAFTA has working relationships with a number of casting directors and from time to time we offer exclusive workshops. Casting masterclasses are a fantastic way to be seen by and learn from industry professionals and an important step in building your own network of industry contacts. And, while attending a workshop isn’t a first class ticket to being cast, it can and does happen!
See you on screen!