Is writing about yourself a wincing dreadful proposition as is the prospect of a dinner theater staging of Sweeney Todd starring Sarah Palin and Gilbert Gottfried?
When sending an e-mail in response to a casting notice are you left witless as to what to type onto that intimidating white field? Or do you quickly finger a single sentence containing listless language nearly every actor includes: ‘cast,’ headshot,’ ‘resume,’ ‘please,’ and ‘perfect?’ Or like too many actors for whom deafening silence is the reply to their seeking an audition appointment do you cowardly leave blank the body of your e-mail?
Rule #1 on Cover Letters:
Change your vocabulary mindset. Rename to yourself your hard-copy and digital ‘cover letters’ to ‘messages.’ ‘Cover letter’ is so Jane Austin austere and formal. ‘Message’ (messaging) is what you do nearly 24/7…
Writing about you is easy. You do it daily without knowing so.
How often do you post an informal status update on a social network? How many e-mails to friends do you send sharing what’s going on with your latest fling found on TalkToMeDirtyAndTreatMeLikeAnActor.com? How often do you chat with a companion in a Starbucks, gym, or at a self-serve frozen yogurt disco for vegans?
The hourly communications you’re having with friends and family (blood relatives who don’t raise your blood pressure) is you routinely creating messages and casting submission e-mails without your knowing it.
Message writing in the arts isn’t the corporate stick-up-the-butt writing you learned from Ms. Steinhardt in 9th grade or from your prickly college English professor Mr. Prescott Sportsjacket. That bloated, stilted, every-gerund-must-have-its-rightful-place bullsh*t belongs in academia, starched corporations, and congressional legislation.
Nor is message writing for actors copying a formula which you believe is savvy because you paid for a course that instructed you and thousands of actors to compare yourself to other actors using flowery prose to demonstrate you’re one-third a vivacious Miley Cyrus while two-fifths the homebody of Shelley Duvall. I and my casting colleagues daily dread these, insert-adjective-followed by a celebrity-plastic produced-missives. What have we learned of the actor? The actor can’t speak for himself in their own voice.
What to Write in a Cover Letter / E-mail?
- Write as if you’re writing to your best-friend. Leave out the LOLs and emoticons.
- Write with the voice that speaks in your head when you’re relaxed.
- Don’t write with a ‘professional’ voice that you think should be the stodgy voice others want of you. Write with your natural voice that you use in your daily e-mails, status updates and conversations.
The employers and representatives of actors want to know your personality, not how well you marry an adjective to a verb. Yes, grammar is important. But don’t get lost in the writing mechanics. Dive into the voice you hear speaking to you daily in your head. That’s you. That’s the person casting and talent reps want to know. You’ll kill your identity if you write in a voice you were taught to ‘sound professional.’ Game over before you’re given an opportunity to play.
Not to be confused with the style of how you write, there is one of several formatting rules to follow for paper:
- Business format (i.e. all text aligned to the left. Include date, name and address of receiver, etc.)
Be true to your voice. Don’t manufacture a ‘professional voice.’ Or worse; rambling gimmickry. Repeat: NO GIMMICKS. And definitely do not write info-tainment. And no cataloging your life’s activities like your Aunt Susan does in her annual holiday letters of boredom that have you wanting to disown your family name.
How Much to Write in a Message:
- One to two paragraphs.
- Three to four sentences per paragraph stating: ‘This is who I am. This is what I’ve got. Thank you. Ciao.’ Written in your voice.
Message Writing Exercise for Finding Your Natural Voice:
Give yourself the following exercises I give my acting students.
- In 100 to 200 words write to yourself about your most joyful life experience. On paper. In pen. One draft only.
- In 100 to 200 words write a message about your overall career, including highlights of that career, but write as if you’re writing to your best friend, favorite family member, or loved one.
Casting and talent agents do read e-mails and cover letters. Ignore the lazy-a** instructors who flout, “I never read.” If you listen to that job-stopping advice you’re closing off opportunities from the people wanting to know more about you than your picture and resume.
How do you write for specific casting notices, or to talent representatives when seeking an agent? Detailed examples and job-getting tips on how to create multiple cover letters and e-mails that are successful, and informative while utilizing your voice are displayed and discussed by talent agents, Hollywood and Broadway actors, and casting in ACTING: Make It Your Business.
Grab your voice. Charge forward beyond your peers.
Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned over thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Elon and Wright State University. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information visit www.PaulRussell.net.
Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors
Love the Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!
Actors everywhere who are trying to succeed in the business, young or old, on stage or on camera, anywhere in the world, take note:
This is your roadmap!”
— BERNARD TELSEY, casting director – CSA
(NBC’s Peter Pan – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, Wicked, Sex & The City)
“All the right questions asked and answered…
and with a generous portion of good humor.”
— SUZANNE RYAN, casting director, CSA
(Law & Order, Unforgettable)
“I love this book!
Paul’s book tells you what you don’t want to hear but really need to know
EVERY actor should read this book!”
— DIANE RILEY, Senior Legit Talent Agent
Harden-Curtis & Associates
“Paul’s book made me proud to be a part of this community we call ‘show!'”
— KAREN ZIEMBA, TONY & Drama Desk Award Winning Actress
“Paul Russell’s words are not only blunt & accurate they zero in on all the questions every actor wants to know but is afraid to ask!”
— KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.
“I had my Business of Acting, BFA Seniors, class do book reports on a variety of “business of acting” books and ACTING: Make It Your Business came out a clear winner—considered to be essential for their bookshelves!
— Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Share Answers for Actors:
Follow Paul Russell Casting:
Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.
Get The Feed:
Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net and/or: