Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Actor Postcards: How To Save Your Money In 2 Easy Steps


Money! Did I get your attention? As an actor you're asked to spend SO much money on your career. Classes, private coaches, subscriptions to online sites to list your profile, the gym, voice lessons, and postcards. Postcards? You know those 5x7 color cards that you mail to EVERY CASTING DIRECTOR in town to say "howdy" and let them know you're alive? Actors ask me this one question all the time. "Postcards? Are they worthwhile? Do you even look at them or are they tossed in the trash?" Good question! I'm here to help you save your hard earned money.

1. HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. I get TONS (read = piles and piles) of actor postcards and headshots every day. I'd say that each casting office runs differently, but I know that I appreciate knowing what you're up to. For me, this means send out a postcard when you have something to say...."I have a new episode on CSI/I'm in a new play/I just got a new agent/mgr". Here's the secret: you DO NOT have to send out a postcard just to say hello. ONLY send them out when you have some new work to tell me about or have some NEW information to share. See? I just saved you a bunch of mailings = money. DO NOT "paper the town" and send postcards to every single casting office in town. Do your research and send them out to a targeted list of casting offices that are active and are casting shows/films that your type may be right for. 

2. TARGET/TRACK CASTING OFFICES INTELLIGENTLY. When you buy a bunch of address labels and send them out to every casting office in town you are wasting your precious time and money. Be specific. Here's a solution I like. Make sure you have the most up-to- the-minute information about the casting offices you're trying to connect with. There's a really great company called CastingAbout. They provide the latest info on casting directors, their staff, and what they're casting. Co-owners Brian Wold and Blair Hickey are onto something. Here's some detailed info from one of the owners, Blair Hickey:

"As actors, we're all trained to consider the subtext in our scripts, but many forget there's subtext in the business side of our job as well. Too many actors spend significant time and money on "mass mailings" without any specific message ("Please consider me for anything you do…") or, worse yet, no message at all beyond a name and number. Instead of promoting the actor, this type of message can actually come off as sort of desperate, leaving a first impression that could be interpreted as amateur or (worse yet) "wannabe." Contrast this with a targeted and personalized message that speaks directly to the casting director's current needs and activities -- such as a postcard informing an office that you often book the types of roles they need for that new series they just picked up, or another congratulating an associate you know of his or her recent promotion. The marketing subtext of these messages are the same:  You understand the business and your place in it, you do your homework, and know what's going on around town. In other words, you're a pro."

CastingAbout provides actors the specific information necessary to build a target list, keep those people informed of progress and bookings, and -- perhaps most importantly -- stay on top of their career development as well. They track not just which CD is casting what, but where they're located specific to each project (SO important because most of us CDs are like gypsies....we move around A LOT) -- as well as each project's current production status. And because this business moves fast, updates to CastingAbout are published to the site continuously each work day, in real time, so actors who visit the site are always presented with the latest, most up-to-the-minute information available. With features to search and research projects, print custom mailing labels, and enter private, date stamped notes. And no, I don't get a kickback for touting their services!!


That said, I know lots of casting directors who barely look at your postcards and just dump them in the trash. You should take this into account and weigh out the benefits before repeatedly sending postcard after postcard to all the casting offices in town.

I'd love to hear from you! Let me know if sending postcards words for you (or if it's a waste of time and money). Share your experiences!

Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask them here!
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We welcome your comments and suggestions.

Glad you're here!
Marci

12 comments:

  1. Marci,

    I recently decided to give acting another chance. I started taking acting classes and auditioning for big and small parts in all kinds of project. One director gave me a piece of advice which I would like to know if you agree with. He said not to bother doing extra work, because all that shows to directors and casting directors is that you're good at just standing there all day. Do you agree with this? Is being an extra in a project and listing it on a resume wasted time and space?

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    1. Working as background is good experience if you're just starting out. It's not appropriate to list your extra/background or stand-in work on your resumé.

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  2. Thanks for your insights Marci. Always appreciate you sharing you knowledge.

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  3. Marci,

    In regards to your reply to Ana...I live in Charlotte, NC where it's quite difficult to get anything other than extra/stand-in work on the few big projects actually being filmed here. Because I have not moved out to LA yet, and will not be able to do so for another 2-3 years, is it appropriate for me to list my extra/stand-in work on my resume? I'd love to be able to get actual roles, but I'm not sure how possible that is in my market, so I thought maybe my small work can be listed on my resume since that's all I have to put on it.

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    1. No, I do not believe that just because you're in a smaller market, you should list your extra/stand-in work on your resumé. You should list all speaking roles, theatre, commercials, industrials (for now - take them off later), your training, and special skills. We can tell when you're trying to "pad" your resumé

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  4. Thanks for this Marci! Great stuff as always.

    As a rule, I only send postcards to those CDs and producers with whom I've established a relationship - usually through prior work or via a workshop or class. It can take some time to build the list, but this way they know who I am, we've connected in person, and we can support each other in our work.

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  5. I just heard from a casting director in a workshop, that she doesn't like postcards at all. She said, if you are somebody she knows, she will open a letter from you, but all postcards go into the trash. What is your thought on writing letters? Is she unique in her preference?

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  6. As I said in the blog, some offices welcome postcards, some send them right to the trash. You've got to take that into consideration when considering your budget for this type of advertising.

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  7. That's a great point about researching the Casting offices and their own personal paths. We, as actors, sometimes feel offended when people don't know or remember where we are on our track and kind of expect that everyone should care about our every move. Yet, when do actors (this is not an attack - I'm an actor too) ever stop to consider anyone's success or progression, who's not in direct competition with us? I don't do mass mailings. It hurts my head. And inevitably it only leads to a feeling of inferiority. Now I do send headshots to my targeted Casting Directors, however, I am definitely guilty of the general, impersonal not accompanying my headshot. I think being an actor, CDs become something scary and perhaps bordering on superhuman. But I'm glad I read that because I needed to be reminded that, at the end of the day, they are human beings who have lives and dreams and successes and tragedies of their own. I will definitely keep that in mind next time I hesitate writing something that I fear will be "personal" and not "professional." Thank you!

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    1. So true. We're all in this together. It's a mindset really. When the actor starts thinking of herself as a filmmaker/collaborator that's when you enter the room as an equal. Most well written letters START by talking/inquiring about the other person, not yourself. Great to meet you on Saturday Emma!

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