Use the ‘just been in work’ grace period
Even if you’ve been out of work for several months you can still use your most recent job as a selling-point. ‘I was recently working at … ’ or ‘I was recently working with …’ are especially useful if your last job is relatable in some way to the person you are writing to e.g. you ‘recently’ did a laugh-out-loud play and are writing to a casting director specialising in comedy.
Send out new promotional material
Being out of work doesn’t mean that nothing’s happening and if your new showreel or voicereel has finally been put together, the telly-job you filmed 18 months ago is about to air or your new photos have just been printed then you have something to advertise. Use the ‘Quick Update’ subject-heading (described in my last blog) and you’ve got yourself a mail-out.
Follow up on what you’ve seen and loved
Write to directors and casting directors, tell them that how much you liked their work and that you would like to work with them in the future. Do some research but if you can’t find out what they are casting next, ask them. Talk a bit about the show you did ‘recently’ and embed a a link to your promotional material.
Follow up your research
There are loads of ways to be on top of what is coming up next in the industry … look at theatre websites, join mailing lists, use IMDB pro, follow casting twitter-feeds, look at press releases, talk to your agent, go to theatre bars after shows, read trade papers and interviews with industry people, talk to your mates …
If you think you’re suitable for something then email your agent and (especially if you know the director or casting director) write to and email the people involved.
Use The Actors & Performers Yearbook to ‘Cold-Call’
The Actors & Performers Yearbook has details of theatre companies which may be receptive to actors writing to request consideration. This is much more likely to be effective if you’ve seen their shows and are genuinely interested in working for them.
Write to get involved
There are lots of opportunities for you to meet industry people whilst developing your acting-skills. If you like a particular theatre company check their website for information to see if they run workshops, and apply.
And once you’ve got involved … write off
The more you get involved in the industry the more opportunities you will have to promote yourself. So if you’ve done a workshop, taken a course or been to a seminar not only can you follow up with the people you’ve met but also use your latest experience as a basis for writing to new companies and employers : ‘I’ve just finished workshopping with …’
Advertise your unusual skills
If you can speak different languages, play instruments, sing, do impressions … or whatever your rare skills are look out for projects that require those specialisms. You can also target directors or writers that regularly work in particular languages or use performers with your skill-set.
A specific skill may link you in some way to a director, writer, casting director etc but there are many other ways to find links that you can use as a basis for sending something out. For example, approaching potential employers that live, work or make work about the area that you live or grew up in is an effective way to build new industry connections.
Major changes in your circumstances
Big changes are a good excuse to make contact. Let previous employers know when you change agents. If you have just returned from a period away from the industry let people know that you are back and available for work.
Doing your own work
If your own work is on at a venue that you can easily invite people to then this is an obvious opportunity to start writing and emailing.
But even if you are just starting out on your new project you can still contact people. Find out what like-minded people in the same position as you are up to, offer to help and create new work together or play-read works that excite you. If you got some comedy ideas you want to work through, write to contacts and people you think are funny and get them in a room together with some of your material. Or ask friends and friends of friends to take part in a reading of your latest screenplay-draft. You’ll be developing your material and expanding your network.
Maintain existing relationships
Maintaining the industry relationships you already have is arguably more important than making new ones. And not just casting directors and directors but people you meet across the whole industry, including your colleagues and friends.
This is easy enough to do with a quick email or note … thank people, congratulate them on their successes, check in with them to see what they’re up to and go to see their shows, offer out your help if they need it, ask people for advice when you need help, or just arrange to meet for a drink.
Nurturing these relationships means that doors will not only continue to open for you but you will also have a supporting networking of people to help you when you’re facing tougher times.
Reopen old doors
Being out of work may mean you’ve got a little more free time on your hands so take advantage by reconnecting with people you’ve lost touch with. This could be an old mentor, a director you worked with at drama school, an friend from the first play you did. Say hello, find out what they’re up to and you may have rebuilt a very useful (and friendly) old connection.
Don’t burn bridges
If things aren’t going your way then it is easy to damage relationships that may be useful in the future. Maintaining good business relations with people is as easy as sending a quick email.
For example, if an agent calls you to say they can’t take you on and you miss the call send a quick email to thank them for getting back to you. Or if a casting director sends you a note explaining why you didn’t get a part that you spent months auditioning for send them a quick reply and say thanks.