Today’s blog is inspired by a competition we ran for a place to train with us free of charge. I had almost 700 cover letters to look through and out of those only 15 were suitable. Why? Because the others weren’t great (i’m being very nice). I want every actor to be successful and I like to change negative situations into positive ones hence this blog. I’m always asking myself, when I make mistakes, how I can learn from them, so I wanted to help YOU with the mistakes I’d seen, which can easily be rectified if you’re willing to learn. Today I’d like to share with you how creating clever cover letters will improve your chances of getting your foot in the door. After all that’s what you want isn’t it?
We sometimes get bogged down with cover letters and get in a tizzy about what to write, what not to write. You don’t need to get into a sweat. Let me help…
700 cover letters???
Yes, almost 700 and I sat and read through them ALL (except the ones that weren’t eligible). You have no idea how long it took me get through all of the letters. Place yourself in the shoes of the casting director or agent; they will have probably double that, if not more cover letters to read…
Where do I start? (please note, I haven’t directly taken quotes from the applicants as I didn’t think it fair or ethical, but below you will find a close enough account of what I read).
- Desperation, along the lines of “please give me this opportunity, my career depends on you, I can’t make it without you, you’re all I have”.
- The sob story – “I have no money, I have nowhere to live and nothing to eat, acting is my only chance”.
- Bragging – “my child is a star, she/he has been in XXX, YYYY, ZZZZZ and 123”
- NOT reading the COMPETITION requirements – “I have recently worked on xxx on ITV and would be suitable for this casting” Casting?? Uh?? (You have no idea how many of these I read)
- NOT reading the COMPETITION requirements – “My daughter is 4 and is confident, a natural and very talented”. 4??? I’ve no doubt her imagination would be great, but The Method also works with life experience AND it stated entrants must be 18 or over.
- No effort – This came in two ways, no cover letter what so ever OR a generic copied and pasted letter (so easy to spot).
These people simply weren’t chosen. I don’t want to give up my time to train someone who is desperate, doesn’t take care with their cover letters, is a bragger or simply doesn’t read the competition breakdown and I am sure casting directors and agents will feel exactly the same too. In fact I saw casting director Lee Mountjoy tweet something similar last week.
Writing in this way is wasting YOUR time and the readers time. I was shocked that people don’t make the effort and was thinking of other important things I needed to be getting on with.
Eventually I began to skim the cover letters to speed this process up and the ones with nothing, didn’t even get looked at it was a straight delete, the ones who didn’t fit the age criteria were also a straight delete. Harsh maybe, but that is the reality. The industry boils down to two things TIME and MONEY.
Casting’s may work on your head shot firstly, so make sure you invest in good quality headshots. I saw people with home photos that were blurry. I understand money may be an issue, but if you want to be taken seriously you must invest. Don’t rush, but take your time to save up money so you can represent your brand properly and be seen as a professional.
Your cover letter and head shots are the first impression of your brand.
Creating clever cover letters
It’s not all doom and gloom, there is a lesson to this. If you struggle with cover letters or have been guilty of any of the above, pay attention. I have to be honest, there isn’t really a clever way to create a cover letter, but there is a better way to write them than what I have described.
- Be yourself – I was drawn to the people who were themselves, no airs, no graces, no showing off, just a good old, from the heart (without being desperate) cover letter. It may sound crazy but you can instantly tell who is writing sincerely and who isn’t. The sincere letters, in my opinion, stand out. Why? Because my instincts told me I could trust these people.
- Read what you are applying for – The ones who had written that they’d be great for the casting instantly got binned. It sounds obvious but please do take time and care to read what you’re applying for so you can tailor your letter. Mass letters to everything and anything is spray and pray marketing on your part and doesn’t work.
- Make each cover letter unique – state something that resonates with you in your letter to the casting, agency or competition. Copy and pasted letters are very easy to spot and again, show lack of care. In my case these got binned because of lack of effort.
- Keep it short and sweet – Keeping it to the point makes it much easier to read. I received some letters with so many links in they clogged up the letter or the letters were extremely long. Remember what I said about time? Place yourself in the shoes of the reader, ask yourself if you could EASILY and QUICKLY read the letter among thousands of others AND whether it cuts straight to the point. If the answer’s no, it needs editing.
- Keep the letter tidy – a clogged up letter is so hard to read. As we are in a very fast paced society we want instant info. If your letter is easy on the eye it’s easier to be skim read for the essentials. Clear, short paragraphs are the way to go. Think about your links; when they’re placed all over the letter and are as long as your legs with no spaces, are they going to entice your reader or turn them off?
Please take on board my advice and practice getting your cover letters down to a tee! The more you practice, the easier they will become – one less thing to stress about!
Did you find this blog useful? Let me know in the comments below. I love to hear from you. Share it with your acting friends, cover letters may be getting them in a tizzy!
To your success!! Don’t give up, just keep learning.
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