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Advice for Actors
Good Advice for Boston actors submitting their acting headshot to casting calls
Occasionally I help cast film projects (and I post those castings on Hollywood East Actors Group), and every time the experience provides tremendous insight into what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a casting call. I'll see a handful of great actor submissions, but more often I see submissions that could be improved.
Here's what I've learned from being on the end of the casting director - hopefully these tips will help my actor friends present themselves more professionally and increase their chances of getting called in for auditions:
1. Keep in mind it's a real human being receiving your submission email, so include a short but sweet intro message along with your submission. Only submitting a headshot and resume with no text is impersonal, and you’re missing your chance to make a great first impression. Don’t write a paragraph, but in a few words be nice. Say hello be grateful for the opportunity - essentially give them a reason to like you before they’ve even looked at your headshot and resume.
2. Follow the instructions. In my most recent case I asked actors to include “CASTING: (Your name)” in the email subject line. People who did not follow these specific instructions made themselves stand out as someone who does not follow instructions, and that's not good. Even writing “Casting:” with lower case letters is still not following instructions. Remember, small things matter.
3. Only submit to the casting if you actually fit the character description. Seriously. If you know you don't fit but still want the chance to get in front of them for other jobs you can say that, but be professional and polite. You could say something about requesting to be included in their talent pool for future opportunities.
4. If you're serious about acting invest in a professional headshot. Amateur photos and selfies, especially wearing sunglasses, do not make you look like a serious actor. Remember, a casting director is receiving numerous submissions and the photo you're using can either grabs their attention and interest or just makes you blend in with the crowd. It’s the actors with high quality professional headshots that stand out and come across as the most professional.
5. Ensure that your headshot file is named appropriately. It should be labeled with your name rather than just “IMG_584c”. That helps the casting director do their job more efficiently and it makes you look more professional.
6. Make sure your headshot is a small file, around 300KB. Do not submit a file over 1MB, and certainly NOT your printable 8x10 file. Keep in mind that the person you are submitting to may have to forward multiple photos onto their client for review, and if your photo is too large and causing the email to be unsendable by exceeding the limit you risk them dropping your headshot.
7. Make sure your headshot looks like you. This is too important. The headshot you're using should be current. If you send two headshots with different hair cuts be sure to mention which one most accurately represents your current hair style. If you have a different hairstyle or facial hair then tell them, and in this instance including a recent selfie, alongside your professional headshot, is appropriate. Of course, let them know you’re including a recent snapshot to indicate your current hair style.
8. Mention where you saw the casting, or if someone referred you mention them. That can help the casting director better understand how actors are finding their casting, which is helpful. Anything you can do to help the casting director helps you.
9. Properly format your resume and deliver it ideally as a PDF. Remember, the casting director may be forwarding your headshot and resume onto someone else, so it should be an attachment. Avoid Excel spreadsheets, PNGs, a link to IMDB or other website, putting the resume text directly in the email, or a photo of your resume page. Here’s my resume, which I created as a Google doc and exported as a PDF. Feel free to copy the formatting.
10. Send your headshot and resume as separate files. It’s fine to have a headshot thumbnail on your resume, but make sure you also include your headshot as a separate attachment. Speaking of which, make sure the files you send are attached and not embedded in the body of your email. Both of these practices are important when the casting director is forwarding your files, along with the attachments of the other applicants, to their client.
11. Send your headshot as a single image, not a composite of images, unless you’re applying to a modeling gig where a comp card is appropriate. If you want to send multiple images send them as separate files, that way the casting director can select which image they like the best for this particular job to send to their client.
12. Be respectful of the casting director’s time. Do not include a million links in your email. They are busy and most likely not going to watch them. Only send your best stuff. Remember, less is more.
13. Ensure that you use spell check and correct grammar in your intro message. Never use ‘u’ instead of ‘you’. It looks really bad!
14. If there’s something wrong with your headshot or resume, do not point it out. Take the time to fix it. If you are starting your message by pointing out where you’re lacking in preparation it does not create the best first impression.
15. Assuming you are being polite and succinct, ask questions like “How can I stay connected to you and future projects you’re casting?” But don't be offended if they don't personally respond to you. Remember, these are very busy people.
16. If you are uniquely qualified for this project in any way, tell them about it! But keep it short and sweet. For example, this recent casting was looking for men who like sports. The best response I received was from a young man from Kenya who told me how he came to America on a tennis scholarship and along with a professional headshot, included some shots of him playing tennis. You better believe I’m going to be pointing that out to my client and that will earn him extra consideration for the role.
Many people who call themselves professional actors come across as amateurs in the submission process, and short of the audition, nothing is as important as the first point of contact when you first submit to a casting director. Keep in mind that these are busy professionals who deal with a ton of people and will not take the time to give actors feedback on where they can improve their submission practices, which is why I wanted to write this post. I hope these tips help my actors friends show up as the professional actor they are working so hard to be!
BTW, these tips are just my opinions and are in no way final or definitive. Please let me know if you would like to add any tips to the list or disagree with anything I’ve written. All feedback is welcome!
Erica Derrickson is an award winning headshot photographer residing in Boston, Massachusetts. Her professional headshot photography portfolio, along with articles on top headshot tips, can be viewed on her web site, http://www.ericaseye.com. As the founder of Hollywood East Actors Group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/hollywoodeastactors, Erica has been able to share her expertise with actors throughout New England, establishing herself as "Boston's headshot expert." Beyond being one of the top headshot photographers in Boston, Erica Derrickson is a professional actress, http://www.presskit.to/erica, whose recent film credits include "The Heat," with Sandra Bullock.