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Careers Clinic: How do I recover from an email gaffe?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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It was all going so well. I’ve just done my graduation showcase and signed with a new agent. I also have a small job lined up for next month. I felt this was the ideal ‘news item’ to start contacting casting directors about. I wrote what I thought was a witty but succinct email and sent it round to several casting directors with my profile link and headshot.

I heard nothing for two days, then received an email from a casting director saying the link I included was dead. He was polite but obviously not impressed, although he did ask me to resend it. That was embarrassing enough, but then I opened Twitter. The same casting director had tweeted about sending duff profile links as a basic error no actor should make. He didn’t mention me in the tweet but it’s had lots of likes and retweets, and several smart comments by some of his followers.

I’m mortified. I’m also concerned about the emails I sent to other casting directors with the same link. What should I do?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE To help you navigate this situation, I’m going to adapt the advice I usually give actors about bad reviews. In most scenarios that advice is to let them go, rather than challenge or complain.

Raw as they can feel at the time, unfavourable reviews are likely to be forgotten by everyone but the actor concerned in a matter of days. Drawing more attention to them just delays that process. An obvious exception is when reviews include inappropriate comments on an actor’s race, body shape or other elements that have no bearing on performance. In that case, I would not only encourage the actor to call them out but join them in doing so.

Your ‘Tweetgate’ situation needs to be weighed up in a similar way. Anyone who regularly reads Spotlight breakdowns will know that casting directors often send out notes and amendments to express displeasure or frustration at the quality of submissions for particular castings. As it does for the rest of us, social media offers them the opportunity to express similar thoughts and pet irritations more publicly and in a very instant way.

From a career advice point of view, many of these tweets can be useful, and I often retweet them myself. They often identify mistakes that actors and agents can usefully learn from.

Most tweets in which a casting director or producer has commented on a faux pas are anonymised and the mistake common enough that it can’t be traced to a specific person. As with unfair reviews, anything that crosses the line into unkindness, bullying or targeting somebody personally is unacceptable. If that happens to you, contact me and I will do my best to offer support in addressing it.

This incident falls into the ‘learn and let it go’ category. If the casting director asked you to resend the link, do so with a short apology but without making a meal of it. Resend a corrected email to the others. You don’t need a long-winded explanation here: just change the subject line to ‘amended profile link, please ignore previous email’ or something similar. People who don’t open unsolicited emails won’t see either link. Those who do will usually spot your revised email and ignore the first.

As for the smart-ass replies and retweets by others on Twitter, ignore them. Several respected casting directors have repeatedly told me that the small number of actors who think they are currying favour by fawning over them on social media are doing the exact opposite. Ultimately, that’s a far more damaging career move than accidentally sending a bad link.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

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