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Careers Clinic: When should I send my acting showreel?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I’m about to do my first mail-out to agents and casting directors. Well, I say ‘about to’, but my new headshots, showreel and the flyer for a showcase I’m in early next year have been sitting in my draft email folder for a month.

Before I graduated, several agents and casting directors came to speak to the students. A common complaint from these talks was actors flooding them with badly put together submissions. I resolved not to be one of those actors. I held off until after the graduation show in case any of the agents the college had invited signed me, but no joy.

Then I did a fringe show, which, although not well attended, helped me decide what roles I am strongest at. I invested in new shots and a showreel reflecting those qualities. Having taken the time and spent the money, I don’t want to waste all that effort. But with Christmas upon us, should I wait to send them out and, if so, for how long?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE There are certainly ‘seasons’ in theatre, both on stage and in what needs to be done to get on stage. A good illustration of that right now is the fact that any actor swept up in the seasonal spirit who fancies ‘doing a bit of panto’ has long since missed the boat. The majority of panto castings happen mid-year, and sometimes even earlier to allow time for promotional shoots in costume.

The last two weeks of August are another period where it is unlikely a mail out will gain much traction, since many industry gatekeepers will either be in Edinburgh or on holiday. Moving from the macro to the micro level, any sales person will tell you that while it can be hard to gauge when the perfect time to contact a prospect is, common sense dictates when the worst times are likely to be.

First thing on Monday springs to mind for obvious ‘getting lost in the inbox’ reasons, but nor is Friday afternoon as relaxed as you might think: agents and casting directors will often be rushing to get last minute arrangements tied up before the weekend.

I have always felt that ‘When should I send my email/presskit/showreel link?’ is a question that can tie us up in an overthinking knot. A better starting point may be to ask yourself what you want to achieve from making a particular outreach in the first place. If you want to invite people to a production that you would like reviewed or are hoping for some other coverage, I would avoid two mistakes I often see actors (and some publicists) make.

The first is sending out the information so far in advance that, by the time the event actually happens, even people who were interested in going will probably have forgotten. The second is making contact so close to the performance date that the person you wanted to come along is booked somewhere else. The sweet spot between those extremes depends entirely on who you are contacting.

Cold-calling a busy person and launching into your pitch is rarely a good idea, but if there is a general office number, try calling to find out how they like to be approached and when, making sure the information isn’t already listed on the website or elsewhere.

Make sure you are certain of what work your prospect casts or what kind of actors they represent to ensure that whatever you contact them about is of actual of use to them, rather than just to you. Once you have considered all that, go for it, and I wish you every success with your campaign.

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

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