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Careers Clinic: How can I attract agents to my show?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I finished studying at drama school last year but didn’t get an agent offer following the showcase. I haven’t let that hold me back and have been applying for acting jobs regardless. As an unrepresented actor, I was only able to secure a few auditions and one very small professional gig.

I have recently been cast in a play at a large pub theatre in London and would like to use this as an opportunity to invite agents and casting directors to see my work, and possibly secure representation.

The run is at the end of August, which I know can be a tricky time for availability as far as industry people are concerned. When do you think I should approach the people I want to invite, what should the tone of the invite be and is there anything else I can do to get these particular bums on seats?

John Byrne’s advice

There is no doubt that August can be a difficult time to get people to attend shows, with much of the industry either at the Edinburgh Fringe, or away on holiday. To be honest, it isn’t easy to get people to attend shows no matter what time of the year you are inviting them.

I’m telling you this not to put you off but to illustrate that just as with any other aspect of acting, from applying for castings to auditioning, there are elements to publicising a show that you can control, and those you can’t, so it is worth concentrating on the activities that will give you the best chance of success.

Contacting people at the right time is a good first step in doing that. The ‘sweet spot’ is usually early enough that they still have the time free, but not so early that they will forget by the time the date arrives. Two to three weeks before opening night is usually a good target.

Think hard about who you are contacting – if it is agents, use a line or two of your short invite to give a reason why you might fit into their roster and, preferably, how the show you are in will demonstrate this. Similarly, there is not a lot of point in inviting a screen casting director to a theatre show unless there is a specific element of your role that relates to screen work. Even with theatrical work, different casting directors specialise in different areas. Make sure to flag up the reason why what you are doing may be of specific interest to them.

Practicalities can make a difference too: include links to the venue website or a flier with clearly set out times and directions, and, if you are offering to sort out comp tickets, make the process as easy for the recipient as possible.

Lastly, remember to follow up politely a few days before the event. If we’re honest, most of us who get a lot of show invites tend to make final decisions based on the follow-up rather than the initial notice. I’d love to say that doing all the above will guarantee attendance, but that would be overly optimistic.

For this reason, in addition to the show invite, make sure you include links to your casting profile. Whether from interest or just plain old guilt, somebody may well take a look, and even if they don’t come to the show, that’s a small victory. More to the point, it can happen that the right profile landing in the right inbox at the right time can make a difference. Once you have done everything you can to stack the odds in your favour, the best course of action is to let go of any outcome besides giving your best performance and enjoy your time in the show.

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

John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne

Dear West End Producer: ‘What is the best way to contact agents?’

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