Your cover letter is hugely important. It is the thing that makes an agent consider calling you in for a meeting (or a Zoom chat in the current climate) – so the tone has to be spot on.
If your letter reeks of desperation then it can come across as begging, and if it is too boastful you can come across as an arrogant squib (I don’t know what a squib is, but Lloyd Webber called me it the other day).
Many agents have told me about ‘gimmicky’ letters they’ve received, in which the actor has tried to stand out – but sadly they ended up standing out for all the wrong reasons.
For example, one actor had included lots of photos with their little headshots glued on to the faces of famous movie characters – Superman, Vito Corleone, Indiana Jones and Gandalf. The letter said: “Represent me and with your help I’ll play all these roles!”
Sadly, it didn’t work out and the agent didn’t represent him, but the photos remain in the agent’s ‘funny applications’ drawer.
Another actor sent in a fake cheque made out to their agent for £1 million – and the letter said: “Take me on and I will make you this money – guaranteed.” Again, I love the actor’s optimism and spirit, but sadly she made no money for the agent as they didn’t take her on. Bless.
So, the main thing I would say is to keep it professional. Yes, it’s good to be different, but only if it’s going to work in your favour.
There’s no need to list every acting credit you’ve ever done – just pick out the most impressive
The main thing your cover letter needs is a little biography about yourself – including where you’re originally from, where you’re based and your training – and, of course, details of all of your relevant experience. There’s no need to list every acting credit you’ve ever done (unless you’ve only done one) – just pick out the most impressive.
As a general rule, agents are more impressed if you have a couple of decent directors on there, or some venues that they recognise. Even if it was just a play reading at an excellent venue, include it – there’s nothing wrong with bigging up the facts, dear.
Then be sure to include a link to your Spotlight page, your acting CV, and a couple of your headshots. Make sure they are recent and actually look like you – agents get fed up of the amount of ‘headshits’ they receive, dear.
A helpful tip is to be specific about why you are contacting that agent. It makes them feel special, and looks like you haven’t just sent a blanket email to them all. Have a look at who the agent represents, and say things like: “I love your client list”, “I like the way you’ve helped nurture people’s careers”, “You have an excellent reputation”, “I’m a big fan of your nice hair” – anything that compliments them, really.
And if you know anyone else represented by them, mention that as well (and get your friend to put in a good word for you). That’s it: be professional, big yourself up, include all your experience, and do a spelling and grammar check. Good luck!