Soapbox: I sent 1,000 emails in 45 days – here’s what I learned
January. I had just come back from more than a month of travelling – to South Africa for a job, then California for Christmas. I had nothing on the horizon.
London was cold and grey. I went to a casting workshop at which the casting director mentioned that an actor friend of hers had managed to write 500 emails to people in the industry, and out of that number, he had gotten 50 responses, and 15 jobs. I had nothing to lose, my birthday was around the corner, and I figured: ‘Why not make it 1,000 before then?’
I planned it out: 20 emails a day, 50 days till my birthday. And I did it. In 45 days.
This is what I learned.
It’s always going to be harder for women
I knew that already. I think all actresses are painfully aware of how little space there is in this industry for us, even in 2016.
- The actor who had written before me had written 500 emails, received 50 responses and landed 15 jobs. Now, I don’t know in what span of time all that happened. I knew it would be harder for a woman, so that’s why I aimed for 1,000. Surprisingly enough, I received 205 responses and landed seven jobs. Now I know this is all very recent, and those emails were sent more as an investment in my career than in the hopes of getting some gigs immediately. But still, that’s half the jobs the other guy got, for twice the effort. It makes you think.
- My emails were as professional as emails can be. However, I’ve had men respond to me by opening their message with ‘Young lady’ and ‘Young Miss’ and even some winky faces and some LOLs.
- A director was kind enough to agree to meet me during his lunch break and have a chat with me. On the way to the cafe, he asked me to tell him about myself. “Oh, well, I’m very passionate about what I do, and I know it’s a hard business, so I know what I want and I’m not afraid to make it happen,” I ventured. “Oh, so you’re bossy?” came his reply. (I calmly explained that I didn’t think that was quite the right way to describe it, and that you wouldn’t necessarily use that word for a man, and he did apologise.)
- Later, however, as I was passionately telling him about an upcoming project, he interrupted me and said, “You really have striking eyes.” Even though I’m 27 and went to a great drama school, am well-spoken and experienced, not only was he still not listening to me, but he also thought that what he had to say about my body was more important, and gave himself the right to cut me off.
- After a hard day, when I was feeling a bit discouraged, I got an answer back from a theatre company saying, “We are now an all-male company and fully cast.” I thought: ‘Really? An all-male company? In 2016? What was it you thought? It’s never been done before? What a clever way to help the evolution of theatre? To now only hire male actors? How about an all-white company then? How would that go down?’
I’m a strong believer in equality, and I’m sure the company does great work. I was just having none of it that day. I kindly thanked him and wished them the best.
Don’t be afraid to go international
I landed three voice gigs from US companies which I’ll be able to do from my home studio, and I’m now on another company’s books as a voice-over artist. I landed a meeting for a Danish English-speaking theatre company, and have been put on the audition list for some theatres in Austria.
Had I known that I’d have so many positive responses from the US, I would have pursued that from the beginning. I was coming to the end of my emailing marathon, and was getting a bit desperate to find some more people to write to, so I just said, the hell with it, let’s try the States.
Gmail will lock you out of your account
I didn’t even know it was a thing. It is. I’ve been blocked six times. There is no pattern to it either – once it was after 29 emails sent, once after 63, and once after one. However, the mail app on Apple devices will still work. And this is how I managed to write up the last 90 emails in one day.
Learn how to email people
Ask how people are doing. Give praise. Personalise the email. Always mention the attachments before the signature. Be explicit about what you want from them. When they write back, regardless of what they’re saying, always write back and say thank you.
People are on your side
Generally people are rooting for you. I’ve heard that a lot when talking about auditioning: they want you to do well. It’s the same when reaching out. I’ve had a lot of people saying they admired my proactivity, my emailing skills, my reels, and many also gave their own advice: make your own work. I’ve also had a lot of people asking me to invite them to see my future work.
Don’t just stick to casting directors. From what I gathered when I looked at my stats, they reply less often than anyone else. They are the ones who get the most emails from eager actors as well. Go for directors, writers, producing theatres, role-play companies, or any other person who might be helpful in getting you where you want to be. I’ve found that almost all role-play companies wrote back, same thing for playwrights. More than half the producing theatres I wrote to have kept me on file.
Oh, and don’t forget actors. It might sound counter-intuitive, but they love to talk about themselves (proof right here), and I’ve had some wonderful meetings that have led to work.
Give yourself a deadline
I have a year and a half left on my visa to get as many jobs as I can, as my application for the next visa will be based on my body of work here. And if I don’t get it, I need to know I’ll have done everything I could have possible done to try. My friend told me recently that Al Pacino, when asked in an interview, “Why is it that you made it, and not your schoolmates at the Actors Studio?” said, “Well, they wanted to make it. I had to.” I don’t think I would have bothered to go through with this project if it were not for the constant clock ticking over my head.
Be really careful not to mix up names and companies. Rest. Maybe don’t do 90 emails in one day like I did. It’s a terrible idea. Also check the time you send them, and then if too late, maybe just save the drafts and press send the next morning. Why? No one wants to get an email at 11:23pm. Also, your account might be unblocked by then.
So there you have it.
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