By Charlotte Thornton, Career mentor for Actors
Casting director workshops are a great place to improve your skills and make a contact, and there are plenty to choose from at Surviving Actor his year. I don’t know about you though, but I always slightly cringed when it came to the Q&A part. This is because it seemed like pretence. Actors seemed to ask questions, not to find answers, but to be noticed and get seen. This is totally understandable. Of course, we want to be seen! But I don’t think the Q&A is the place to achieve this. And if it is, it is not by asking THIS question.
What is the question?
The main question that irks me is, “Are we allowed to email you?” Or words to that effect. It might seem on the surface a harmless question but it is not, for this reason. You are asking permission to email then. Once you’ve lost this permission (for you and every other actor in the room) it is quite hard to email them. Yet to get seen, known and build relationships you must email them.
Of course a casting director doesn’t want unsolicited emails; especially not from a whole room full of actors. They have a job to do. But, respectfully, so do you. The casting director is rightly saying “No”, to a whole load of generic “Pick me!” emails. Of course, they are going to say, “No, don’t email me.” Who likes junk mail, right? But, by getting the answer, “No, don’t email me,” how do you move the relationship forward?
The other issue with asking permission is that is puts you below the casting director somehow. An employee asks permission off the employer. The child from the parent. How can you be equals if you ask permission? It makes you subservient and you want to be their equal. Not above them, all arrogant and privileged, but their equal. Someone with whom they will collaborate.
You are running a business. How you run it is up to you: your values, your ideas, your USP and your marketing plan. A business does not ask its clients how the business should be run.
But surely asking them is marketing intel?
I don’t think this gives you any marketing insight, because they will always tell you NOT to email them IMHO. Would you like a call from the PPI team? No. Do they make money this way – they must do. Otherwise they wouldn’t do it. Ask something more original and you could get some real marketing intelligence.
What should I ask?
Casting directors are people you want to build a relationship with. Be genuine. Be you. If you really think asking a question will help you connect with the casting director, then do your research and ask something that will connect you with the casting director. i.e. something from that research.
Or ask something that will genuinely help you. The more original the question, the more likely you are to stand out. What shows do they watch? What’s their dream? Stop being self-serving and take a genuine interest in them.
When we ask a question simply to be noticed, we can fall into the trap of asking anything. This can a) make you look ignorant, which makes all actors look ignorant or b) – make you look subservient or ‘desperate’. Neither of these serves you and usually, because the question is so generic, safe and unoriginal, you don’t get remembered anyway, which ironically was the point of the question.
So stop asking for permission. Trust that going to the workshop is enough to get noticed and continue the relationship after with tailored, appropriate marketing.
Charlotte is a former West End actor turned mentor and author of the book Talent Isn’t Enough. To find out about mentoring visit www.charlottethornton.com or go to stand 21 at the Expo.