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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Market Your Acting Career (Tip #8): Follow Up Calls

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As many of you know, I am very active on Twitter, passing along tips & resources for actors, and sharing my own successes and tribulations as an actor myself. On Twitter, you can easily follow agents & casting directors who pass along their own pearls of wisdom. One of them @commeagent, posted a tweet that I found to be interesting:

(Keep in mind that on Twitter, you have to keep your tweets below 140 characters, so people will abbreviate their words...)

@commeagent: “? for Actors: Why do u insist on calling me 2 follow up on ur submission? Has an agent ever said ‘Oh I am so glad u called. I 4got 2 call u.’ ”

It took me a little while to decide what I might say in response, because this topic can cause concern among the actors andI only had 140 characters to explain myself. Not too long after I posted my response, I got an email from one of my followers (I always welcome people to contact me if they have questions):

Hi, Hope you don't mind me contacting you this way...I was very interested in your response to commeagent’s post. You said:

"Ha! It's called outdated advice, in my book... RT @commeagent: ? for Actors: Why do u insist on calling me 2 follow up on ur submission?"

I greatly respect you, the way you run your business, and the advice you give. So, I'm interested in your reasoning here? do you not suggest following up on submissions? Most agent meetings I've gotten have been after diligently following up (sometimes multiple times) with phone calls.

You said it's 'outdated advice' - what is updated advice, do you think? ie What do you advise?

Thank you for your time & opinion, Reghan

Here’s my response to her, which I thought would be great to share here as well:


Hi, Reghan! Very good question, and I am glad you wrote. I want to start by saying that no piece of advice is perfect for everyone, and there will always be exceptions to the rule. So, I am thrilled to hear that following up by phone has worked for you. Based on what "commeagent" wrote, I am not sure that all actors will have your success.

First, do you follow commeagent's tweets? I deleted the last part of his tweet so that my comment would fit. The full tweet was: "? for Actors: Why do u insist on calling me 2 follow up on ur submission? Has an agent ever said "Oh I am so glad u called. I 4got 2 call u."

I know that Los Angeles operates a little bit different than in New York City, but here the agents & casting directors, unequivocally, say that they do not accept incoming calls from actors. Even when I have been prompted to call by someone in their office, I have been met with rude and sometimes downright nasty responses. I have pressed a couple of them about the issue, and they've explained:

• When agents go through submissions, they generally have 2 piles = people to call, and people to ignore (and, hence, those go into the trash.) If they're interested, they'll call. If not, then they’ll thrown your headshot away. So, if an actor calls for a follow up, the chances are the agent has already thrown away their photo and will not remember seeing it. The answer to, "Have you gotten my submission?" will almost always be "I don't know." Agents feel that these follow up calls waste their time, and pull them away from their already busy schedule.

• When casting directors go through submissions, they are mostly concerned with the current projects they are casting. If you are submitting for a current project and they like what they see, they'll put your headshot into the "call" pile. But often you are not right for the project, and if they don't already know your work they'll likely throw away your headshot rather than filing it away for future reference. Therefore (like above) the answer to, "Have you gotten my submission?" will almost always be "I don't know."

Of course, if you have a strong referral or you have a certain look that they are going for but can't use right away, there is a slim chance that they'll hold onto your headshot and plan to call at a later date. But in this case, they already had you in the "yes" pile, so your call won't necessarily push them over the edge.

Now, IF you happen to call on the same day that your envelope hits there desk, there may be a chance that your charm over the phone will encourage them to take a look at your headshot a little longer. That would be something worth considering.

To answer your specific question (about why I think it may be outdated advice): It used to be that all submissions came through the mail, so agents & casting directors paid special and specific attention to the physical headshots and resumes that came via the post office. But since most industry folks meet actors through workshops, showcases and referrals by phone/email, and since most projects are cast online through Breakdown Services, industry pros are paying less and less attention to what comes in through the mail. I think this means that our method for follow up needs to change as well. Follow up by phone still happens in the corporate world, but it accepted less and less in our world.

That all being said: If you can handle the rejection you might feel by agents & casting directors (and their associates) being rude when you call, I'd say you should do it. Run your business the way you see fit. I think using the phone is a perfectly acceptable way to do business, and I wish our industry would embrace it as a more fair and equitable way to build relationships. But I am hearing more and more that agents & casting directors don't want that kind of conversation with actors, which is why I piped in.

Hope this answers your question (and sorry it was so long!) Please let me know if you need anything else- always glad to help!

As a Post Script- commeagent seems to have gotten some backlash, because he just posted this on Twitter (BTW- these are his typos, not mine): "You know what...Changed my mind. Folow up to your heart's content. Who knows what mysteries lurk on the end of the phone. New Attitiude." 

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.

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