Corresponding with Casting Directors: A Guide to Email Etiquette

The wonderful and dearly-departed Gary David Goldberg, creator of Family Ties, Brooklyn Bridge and Spin City, had a terrific saying: “that’s two emails”. What he meant by this is that people have a tendency to cloak a favor request as a thank-you note. For example, if “Bob” would like to ask “Jane” to use her season tickets to the Lakers, he would send an email like this:

 “Dear Jane, thanks so much for the delicious brownies you made for the school’s pot luck event, they were delicious! I’m wondering if you will be using your Laker’s tickets next month for the Lakers v Celtics game, if not, Cindy and I would love to go and take the kids. Let me know! Thanks, Bob.

 

To this, Gary would say, “that’s TWO emails!”.  A thank-you note should be a thank-you note and nothing else, and a favor request should be just that.

This same principal applies for actors reaching out to Casting Directors to ask to be seen for a role or to request a general meeting. I have received many emails from actors such as this:


“Dear Ms. Colbert, I absolutely loved your documentary, Casting By! It really inspired me. I’m new in town and I’m wondering if you have time to meet me on a general.”


To Casting Directors, this is a turn-off. While we would very much appreciate an email extolling the virtues of the films that we cast, it should be just that. If you want to email me asking me to bring you in for a particular audition,  it should be just that!
Now, this brings us to the idea of emailing Casting Directors in general. Is it acceptable to cold-email Casting Directors? As recently as a few years ago, I would have said that email is too “intimate” of a method of correspondence. Today, especially with Casting Director’s email addresses becoming more and more accessible, times have changed! With this, I believe that actors need to be very careful about when and how they correspond with CDs via email:
1. If a Casting Director has their email address listed on imdb, it is acceptable to send he or she an email to compliment them on a project(s) OR to send them a request for a general meeting or an audition.
2. If there is a particular role that you heard about (from a peer or through the grapevine) and your agent cannot get you in or you don’t have any representation, it is acceptable to send a succinct email with your photo and resume and/or demo reel attached. The email should read something like this:


“Dear Ms. Colbert, I am an actor from Canada. I have recently moved to Los Angeles and I am studying with Larry Moss. I would love the opportunity to read for the role of X in the project X as I am sincerely passionate about showing you my work. Please find my photo-resume and demo reel attached. Sincerely X”


3. Most CDs do not have time for general meetings but if there is a CD who you are passionate about meeting, your email can read something like this:


“Dear Ms. Colbert, I  am an actor from Canada. I have recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of becoming an actor. I am currently studying with Larry Moss. I would love the opportunity to meet you if your schedule allows. Please find my photo-resume and demo reel attached.”


In review, a complimentary email is always appreciated (and I encourage young actors to let professionals know if they admire their work) BUT if you are making a request,  it should not be disguised as praise!
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Joanna Colbert began her career as a casting director in association with Juliet Taylor on Interview with a Vampire for which she conducted a nationwide search resulting in the discovery of Kirsten Dunst. Colbert then went on to work at Universal Pictures as the Manager of Casting and then Senior Vice President of Casting, overseeing such blockbusters as The Mummy series, American Pie, Meet the Parents, and Bruce Almighty. She formed Joanna Colbert Casting in 2001 and Colbert/Mento Casting in 2006. Her credits include: No Strings Attached, the Step-Up series, Cedar Rapids, The Mummy, Everything Must Go, Hollywoodland and The Good Girl. Colbert is currently producing several projects, including a documentary about casting and its influence on film titled Casting By, a feature film titled Atticus Run, The Black Version tv series and Kate McClafferty’s blog, 356 til 30.