How to Write an Acting Cover Letter

Are you trying to convince someone to hire you? Of course you are! You’re an actor! You have essentially entered into a tacit contract to continue begging people to hire you on a daily-to-bi-weekly basis for the remainder of your existence.

As per this agreement, you will have to get creative about the methods used to promote your employability. A favorite ritual demand of the acting gods is the cover letter. Sacrificed on the altar of talent agents and artistic directors alike, the cover letter is a baffling creature whose mysteries actors have struggled to illuminate for ages. In interest of supporting all pilgrims on this glorious quest, here are some quick tips to help you get started.

1. Make it Look Pretty. Spend some quality time with Microsoft Word, or your chosen composition program. Get back to basics and model your visual structure after a traditional business letter. Play with design. Maybe find a way to make it look distinctive without allowing it to venture into the territory of a preteen girl’s scrapbook page. It is DANGEROUSLY EASY to acquire that vibe. Less is more.

2. Research Your Target. Figure how you should address the letter. If you are submitting to a boutique agency, for example, snoop around online, or plug into the grapevine and see if you can figure out exactly who will be reading your submission. Make sure you call everyone by their appropriate titles.

3. Follow Directions. Most agencies will post submission guidelines on their websites. Make sure you follow those instructions exactly. Anything less will make you look lazy or amateurish.

4. Include the Appropriate Information. Even if it is on your attached résumé, make sure you have all your contact information, including the URL to your website, on your cover letter, probably beneath your typed name at the bottom (but be sure to sign it, too). Make sure your updated résumé and reel (if you have one) are included. Mention a couple of your accomplishments in your letter, but don’t boast.

5. Have an Interesting Greeting. Don’t start with “Hello, my name is . . . ” But alternately, don’t try to be too cute. Shoot for that sweet middle ground where your greeting shows personality, yet isn’t trying too hard. It’s like you’re trying to date them. You want to show them how fun you are without being needy.

6. Brevity is King. No one really wants to read your cover letter. At larger agencies it may not get read at all. So increase your chances by hitting all the pertinent information and then getting out of Dodge. We want it quick, clean and informative.

7. Watch Your Tone. Ideally, you want to sound confidently professional, yet warm and approachable. Make it sound like you, but on your best behavior. Save a little for the honeymoon.

8. Offer Them Opportunities. If you are in an upcoming production, offer to comp them, even if you have to buy the tickets out-of-pocket. The more of your work they see, the better your chances.

9. Don’t Apologize. There are people who have way more experience, and cooler websites, and fuller reels than you do. Just show them the best you have. Don’t apologize for where you are in your career.

10. Spell Check. Grammar Check. All the Checks. DO NOT rely on your computer programs to do this for you. Read it over with your own eyeballs. Even better, read it out loud to make sure everything sounds right. Then have at least one other person check it for you. You do not want to lose a gig over a typo. That would be silly.

Writing cover letters gets easier with practice. You will develop your own style and tone, and find a formula that works for you. Save all your work so you can track your progression. Have experienced actor and writer friends help you out. And good luck. Keep talking until someone listens.

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com