cover letters and short-cut actors

October 28, 2008

Oooookay…. we’ve heard through the grapevine, and we’re seeing in the GOOD BOYS submissions, that some local San Diego actors don’t understand this whole cover letter thing and why Mo`olelo asks that when you submit your picture and resume to us, you also include a cover letter. So hopefully this blog posting will address that.

Like all theater companies, Mo`olelo is interested in working with actors who are talented, resourceful and have a strong work ethic. Because we spend so much time and energy raising the funds necessary to pay all our actors Equity wages plus health insurance and pension, we consider that every actor we hire should be a real investment in the future of Mo`olelo and in the infrastructure of San Diego’s cultural environment. So this makes us very picky when casting.

Through a good cover letter, a San Diego actor can demonstrate to Mo`olelo that they take their craft seriously, they treat their acting career as a business, and they take the extra effort. The lack of a cover letter, when we specifically have asked for one, gives us the opposite impression: this is an actor who doesn’t follow directions, is perhaps lazy, and likes to take short-cuts. We want to work with the first actor not the latter.

So what’s in a good cover letter? Here’s an example:

Dear Casting:
I read your notice for GOOD BOYS on the Actors’ Equity website and am submitting my picture and resume for consideration for the role of XXXX XXXXX.
Some of my acting credits include: XXXX at XXXXX Theater, XXXX at XXXX Theater,  and XXXX at XXXX Theater, for which I received San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and Patte Awards. Currently, I’m in a scene study class taught by XXXX. I’ve enclosed some recent reviews of my work for your reference.
When I read GOOD BOYS, I responsed so viscerally to the script. A good friend of mine was impacted directly by Santee School Shooting and I recall those events like they were yesterday.
I would be honored to have the opportunity to audition for Mo`olelo. I can be reached at xxx-xxx-xxxx or to schedule an appointment.
Thank you for your consideration.

Think of it this way, when you don’t have an agent going to bat for you with the casting director, a good cover letter can serve that purpose. We get so many headshot/resume submissions that there isn’t the time to look through each resume thoroughly, so a good cover letter can point out the highlights that the casting director should be made aware of. It’s nice if you can demonstrate that you’ve read the play or have a good understanding of the theater company in your cover letter.

More cover letter considerations:
1) If you send us your picture and resume from a non-San Diego address, please be sure to address that in your cover letter. Mo`olelo only hires local actors. If you live half-time in LA and have a second house in San Diego, please let us know. If we see an out-of-town return address we will assume you’re not local and we may not call you in for an audition.

2) We understand that not everyone has access to a computer and printer, handwritten cover letters are acceptable, but do take care to make them legible.

3) Please proofread your letter. Typos make us think that you just don’t care.

The resourceful actor versus the ‘short-cut’ actor:
The resourceful actor probably noted as early as July 2008 that Mo`olelo’s next show after Night Sky would be Good Boys, and the resourceful actor googled the show, read reviews from other productions, looked at photos from other productions, bought the script from Samuel French upon determining that perhaps there was a role for them in this show, read the script, and sent in their picture, resume and cover letter at that time – way before we even announced auditions — expressing interest in the play.

The short-cut actor read in the Mo`olelo E-News that we had posted an audition notice on Actors’ Equity and Actors Alliance and instead of reading the notice and the breakdown, emailed Mo`olelo staff saying “Is there a role for me in this?” Those emails are not replied and are just deleted. We go through the trouble to post the auditions and breakdowns and we want to work with actors who take the trouble to read them.
The short-cut actor goes to the Actors’ Equity website, clicks on Casting Call and Western Region, doesn’t find the Mo`olelo posting then emails Mo`olelo staff saying our notice isn’t on the AEA website. What this short-cut actor failed to do is click on the Photo/Resume Request link on the AEA Casting Call webpage where he would have found the audition posting. Again, gives us the impression that this short-cut actor takes, well, short-cuts. How will this person behave in a rehearsal room? Will he take short-cuts there, too?

Friends and Business
This is a very small theater community. We understand that different companies here have different philosophies. Please note that Mo`olelo’s is to not merge and confuse business and friendship. Even though we may interact with you in social circles, we appreciate it, when approaching us on the business level, to keep it on the business level. Please don’t expect that because you know us socially, you’ll get any special favors.

Turning things around
Rest assured that even if you’ve been a ‘short-cut’ actor in the past, you can still become a resourceful actor by making a choice to treat your acting career as a professional from here on out. A “born-again-resourceful” actor can erase the bad memories of poor behavior and short-cuts by simply changing their ways.

Trim it Down — added Nov 3
One more note of advice… when submitting your picture and resume, please trim your resume down to 8″x10″. As we sift through the submissions, we’re finding a few not trimmed. There’s a casting director in Chicago who was famous for taking out a scissors and trimming your resume down DURING your audition if you came in with an untrimmed resume. We hope we never get driven to that.

No follow-up, please — added Nov 7
The theater industry is a little different from other industries. We actually prefer that you do not send follow up emails or phone calls after you’ve submitted your picture and resume. We’ve received your information and you will be called in if we’re interested. The follow up calls and emails can sometimes feel like harassment (especially when we get several follow ups from the same person) or desperation. The best thing an actor can do after submitting their picture, resume and cover letter to us is forget about it, move on to the next audition. If you get a call from us, great! We’ll be sure you have plenty of time to prepare your sides. If you don’t get a call, so be it. You go on to the next job. If you really feel the need to send a follow up, send a postcard instead of calling or emailing.


2 Responses to “cover letters and short-cut actors”

  1. Good for you, Seema. Professional expectations breeds professional work.

  2. Brian Says:

    This type of candid insight is invaluable. Thank you.

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