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Self-Promotion for the Actor: How to Promote Yourself

If you're thinking about becoming a professional actor (or if you already are), you need to know how to promote yourself. The competition for roles-especially in large cities-can be staggering, so the more you know about self-promotion, the easier it will be for you to get your name and face in front of the people who matter.

Self-promotion begins with the right marketing "tools", which you're probably already familiar with: the headshot and resume (if you need more information about these, see "Starting Off at Ground Zero" on this web site). Once you've got a headshot that you're proud of, and checked your resume to make sure that it has no errors, you're ready to send this "calling card" off to promote yourself. How do you send it? And who do you send it to?

The answer to the first question is to prepare a cover letter to send along with your photo/resume. The letter should be brief and to the point: introduce yourself and state your purpose for contacting this person. A simple cover letter might read like this:

Dear __________:

My name is John Smith, and I'm new to the Los Angeles area. I've relocated here from New York City, where I studied at HB Studios, and appeared for three years as Sammi on the daytime soap "It's a Fun Life, Isn't It?".

I'd enjoy meeting with you for an interview or audition, at your convenience. I also have a videotape of clips from my performances as Sammi-if you'd be interested in viewing it, I'd be happy to drop it by your office.

Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon.


Your Name

You'll want to personalize the letter in whatever way you can-because agents and casting people get so many submissions from actors, and you want yours to stand out-but keep your tone professional and clear (i.e., don't get too weird). If you can be funny, so much the better-everyone loves a little humor. You'll probably refine the letter over time, as you grow and gain experience. Don't be afraid to experiment, to change it until you feel you've got a great letter.

Now that you've got a letter ready to use, who do you send it to? If you're in one of the larger cities, check newsstands for the weekly theatrical newspaper (in New York, "BackStage" is the best; in L.A., it's "BackStage West"). If you're in a smaller city, look in the phone book under "Theatrical Agents", and check the local paper's arts listings for auditions.

You can also find listings of agents and casting directors in the Back Stage Handbook for Performing Artists (Sherry Eaker, ed.), and in the Ross Reports, which also includes soap and prime time television casting people (write to Ross Reports Television, 1515 Broadway, NY, NY 10036).

Keep track of the people you've sent photos to, and follow up with a flyer for the next show you're in, inviting them to come (offer them complimentary tickets to the show). Once you've made a start on your "mailing list," send flyers and photo postcards to those same people every time you're in a good show or film. Persistence is all-important: you need to keep your name and face in front of the people who matter, because they'll eventually begin to recognize you, and one day they might give you a call to come in and audition for a great role. Good Luck!

By Katherine Mayfield Author of "Acting A to Z" and "Smart Actors, Foolish Choices"
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