Last week, we had a fun discussion on how to NOT get a acting agent. The main theme in the article that will ensure your success of not signing with a talent agent is being unprofessional. Writing a perfect cover letter for your potential representation is one of the key components for being signed.
All aspiring creatives in show business – be it actors, directors, writers, dancers, singers or whatnot – will need a good agent to represent them in order to move forward in the industry. Aside from being talented and producing good quality work, approaching agents with professionalism and writing good cover letter is what will get you noticed.
RELATED: How to Get an Agent 101
Not only is this a question of trying not to look amateurish, but establishing a good relationship with your representation from the very start is vitally important for an actor breaking into the business. If you’re lucky – you’ll get a meeting with that agent based on your resume, headshot and cover letter. And if you’re luckier, you’ll work with that person for many years to come.
Majority of actors dismiss cover letter writing as something that doesn’t need any attention. Sometimes, they don’t even include a cover letter at all, which is a huge mistake. Cover letters are absolutely essential when reaching out to agents and managers for representation.
Composing a coherent, professional, concise and intelligent cover letter to your agent on the first try will not only get you the agent’s attention that you so desperately want, but also lay a (positive) groundwork for your future relationship with that person, and allow you to avoid random instances of incommunicado.
How to Write a Cover Letter to Your Agent
Writing a good cover letter takes skill. The message has to be very good in order to grab the agent’s attention. Some may say it’s an art form in itself.
RELATED: Acting for Beginners 101
Here are some of the most common mistakes amateur actors (and sometimes even veteran thespians without agents) make while trying to break the ice with their cover letters. Avoid them and you’ll make a good first impression.
1. Keep it short, it’s not an essay
We all run into this problem now and again when there’s so much we’d like to say.
When you find yourself typing away like you’re Hemingway, stop for a moment and imagine yourself on a receiving end of this cover letter. Remember that you get literally hundreds of these on a weekly basis.
Keep your cover letter short and to the point. If any sentence seems just a little too long or wordy, it most likely is.
There are only a few important things you need to mention to your agent. Once you figure those out, cut them in half and pick the most essential ones that truly make you stand out.
2. Avoid describing your looks
Actors love talking about and describing about the way they look in cover letters, thinking that it will help the agent understand how marketable they are. There’s logic to this, but it’s completely unnecessary.
Remember that you’re sending this cover letter alongside your acting resume and acting headshot. You need to use your white space as efficiently as possible, so if the agent can see your headshot, there’s no need to describe your looks; there’s are better things you can include.
“I look like young Meryl Streep” or “I’m a cross-over between Tom Cruise and Colin Firth” are redundant; avoid these comparisons. Many talent agents are very much against the descriptions like these. Regardless of what you may think, it’s not helpful and only makes your cover letter longer to read and more annoying to the agent.
3. You don’t need any space fillers
Avoid any type of filler content. The shorter the letter, the better. Sentences like “I’m a very hardworking actor” and “I’ll be dedicated to improving on everything I can” are trite in the context of this letter.
Providing more random information about yourself will not raise your chances of getting signed by an agent. The only chance this will raise is for the agent to throw your cover letter (alongside your headshot and resume) into the garbage bin and move onto the next actor.
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” – Blaise Pascal
4. Forget all the standards of a regular cover letter
Writing a cover letter to your agent is not the same as writing a cover letter when applying for a job in an office.
Again, remember that agents receive hundreds of these letters on a weekly basis, year round. They want to scan through it and move onto the next package if the letter doesn’t grab their attention.
To keep your cover letter as short as possible, drop all the fillers like mentioned above (and then some more) as well as standard cover letter openings such as “My name is…”
When applying for a regular eight-to-five job, it’s absolutely fine to write a solid cover letter with five paragraphs explaining how valuable you are to the company and what you can do for them, what you’ve done before and so on. But they do not receive as many letters as an agent does.
Stick to one paragraph. Two paragraphs max if you really have something important to mention (which rare is the case).
5. Always address a person by name
It’s not unprofessional per se, since people do that outside of the acting business with no issues, but addressing an agent by their name will greatly personalize your correspondence and attract the agent’s attention.
Don’t know the name of the agent? Then you have no reason to send a cover letter yet. Do your research first! You need to know who you’re mailing the letter to and what you expect from this correspondence. Start by taking a look at the best agencies in your city and go from there.
RECOMMENDED: 10 Best Acting Agencies in London
Once you’ve done the research and know the agent’s name (and preferably even more than just his or her name), start your cover letter with “Dear *name of the agent*“. Don’t forget to add Mr or Mrs in front of it.
What to include in a cover letter to an agent?
So what should you mention in your cover letter to keep it concise and to the point?
- Your most important progress as an actor
- If you studied at a drama school, mention that
- The biggest name(s) you worked with
- If you have a good relationship with a big casting director
- Important awards and festivals you or your film(s) have won
Do not try to manipulate the system. Do not try to make something sound better than it is. Do not lie on your cover letter. Talent agents are smart, and you’ll be caught if not upon reading the cover letter then during the meeting. It’s not worth it.
Try your best to form as few sentences that would be filled with plenty of facts and meat in them, without a single juvenile filler.
For example, instead of going like this:
“I have graduated from *School* with BA in Acting in 2001. After, I became an Equity member and started working. In my first three years I’ve played in some prominent productions and worked with some very well known actors and directors. During my theatre hiatus, I’ve done a few short films that went to various film festivals and some of them even won awards…“
Try and stick it all into one sentence (maybe two, if need be), like this:
“After receiving my BA from *School*, I became an Equity member and worked on *production* alongside *name*, after which I went on to make a short film *name* that won awards at *film festival*.”
You have your acting resume for the rest of the information; you don’t need to mention it all. Pick only the best thing from the list, and obviously, never mention any of your drawbacks.
As a final note, I’d like to remind actors to proofread their cover letters. Even though these cover letters to agents are short, you don’t want to take a chance. Give it to a friend to read and ask them to criticize it. Get that second and third perspective. A cover letter with at least one grammar mistake or odd sentence structure can quickly put off the agent and get your letter thrown away.