Choose a Format
There are three basic pitch letter formats. You can send a cover letter attached to your headshot (or printed on letterhead that has one or more smaller photos of you also printed on it), you can send an email, or you can send a "one-sheet."
A legitimate alternative to letters, postcards, and emails, one-sheets convey personality and information quickly and uniquely through the use of magazine-style blurbs and graphics. Marketing expert Dallas Travers popularized this eye-catching tool and explains how to create one in Chapter 15 of her book "The Tao of Show Business."
No matter which format you use, you must be brief, specific, and clear. If your text is too long, or your message is too vague, or your design is too cluttered, then your efforts will be wasted.
Answer Their Questions
No one will be interested in the particulars of your pitch until your letter, email, or one-sheet has answered these three questions:
1) Who are you?
2) What exactly do you want?
3) Why did you choose to contact me in particular?
You can answer all of those questions in one or two brief, specific, clear sentences. For example:
"I am a SAG/AFTRA actor. When casting director Jane Smith (who just booked me for a Pepsi spot) heard I was looking for a theatrical agent known for helping strong comedic actors get seen for TV, she said I had to include you on my list. I will call your office next week to see if you have a seven-minute window in your schedule sometime soon so we can meet in person."
Or simply: "I am a SAG actor seeking new commercial representation. The advice that you gave on the panel at Actorfest last fall definitely resonated with me, and I think we might be a great match."
Pique Their Interest
Now you can add the sizzle of your pitch. Although brevity is still required, pick one or two things that highlight why the person you're writing should meet with you.
You can mention your freshest or best credit or credits, or the show you just went to producers for. You can list the projects you have auditioned for in the last year or the casting directors who have called you in. You can mention your current callback ratio. You can include a photo of yourself on the set of your latest film. You can mention an intriguing special skill or impressive education or training. You can include a quote from a major publication about your work, or create a mock casting notice that describes a character you would be perfect for.
You can also add sizzle by delivering your letter or one-sheet to the office in person. Yes, even to agents and managers, unless you've heard that a particular office doesn't like actors dropping by. Always remember to be brief, polite, and professional. Appearing in three dimensions, even for as little as 15 seconds, pitches your essence and personality far better than any two-dimensional photo or marketing piece ever could.
Career strategist Kristine Oller can be contacted via TheActorsLibrary.com.