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Secret Agent Man

Submission Boo-Boos

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Submission Boo-Boos
If you're an actor looking for representation, there are a lot of ways to go about it. The best one is to find somebody who can give you a referral. Another is to get out there, do some stage work, and hope you attract an agent's attention. But you can also go old-school and send out a ton of submissions, hoping that one lands on the right desk. A lot of people will tell you that mailing your material to an agent is a waste of time, but speaking as someone who happens to be an agent, I couldn't disagree more.

The truth is I look at every single submission that's addressed to me. It's not a priority, but I do open those bright manila envelopes every single day. And every now and then, if the timing's right, I'll bring in one of those actors for a meeting. I've made some pretty decent scratch by doing that, but I won't lie to you: Submissions are a long shot. But hey, what's an acting career if not the biggest long shot on the board? So if I were you, I'd try every means possible to advance my career, and that includes blind submissions.

Now, here's the thing: A submission is a lot like a ham sandwich. It should be very simple to make. All you need is a headshot, a résumé, and a well-written cover letter. That's it. But over the years, I've learned that actors are very good at screwing up a ham sandwich. So let's discuss some of the little things you guys do when you're mailing me your material that force me to chuck the entire package in the trash.

By definition, an 8-by-10 headshot should be exactly 8 by 10 inches. But every now and then, I still receive pictures that are 8 by 12. What's that about? Is the idea that your headshot will stand out because it's a wee bit bigger than all the others? Well, it doesn't. It just looks weird and unprofessional. So do yourself a favor and stick to industry standards.

It's also a good idea to limit your submission to no more than two shots. That's enough to give me a sense of who you are. Some actors prefer to send as many as four, but that never goes well. You see, the first two pictures are usually okay, then the third one is just mediocre, and the last one is always horrible. So be selective and stick with your strongest choices, even if that means sending just one headshot.

There are a lot of ways to mess up the cover letter too. For example, don't tell me about your unrealistic self-image. One actor recently described himself as follows: "I have the look of a 30-to-42-year-old average joe with an edge, and I typically play a dad/husband, cop, or office worker." Wow! This guy's got some range, huh? The truth is very few actors have a 12-year age range. Also, an average joe by definition doesn't have any edge. And don't get me started on the differences between a police officer and an office drone.

Some cover letters make the mistake of offering me a bribe. Here's a direct quote from another submission: "I just booked a commercial that's airing on all our local stations. I booked this job without representation and kept the entire 10 percent. But I'd rather work with you so I can share the wealth!" Sorry, pal. I'm not that hard up for cash. These kinds of offers are so damn tacky. They're always a definite pass.

I could keep going, but I won't. Just remember: An unprofessional submission equals an unprofessional actor. So don't give me a reason to pass before I've even met you. Now go make me a ham sandwich!

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