I've managed to add some top casting directors as friends on Facebook. I haven't met them; I took a chance and just added them and they accepted me. However, I have been waiting to message them.
I've been to so many workshops where CDs say they hate Facebook contact or when actors add them on Facebook. They say they hate being bugged unless it's necessary. So with these CDs who I've friended, who are currently casting huge network shows, what do I do? Do I take the risk and say hello and ask if they would consider casting me on XYZ television show? Or do I not message them at all and just be Facebook friends?
I am scared to take the risk, as I do not know what the protocol is for Facebook and CDs. I keep hearing both "Yes, they love it!" and "No, they hate contact!" I am wondering if these CDs are adding me because they are actually interested in networking, or just for the sake of adding, or if they don't realize who I am. Maybe they don't know I'm just "another struggling actor who is desperate for serious auditions."
What does one do about this? Any ideas?
—Friendly, via the BackStage.com message board
I think what you've been hearing is pretty accurate. Yes, lots of casting people love Facebook, and no, they don't want you to message them with requests for auditions.
Facebook protocol, as you put it, is not yet set in stone, so you'll need to apply common sense. Though many casting directors, agents, and managers would like a social-media presence, their reasons for accepting friend requests from strangers vary. Some want to promote books or workshops, others see it as free publicity for their services, and some might just like feeling popular. As Facebook is first and foremost a social site, don't try to imbue it with professional stature. Make your inquiries in more-appropriate forms, such as letters, postcards, calls from your manager, and so on.
That said, Facebook can be used to advance your career goals—just not as baldly as you suggest. Make sure you have your professional contacts on a special list, and share only appropriate content with that list. In the new Facebook interface, you'll find your lists on the left side of your home screen. Instead of relying on Facebook to sort your friends into "Close Friends" and "Acquaintances," create a new "Industry" list and add to it everyone you want to see you only in a professional light. Then go to your privacy options and select which photo albums and other content this new list can access.
Finally, when you post, take a minute to decide whether to share a particular update with your industry contacts. You don't have to limit the posts they see to acting topics, but you might want to keep things like party photos—especially those featuring alcohol—away from that group. Your news feed can be a great way to publicize your positive career news and anything else you feel enhances your brand. Are you the rugged outdoorsman type? Share those photos of you climbing Mount Kilimanjaro!
You'll also want to follow the news of any CDs you're targeting. Some may post information about their projects or link you to ads for their workshops, which can be useful as you strive to keep your submission lists targeted. Even personal information can be helpful. Do you share an alma mater with a CD? Mention that in your next submission. Is a representative you're dying to meet hosting a charity event? Think about attending. It's also true that name repetition creates a sense of familiarity, so perhaps in the future, when one of these CDs receives a traditional submission from you, he or she will "recognize" your name from "someplace" and bring you in. Your updates appearing now and then in their news feeds may be as useful as sending "keep in touch" postcards. Do both.
Rarely, a CD or representative will use social media to bring in new talent. Los Angeles, for example, saw a bout of Twitter generals a while back, as a few agents and managers offered general auditions to Twitter followers on a first-tweet, first-served basis. Some representatives are still holding them. Typically, however, you'll have to be less literal in your career use of social media.
The most effective way to use Facebook and similar sites to enhance your career is as tools for keeping in touch with existing offline contacts. Look for opportunities with actual friends and acquaintances—even those you've lost touch with. What about that college roommate who's finally making his film, or the director you worked with a couple years back who has moved to your hometown? Sometimes just being accessible sparks new collaborations. Sure, friending big-time CDs may be exciting, but remember, another name for a Facebook-only friend is a stranger.
I recently read the letter sent in by Tired of It from New York City (Sept. 22–28) and was very insulted. Who is this reader to say that our questions aren't worthy just because we aren't fortunate enough to live in a place that some of us can only dream of? I'd give anything to be one of those people with questions regarding the daily life of an actor. Yet some of us are only able to dream of living and breathing what they take for granted each and every day. Some of us have children, families, location restrictions, and—worst of all—financial constraints that leave us only with papers such as Back Stage to keep us connected.
I think it's a bit rude to consider those of us who are unable to live in New York or L.A. unimportant or to deem our questions useless. I am sure most of us would give anything to turn back the clock and live in New York City, pounding the pavement each day, waiting tables, living close enough to ride the subway or walk to auditions and acting classes. For some of us, it's a four-hour trip just to take the acting classes we have available to us every day and a four-hour commute back home to make sure our children get to lacrosse practice on time. We wish we could be as "experienced" as they are but chose a different path in life, and Back Stage is to some of us the only link to what is happening in "their" world.
There are plenty of articles in Back Stage that refer to auditions, classes, and so on that are only available to people who can either commute to NYC or L.A. or live there. We are paying for our subscriptions too. I do believe that if I pulled out every issue I've received, there would be a variety of topics covered that everyone can learn something from. Again, no need to insult the "inexperienced," as some of us only wish we could be as close as they are.
Meet Jackie Apodaca on Sat., Nov. 5, at Back Stage's trade show Actorfest LA, where she will moderate the "Commercial Casting" panel.
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