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The Working Actor

When Should Actors Write Thank You Notes?

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When Should Actors Write Thank You Notes?
Photo Source: Thomas Pitilli

Most of us recently celebrated Thanksgiving, the American holiday when (in theory at least) we reflect on things for which we’re grateful. But for some actors, giving thanks is a yearlong promotional activity, aimed (in theory at least) at keeping their names in the minds of casting people for whom they’ve auditioned and encouraging those casting people to audition them again.

On our message board, “mkajka” posts: “I went in for a co-star role on a cable TV show. I read with the casting associate.... I booked the role, and now I am wondering who I write the thank-you note to? Do I write three, one for each of the CDs and for the associate? Or just the associate?”

There’s no set protocol on such things, so there’s about zero chance of getting it wrong. Whether you send a thanks to the specific person who auditioned you or to everyone in the casting office, no one’s going to be offended by being thanked. For that matter, no one’s going to be offended by not being thanked. It’s neither expected nor required.

Many actors I know express thanks after each audition; some, like the message board’s “LuckyMe73,” when they’ve booked a gig: “I usually just send a gift to the office. Spend $30 on some muffins or something…and put in a thank-you card to everyone. Less than 5 percent of what you made on this project will go a very long way.”

Me, I never send anything. The way I see it, when someone auditions and/or casts me, we both win. I get an opportunity; they get a viable candidate. We’re both professionals doing our jobs. I don’t think that calls for one of us to send the other a thank-you note, and certainly not a gift. But that’s me.

What do casting folks think? “Thank-you notes are good business,” says casting director Gwen Hillier, “especially if they’re on your photo postcard. I don’t think a gift is necessary—Starbucks cards are sometimes included and certainly appreciated but don’t necessarily remind me of the actor.” “I think gifts should be discouraged,” casting director G. Charles Wright says, “but I do appreciate a thank-you note. It’s my experience that the actors that are coming up and making a name for themselves are usually the ones who send gifts or cards. More-established actors, working career actors, very rarely, if ever, do.” Another casting director reluctantly concedes that while she’d never expect gifts—like the mug and mousepad on her desk—they do make her think of the actors who sent them and might even remind her to call them in, if she likes their work.

My advice boils down to this: Do what feels right. If you’re sincerely grateful and want to express it, that’s never wrong. If you want to send cards or gifts to remind people you’re out there, that’s valid too, and clearly can be quite effective. But try not to seem desperate, don’t expect guaranteed results, and never let the practice of giving thanks stress you out.

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