Getting noticed as an actor isn’t easy. You have to have the right headshots, take the right classes, and then—the kicker—you have to find the right agent. Landing a good agent can help you take your career to the next level. But how do you avoid getting lost among the other actors who are also trying to get their start? It might seem old-fashioned, but, sometimes, a well-written cover letter is all you really need to get your foot in the door.
Keep reading for an explanation of how to write an acting cover letter, what to include, and best practices that can help you stand out from the crowd.
A cover letter is your intro to an agent. It’s an opportunity to briefly discuss your background, experience, and career goals. It’s not enough to simply send in a headshot and résumé and hope they are enough to make an impression. Putting in the extra work of drafting a cover letter will brand you as a person who is serious about their career, one agents should take notice of. You want the right people to know who you are so they can represent you to the best of their ability.
Keep in mind that a cover letter isn’t a magic key that will automatically open doors; it’s simply another tool in your arsenal. Whether you’re just starting out as an actor or are an established performer with a list of IMDb credits a mile long, a cover letter is one of the last things an agent will look at after your headshot, résumé, and digital materials (website, reels, and so forth). It’s a small detail, but it distinguishes you from the hordes of other actors who have contacted the same agents.
Another aspect to consider is the difference between a cover letter and a thank-you note. The latter is more often sent to casting directors—it’s less an intro than a way to affirm your interest. San Diego casting director Kim Heil tells us that a handwritten letter of thanks for attending a show is a courtesy she appreciates.
If you’re feeling lost, here are some go-to tips from experts:
- Make it personal. Be sure to address the person you’re contacting by name. “You’d be surprised how many letters come in that start with a generic greeting like ‘Dear casting director’—I’m a manager—or ‘To whom it may concern,’ ” says Ingrid French of Ingrid French Management. If you met the agent at a show or a networking event, this is your chance to bring that up and tell them what you remember about them. Agents are real people who like genuine compliments just as much as you do. Just make sure it comes off as sincere.
- Keep them informed. It’s a good idea to let an agent know what you’ve been working on recently. “ ‘Recently’ can be any time in the last six months,” says casting director Jacole Kitchen. Agents want to see that you are a working actor they can elevate.
- Tell them who you are. “I want to know exactly who [an actor is] and how they fit into the business,” French says. You should be very clear that you know what your type is and how you fit into the business so that the agent will clearly understand how they can help you achieve your goals. You need to communicate those objectives to them very clearly, because if you don’t know where you’re going, how can anyone else help you get there?
- Keep it professional. Agents don’t want to know about your dreams, your life story, or anything not related to your life as an artist. Remember that in sending your submission, you are asking a working professional for their time and resources. Including irrelevant information wastes their time and assumes a level of familiarity that you haven’t earned yet.
Agents are busy people. Without a personal connection or a referral, your email will likely go unopened or wind up in the spam folder. Contacting agents at random is counterproductive to your career; agents talk to each other, and they’ll know if you’re sending impersonal letters to everyone. Be selective—identify and explain why you want to work with a specific agent. French says, “I always want to know if an actor was referred, by who, and why they feel like they’d be a good fit for my roster.”
Make contact and find common ground
If you don’t have a personal referral to an agent, find an “in” before you reach out. Confirm that the agent is even accepting new talent. Thanks to the internet and social media, agents are more accessible than ever—and that means there are more ways to establish rapport. Agents and managers also often hold classes and workshops, which are a great way to meet them face-to-face. “Find a personal connection,” advises acting coach Keith Flippen. This could be anything from discovering that you’re both from the same hometown to pointing out that you have the same acting coach as one of their clients.
If you don’t hear back from an agent, that doesn’t mean you should give up on them—especially if you’ve done your research and they seem like someone who would be a great fit for your career. Write them again when you have new information to offer about new headshots, new classes, or a new role. “Sending something every time you book will be proof to the agent that they’re missing opportunities to make money off your work,” says Flippen.
Pay attention to their preferences
If an agent’s DMs are closed on social media, do not ask about contacting them on that platform without first building a rapport—and, ideally, making a real connection. If their email is not listed on their website, don’t be too aggressive about tracking it down unsolicited. In most cases, your first contact should be through the agent’s preferred channels.
Agents are busy and don’t have time to waste, so your letter should be short, concise, and to the point. However, this doesn’t mean that it should be lackluster. Learning to write an attention-grabbing cover letter is key to finding success. That starts with saying less. “Agents are looking for very specific things, ”says Adam P. Murphy, the administrator of the Facebook group Casting Notices. “People tend to say too much [in their letters], making what could have been a good first date more of an awkward first date.”
Lorna Rainey of Talent Express adds, “I think the thing that actors don’t realize is that we see the same inquiries over and over again. We hate them! There is no cookie-cutter approach, and while many actors think they need to be clever or funny, overall, the letter should be warm and personable while relating some key things about you as a performer.”
Here is a cover letter example for actors to send to a prospective agent:
Hi, [name of agent],
I’m [your name], and I’m writing to seek representation in [TV/film/commercial work/etc.]. I have been working in the business for [X amount of time], and [write something about yourself that’s not obvious from your résumé or reel]. I’m [describe your type], and I was referred by [name of your reference; it’s helpful if you were referred, and for some agencies, it’s required]. I’ve recently been working on [name a recent project or professional experience], and I think your agency would be a good fit for me because [research the agency to find a reason].
I am currently appearing in [X show] on [X date]. If you can attend, I would love to get tickets for you. Also, I’m on [X series] currently airing on [X network].
If you would like to meet or schedule an interview, I can be reached at [phone number, email, and website]. I look forward to connecting soon. Attached, please find my résumé and a link to my acting reel.