I’ve been told the best way to attract an agent is to do something that makes me stand out. Is it inappropriate to turn up at their offices like a singing telegram?
Oh, you want a bit more? OK, well, sure, if you want to stand out for the wrong reasons, go ahead. Send a fun ‘Five Facts About Me’ email, turn up dressed as a singing donkey, send your CV in an envelope filled with glitter. You’ll definitely stand out and be remembered, but not in the way you hope. What may seem cute and creative to you has a way of coming across as a bit creepy and cringeworthy.
I was recently on an agent panel with some UK agents and some American agents. All the UK agents talked about crafting a three-paragraph email; about keeping it short and professional and about not wasting time with padding – things I’ve written about before. Interestingly all the American agents listened in disbelief to us. “You Brits are so polite!” they said, “With your ‘I hope this email finds you well’ and ‘Please excuse me for bothering you’ – just send us a link to your showreel. We don’t have time to read one paragraph, let alone three! If your work is good and we want to call you in, that’s all we need”.
While the UK and American approach is different and it is, of course, different in Australia too, what none of us want is something gimmicky and time-wasty. Trust your work. If your work (and by work I don’t just mean ‘work’, I mean your package – skillset, CV, headshot, voicereel, showreel etc.) is appealing to us we’ll call you in. If it isn’t, we won’t. Just remember there are any number of reasons why your work doesn’t appeal at this precise moment.
Doing something gimmicky and showy doesn’t make us sit up and take notice. Good work makes us sit up and take notice.
Standing out – well, that’s another thing altogether. Most applications are almost identical, they use the same descriptions (hard-working, passionate, determined) and tell us the same thing (I want to work across all areas, tv, film and theatre). Doing exactly the same as everyone else will not get you the result you want. That’s like working in Woolworths and going to your boss and saying “I’m exactly the same as everyone else but I want a promotion”. To stand out you not only have to be brilliant at knowing who you are but you also have to demonstrate some understanding of who you’re writing to. That’s why cut and paste emails are rarely successful – they might nail the first part of the equation ‘knowing who you are’ but they usually forget to think about who is reading it.
Specificity is the key – who are you? What makes you different from everyone else? Being different from everyone else doesn’t mean doing more. Being different isn’t about being more hardworking, or more passionate or more determined than the next person. Being different is about understanding what makes you unique. What do you have to offer that absolutely no one else does? What separates you from the crowd? These can be really difficult questions to answer particularly because standing out, being different, is actually pretty scary. To some degree or other most of us like to fit in. It’s comfortable and safe. Standing out isn’t about having a bold hair colour, or a distinctive personal style, or piercings, or tattoos, it’s about having a point of view and an interest in the world.
What interests you? Think about your specific interests. I often get emails from actors who profess to be interested in new writing. That’s quite broad – what kind of new writing interests you? Is it writing about political issues? About modern relationships? About urban life, or rural living? Try to think specifically about what kind of new writing interests you. If you are interested in film – what kind of films? Blockbusters? Indie dramas? Romcoms?
What kind of music do you like? What books do you read? What values do you hold? What is the individual, unique story of your life that has brought you here, to this moment? All of that, all of those details, those are what make you original and unique. If you can distill all of that into one or two sentences then that is what will make you stand out. When we show the world who we really are, that is when people start to take an interest.
Before you start thinking about making grand ‘memorable’ gestures, think about who you are and why you pursued this career. Do the work. Find out who you are. Tell the world. It may not appeal to everyone but it will, at least, be authentic.
Stay connected. Stay creative.
Got a question? Email JBR at [email protected]