|Look how fun I made it look!|
How to Write A Cover Letter
And Not Feel As Resistant Towards It As Your Last Will & Testament
A couple of weeks ago, I shared what I learned at the SAG-AFTRA panel with Jimmy Smits about how to be the best actor as a Latino in Hollywood. It made me realize that while I have been here for a few years, many of my friends are just starting out. And maybe a few of you readers as well. This week, I asked my friends and readers what they would like to pick my brain on. One reader said, "Cover letters!!"
Ah, the dreaded cover letter. So carefully crafted and ached over that I think Shakespeare gave less effort to his greatest master pieces than many actors gave these over-thought letters. Then again, I have seen many things I would not believe unless I was shown with my very own eyes. (Recalling one cover letter a teacher received that was scrawled onto paper with green magic marker.) Don't be slap dash but don't write a tome about the drenching and yet rich experiences that created the essence that is who you are now. *shrinking into my seat* So, what makes an effective cover letter?
|What I imagine is a typical day for the agent.|
In a class with Mike Pointer of "Hey, I Saw Your Commercial," one "d'uh" factor was made clear. No needing to go on in length about the fact that you are looking for representation. That's pretty much clear by the fact that you are sending them your packet. Which brings us to what goes in your packet. Simple. Your headshot/resume and your cover letter. Do not send a bio. Do not send a reel. They have a million. If they want one, they will ask you to send one or a link to youtube, for example. Which brings me to another point. I have lived in LA for a few years and am friends with both veterans and newbies. I still get shocked when people give me head shots that are not attached to the resume. Please, please, please do not be one of those. No one will believe anything you have written on your resume if you try and pull this shenanigan. Staple your resume to the back of your headshot. Trim the excess. Simple. And clean.
So, where do you start? How do you write a cover letter? Well, remember, agents get a ton of these. You job is to make your letter as easy and as to the point as possible. "Time = Money" was discovered as a mathematical proof in an agent's office, I believe. Start with your contact information clearly written up top. Many suggest centering it and making it bold and in larger fonts. Your name being the largest font. Remember to include your e-mail, cell phone and if you have, website. Making it a different color than the body of the e-mail for ease of reading is not a bad idea.
In the next line, address which department you are applying to. Example, "Attn: Commercial Department." In the next paragraph, simply introduce yourself (Don't include a lineage or account that would shame the book of Genesis. Not that I ever did that, of course). Express what department you are submitting to and what you included. Here is a good example:
Attn: Commercial Department
Hello, my name is (Don't be lazy. Make your mind fill this out.) I am currently seeking commercial representation. Please find enclosed my picture and resume (that you stapled onto the back of your head shot, right???) for your consideration. I look forward to meeting with you soon. Thank you.
(Your John Hancock)
Your printed name.
When you sign your name, use blue ink. It will send the message that you didn't just make 15 copies and mail them out. (Ok, I know that's what you did, precisely. But, everyone likes the personal touch.)
Place your letter and head shot (stapled!!!) into a full-window envelope. You can google places that sell them or ask your friends. A lot of actors have too many (me) and would be more than open to sell you a few at wholesale. On the outside of the envelope, you can place a sticker that includes the name of the school you just attended. Below is an example:
Seeking Commercial Representation
Just completed: Cocolaca Studios
Some teachers are fine with saying that they recommend you if you just go up to them and ask for it! So give it a try! Many agents have long and good relationships with many of the teachers in Los Angeles. Often time, a follow up post card will remind them to consider your packet if you do not hear back in a couple of weeks. Be persistent and move on if you do not hear back!
So there it is. What I learned through my own mistakes and classes in what you should include in a cover letter. Demystified. Dethroned from that pile you keep mentally along with "How to File Taxes", "How to Write a Resume," but definitely not "How to Properly Attach a Resume to a Headshot," right???
So, fellow actors, maybe you have been doing it this way all along and want to share some tips to improve these methods, maybe you have been doing it wrong and wondering what you can improve upon or maybe you have no clue at all and plan on just copying and pasting the example cover letter. (Just please at least fill in your name where appropriate.) As usual, the best of luck in all your endeavors! Make sure to follow me and check out the links below!
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