“Will you stop tapping your foot? It’s annoying.”
I didn’t respond because I couldn’t. I was so nervous. In about 15 minutes, I was scheduled to meet with a multimillionaire internet celebrity named Ramit Sethi. He was coming to meet me in-person for an interview about my headshot business. I was freaking out.
Now let’s rewind for a moment.
How did I, some random guy with no major connections and a small photography business I started out of my apartment, get a celebrity worth over $20MM to want to meet me? Well, it all started with a simple cold email I sent him a few months prior:
“Ramit I really think you should consider gifting me $1,000,000 for absolutely no reason at all. It would be a great idea and very healthy for both of us. Lol. Anyway, I can’t wait to check out your course. Great emails, I’m learning a ton and applying it to my business!”
He actually replied to that email! And then, over the course of the next few months, I occasionally messaged him to thank him for things I was learning, and eventually, his assistant reached out saying he wanted to schedule an in-person meeting to interview me!
I’ve since gone on to use this same strategy in the acting industry to become friends with major players, including Mari Lyn Henry, agent Margaret Emory, casting directors Kim Graham and Alison Franck, and many others.
So what’s the secret? Well, there’s actually no secret at all. It’s not even a technique so to speak, in that there’s nothing sneaky about it. It’s all about being genuine and honest, and that’s why it works so well.
Appreciation and specificity.
If you thank someone for something valuable and specific that they helped you with, they will most likely feel compelled to respond. If you show someone how they’ve helped you, they’ll feel good about themselves and want to connect with you. Casting directors love to hear when they’ve helped someone, especially if that person is extremely specific in their email about how they benefited from the casting director’s advice. Here is a very simple, step by step method you can use to connect with almost any casting director in the industry— even if you haven’t met them yet:
1. Decide on a casting director you’d like to make a connection with.
2. Look up their name online to find some content. Select interviews, podcasts, social media posts or YouTube videos related to them.
3. Watch/read/listen to the content and take some notes on things you learn or find interesting.
4. Send the casting director a simple email (or social media direct message) thanking them for helping you learn something. Your message should be short but specific to what they taught you, where you found it, and how you’re going to use what you learned to further your acting career.
“Hi Cindi, I just wanted to shoot you a quick message to thank you for the blog post you were featured in at [WEBSITE URL]. You spoke about how actors should always keep their slate extremely natural — as though they’re talking to a friend. I actually didn’t know this! I will definitely be trying it out at my next audition and will let you know how it goes. Thank you!!! – Martin”
5. Chances are the casting director will respond and say something along the lines of, “I’m glad it was helpful to you!”
6. But even if they don’t respond, you’ll want to follow up about 2-3 weeks later telling them how you used their advice and anything that has changed for you.
“Hey, Cindi — just a quick update to my last message. I tried your technique of saying my slate more naturally, like I’m talking to a friend, and I just got my first callback in a few months! Honestly not quite sure whether it was specifically the slate that made the difference, but I think slating in a more natural way helped me perform better during the actual audition itself. Thanks again for the advice 🙂 – Martin”
7. Then, once every 6-8 weeks, you can continue keeping in touch with them. And if you notice they are casting something you’d like to audition for, you’ll have built enough of a relationship that you can contact them directly and ask if they’re open to you sending in a self-tape.
This industry is all about building relationships, and you don’t always have to pay hundreds of dollars to attend workshops to meet people! What if you repeated this process for 20-30 more casting directors? How many opportunities would you have by this time next year?
Finally, a word of warning: Do not email someone a vague, random thank you. It must be specific and genuinely helpful to you. Fake thank you’s and insincere appreciation can backfire big time.
I hope this is helpful to grow your career!
Martin Bentsen has helped over 6,000 actors with their careers and headshots since 2009. His photography studio City Headshots is ranked #1 on Yelp, and he’s taught marketing to actors at NYU, The New England Theater Conference, and numerous other major venues. Want to start booking more work by thinking strategically? Check out his completely free mini-course called The Practical Performer.