The Actor's Detective

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Do producers/directors ever answer letters from actors? (Here's proof)

One of the concerns we've heard expressed by actors when we advocate writing directly to producers and directors is "But I'm just an unknown actor, why would these big time players reply to me?" It's a good question, to be sure. We can tell you from experience that many producers, directors and stars will write back (sometimes even call) because they are impressed that you took the time to compose a well written letter and asked them for a bit of advice in the process. (People love to give advice, no matter who they are.) 

In the past, before we officially started The Actor's Detective newsletter, some actors consulted with us and took our advice, writing to some of the most powerful people in the industry with great success. The connections they made helped to move their careers along on a positive track.

We will occasionally post some of these replies on this blog, especially ones that offer practical advice for pro-active performers.

The first comes from the late Sherwood Schwartz, the Hall of Fame producer responsible for two all-time American pop culture iconic TV shows. "The Brady Bunch" and "Gilligan's Island." 

Though he's no longer with us, Mr. Schwartz's words still resonate to this day. Here is an excerpt from his letter:

People call me a show business legend, but legends are often here today, gone tomorrow. I've been very lucky, and I use the word "lucky" advisedly. There are many people with talent, such as actors - or writers - or producers - or directors, etc. But you have to be in the right place at the right time, and that's where "luck" comes in.

I have enormous respect for actors. They are the bridge between the script and the audience, as are the director and the producer and all the various crafts which takes part in that transformation of the written word to the viewer.

I'm reminded of a famous joke about an actor who's performing one of Shakespeare's plays in a small town yesteryear. The cowboy's were bored with the presentation and started booing, the actor said, "Don't be mad at me. I didn't write this sh*t."

As far as some specific advice is concerned: prepare for rejection, because it's going to come. I'ts much worse to be rejected when you're an actor, because it's personal. Someone is rejecting you. When somebody rejects something I've written, it's a less direct rejection. They're just rejecting my work, not me.

You can be rejected because you're too tall for the part, or you're standing next to the lead actor who may or may not be taller or shorter or darker or lighter, etc., etc., and it may have nothing to do with your performance. In fact, as a producer who has to make a decision about two actors who both seem equally good for a certain part, I always try to explain my decision to the one who didn't get the part.

One time I was trying to make a decision for a play I wrote and it was being produced in Chicago. One of the actors, who was up for a relatively minor part, was really terrific. He was so good, in fact, in a joint decision with the director, we tested him for a larger part. He was so good in that reading, we both thought he should have a bigger part. Again, he was better than anyone else. Then finally, we both offered him any other male part except the starring role, and we suggested he should be in Hollywood instead of Chicago. No, he wasn't Clark Gable but he was Harvey Korman, who took our advice, came to Hollywood, and became a star on the "Carol Burnett Show," and has done many other roles since.

People will notice talent. I could tell you many other stories like that. Whether you're in a commercial, or have a bit part in a movie or TV show, just do your best because it can always lead to something more important.

As an actor, nobody will give you a job because they like you. They will give you a job because it's good for them. It's strictly quid pro quo. Nobody is doing anybody a favor.

As someone once said, "Have you ever noticed how good luck comes to the people who work the hardest?"

Good luck.

- Sherwood Schwartz 

Friday, January 6, 2012

What are The "Glengarry" Leads?

If you read this blog often or read the Actor's Detective newsletter, you'll see references to the "Glengarry Leads." So as not to confuse readers that aren't familiar with the reference, we're going to use this post to explain the significance to actors. (Aside from it being used in one of the best pieces of modern playwriting/screenwritng, that is.)

In 1984, David Mamet introduced his masterwork "Glengarry Glen Ross" to the theatrical world. It won the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award and ran on Broadway for almost a year. In 1992, it was made into a film which has become a cult classic and features powerful performances from some of the best actors in the world. (Pacino, Lemmon, Spacey, etc.)

Ostensibly about a Chicago real estate broker's office, the themes of the play (and movie) apply to any situation where sales are necessary or demanded to sustain a successful career. All the brokers in the office are competing against each other for a small slice of the market and few available prospects (sound familiar?) Some are more natural salesman than  others, but it's not really about their talent or skill, it's about the information they get (the leads) on prospective customers and who gets them first.

Ethics fall by the wayside as brokers are willing to lie, cheat and steal to win the stack of golden leads, or "Glengarry" leads (named after a hot property the office is due to sell which will almost immediately be snapped up by clients on the lead cards.) Whichever salesman gets to those people before the others do will be sure to close and get lucrative contracts and bonuses.

Since then, "Glengarry Leads" has become a synonym in the sales world for a list of hot prospects, or strong potential clients. It also refers to leads which have been undiscovered by other salesmen, allowing whoever finds them to be among the first to offer their product and close the sale.

How does this relate to actors and performers? Like it or not, you are in a sales business. You (and your talent) are the product you find yourself marketing on a daily basis. Change the words "offer their product" and "close the sale" in the sentence in the paragraph above to "audition" and "book the role" and you see where we are heading with this.

To an actor, the "Glengarry Leads" in question is getting any bit of information about productions coming up, and the key players involved in that production, before other actors get wind of it. Think about it. Once every other actor hears about a show, and casting directors put out the breakdowns for the whole world and the trade papers to see, the race is on for audition spots. Producers and directors then become inundated with headshots and resumes and the probability of you standing out diminishes. If you get your information to these powerful industry folks long before everyone else does, you have a greater chance at success than your peers.

While the play is terrific, there is a cameo role in the "Glengarry Glen Ross" film adaptation that was created specifically for the movie, and played to perfection by Alec Baldwin. It is that of a company enforcer named Mr. Blake who comes in to light a fire under the sales staff. He holds the stack of neatly tied cards with the  "Glengarry Leads" up to tease and tempt the staff and says that they will only go to the salesman with the highest profit that week. The person with the second highest sales? A set of steak knives. For the person who comes in third? Nothing at all. In fact, Blake says that anyone who doesn't place in the top two will lose their jobs. Truly cutthroat.

Once again, this applies to our business. For most roles, there is a job for the actor playing it and a standby (or "on hold") actor cast. No third place prize. You need a thick skin to deal with this reality, but your ratio of "pitches to sales" conversions (or, translated for a performer: "inquiries/submissions to auditions/bookings") can go up if you have the right leads. Chasing the leads everyone already has can prove futile, or be a lot of work with little return for the time invested. Obtaining leads that are new and/or unavailable to the masses and then following up on them will create more golden opportunities to sell your wares. There are, of course, no sure things, but "Glengarry Leads" are as close as they come.

The leads published every week in the Actor's Detective newsletter are of the Glengarry variety. If you can find a lead all over the place already and your peers are submitting in droves, you won't see it in the Actor's Detective. We only print leads that the masses don't know about, and we include contact information for major industry players, which others don't.

Finally, Alec Baldwin's character offers two acronyms that all salespeople (including you) should keep in mind:
A-B-C, Always Be Closing!

Closing a sale (booking a role) should never be far from your mind. No matter what you do during the day, you should always be putting yourself in the greatest position for success. This includes investing in and tending to your marketing, and consistently reaching out to those who are of greatest influence in the business to let them know about you and your talents.

A-I-D-A, Attention, Interest, Decision, Action. 

First, get the attention of your potential clients (by say, perhaps, following up on leads in the Actor's Detective and mailing letters to them.) Pique their interest with a well crafted, business like letter, give them all the information needed to make an informed decision about you, and -most important - give them a reason to reply back or, better yet,  bring you in (a call to action.)

Powerful stuff, and it's easy to see why Mr. Mamet's play and movie have resonated so much.

So now you know. If you see us referring to our product as "Glengarry Leads" we don't mean to brag, but we are assuring you that they are of the highest quality and well worth your investment. Mitch & Murray and Mr. Blake would be proud, and Shelly "The Machine" Levine and Dave Ross would do anything to get them. (Seriously, if you haven't seen the film or read the play, go get them now.)

Now if you'll excuse us, we're off to the local Chinese restaurant to have dinner with Ricky Roma. He says he's got something really important to talk to us about, oh and that we should bring our checkbook (wonder why he said that?)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions

Since we launched the Actor's Detective last week and announced the upcoming publication of our weekly newsletter, we've gotten lots of questions about our product.

First, this blog will be dedicated to posting free helpful tips, hints and advice for actors and performers.

Our newsletters, available for purchase each week, will be filled with more than a dozen hot leads (The "Glengarry" leads, so to speak) and will assist smart actors in boosting their marketing efforts and their careers.

As each newsletter is published, we will make an announcement on this blog.

As for the questions, here is a copy of the F.A.Q. page from the first issue of the Actor's Detective newsletter. If you have any questions of your own to add, please email us at We love hearing from actors that are committed to bringing their careers to greater heights.

Q: Why should I buy the Actor's Detective newsletter? How is it different from all of the other sources of casting information available for free out there?

A: By the time most of the free casting notices you find in the trade papers appear, it's already too late in the process for you to make an impact. Thousands of your peers have seen the same information listed and are submitting at the same time you are. You can be lost in a big pile.

At Actor's Detective, we use our long time industry connections and insider sources to find out about projects in the early stages of development, long before they are handed over to casting directors and breakdown services and appear online.

In each weekly Actor's Detective newsletter you will find more than a dozen "hot" leads with detailed description of these new projects. Even better, we provide what almost nobody else does: Direct contact information for Producers, Directors and other major industry players so that you can write to them and put yourself into consideration early in the process.

Even if you did know what was coming up, finding the names and addresses of the right people to contact would take up hours of your valuable time to research. The Actor's Detective team does that work for you. Each issue is like your secret shortcut to all that vital information.

Take it from us, it will be some of the best money you ever spent on your career.

Q: Am I allowed to write directly to the Producers and Directors you list in the Actor's Detective newsletter? Won't they get mad at me? Won't it hurt my career?

A: Writing a simple, business like letter outlining the skills and qualities you can offer to a prospective employer is never wrong. Again, as long as you approach it professionally you are not crossing a line. This is, after all, a business and you are a business person with a product to offer a client. In this case the product is your talent and the client would be someone producing an entertainment project.

They will not get mad at you. To the contrary, people who have used  Actor's Detective leads in the past (before we started publishing a newsletter) have been commended by some of  the Producers and Directors they have written to for taking the initiative and being proactive in their careers. Some of the letters resulted in bookings, some have not. Even the ones that haven't were not wasted, as they managed to open up a dialogue with major industry players and add one more person to their network of contacts. (A network actors serious about their careers should be trying to increase every day.)

Q: What should I say in my letters? Should I include my headshot and resume? Should I mention that I got the contact information from The Actor's Detective?

A: Each letter will vary depending upon the project and the duties of the person involved. Each actor also has their own talents to promote, so there is no "right or wrong" way.  If you'd like to see some templates for letters that have been successful in the past, be sure to read "The Actor's Detective Guide to Writing Industry Contact Letters."  (available soon for free on the Actor's Detective website)

You can include a copy of your resume in the envelope if you'd like, but we suggest a simple letter in a standard #10 envelope, leaving the 8X10 headshot for later in the process.

It's not necessary to mention to the Producers and Directors that you got the information about their project from us. They actually don't care where or how you found them. The important part is that you seem to them like an actor who does your homework to help advance your career and that you are keenly aware of what is going on in your own industry. They don't need to know that you took a shortcut to get there.

Q: Should I contact every lead listed in your newsletter? Do these major industry people really read letters from actors? What kind of response rate should I expect?

A: We make no guarantees, of course, but the more letters you write the better your chances for success. Some leads/roles might not be a perfect fit for you, but we suggest writing anyway as these projects are in early stages and you might put yourself in consideration for roles not listed or created yet.

A well composed letter is the least intrusive and most respectful method of contacting someone in this industry. (Which is why we do not publish phone numbers or email addresses. Occasionally we will publish a Twitter handle, as those are public newsfeeds.) Whether your letter will get in the hands of the person it's intended for, again we cannot make guarantees, but if you put together a letter that is professional, from a business person to business person perspective, it will most likely be read.

Responses will vary. You are a salesperson and all sales is a numbers game. The rule is generally a 10% response rate. (Put simply, if you write ten letters, you will average one response. Write one hundred letters, you can expect ten responses or so. Sounds like a lot of work for little return, but in a business where booking one major job can earn six figures, the work pays off.)

Q: How accurate is your information? 

A: Our researchers at Actor's Detective strive to confirm details and addresses before we publish any leads. Things can change in the interim, though. If, for any reason, a letter is returned to you by the post office for invalid information, send us an email at and we will reimburse you for the postage.

The leads we are offering in each weekly issue of the Actor's Detective are the golden "Glengarry" leads for actors. (If you don't know the reference, watch David Mamet's brilliant film "Glengarry Glen Ross" ASAP.) We make sure that they are of the highest quality and that they are linked to high profile projects, not student films, background work  or independent films.

We're certainly not trying to cut out the job of the casting directors or agents, but we feel that by putting information in the hands of those creating and shepherding the project itself before casting begins, you place yourself in a better position for success, boosting your marketing and networking skills in the process. Why not appear on the radar before everyone else in the business arrives there?

The Actor's Detective: We Do The Research So That You Don't Have To

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

And they're off.....

Today marks the unofficial beginning of the campaign for President of the United States with the caucus voting in Iowa. For the next ten months we will be hearing a lot from candidates on both sides of the aisle.

What does this have to do with an actor's career, you ask?

As the wise man Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot by watching."

No matter your feelings on politics, there are many great lessons to be found for performers in the way that politicians market themselves, and how effective those campaigns are. Follow their strategies for success, and apply them to your career, and you will probably find yourself elected cast too.

Here are just a few of the lessons:

1) Get your information out there (repeatedly)

One of the big laments of the political season is that we are inundated with commercials, robo-calls and mailings well before Election Day arrives. By the time we get to the finish line, we are almost relieved that we won't have to hear from them again.

I'm not suggesting that you market yourself to the point of annoyance, but there is some benefit to letting people know who you are - and more than just one time. A candidate who does just one mailing, or less than a handful, would not last long on the public's radar. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.

If you are not getting your information in the hands of producers, directors and casting directors again and  again and again, you are similarly hurting your chances for success.

2) Build that war chest!

One of the reasons that candidates don't follow through with a sustained marketing blitz is that they run out of funds in their "war chest." Face it, nobody likes to admit that money makes the world go 'round, but it does, and it is crucial to getting ahead in any business, including ours.

If you are not putting money aside for your marketing efforts (postcards, mailings, photos, postage, etc.) or don't see it as a priority, then you are setting yourself up for sure failure.

Just like the candidate making his concession speech, you will soon be telling yourself and your supporters that the race is over and that you give up.

Don't be that person, invest in your business/marketing campaign and find ways to build that war chest.

3) Have something important to say.

If a candidate stood up and said "I'm running for President this year, please vote for me." and then said nothing else, he or she would not get too far. Why, then, should an actor expect positive results when their entire campaign consists of sending just a few headshots and resumes with no follow up or message?

If you are going to contact someone of influence in show business, be sure that you let them know your credentials (beyond the lines on your resume) recent work, skills, qualifications for the job, etc. Let them know more about yourself (professionally, of course, they are not interested in what new tricks your cat can do, or how your summer vacation went.)

Just like voters deciding on a candidate, a producer, director or casting director will not make an informed choice about which actor to cast without knowing as much information about them as possible. Make sure you get that information about yourself in their hands.

4) Know who to market to.

This one goes right along with the last lesson. It's great to be consistent with marketing, and to let "voters' know all about yourself, but you also have to be aware of who you are marketing to. Don't waste time, effort and (most important) resources sending your information to someone who would not hire you in the first place.

To put it in political terms, there are people in each party who would NEVER vote for a candidate from the other side, no matter how many times they reach out to them, so candidates don't bother campaigning in areas or states where those voters live. It's not worth the effort to pick up a tiny fraction of votes.

If you are a male in your twenties and you keep sending postcards and headshots to someone who primarily casts children or female senior citizens, you are needlessly diverting energy that could be spent elsewhere. Sure, these folks might cast your type once in a blue moon, but is it really worth keeping them on your mailing list?

5) Stay on message! (consistency)   

Politicians have entire teams helping them with this. They need to make sure that the image and message they broadcast over and over again stays the same, no matter where they are, who they are speaking to or what the occasion is.

You probably don't have a huge team (other than your agent/manager or supporters) but you know what image you are trying to promote. Make sure you don't stray from that. Politicians get in trouble when they try to be all things to all people and to tell audiences what they think they want to hear.

Don't fall into that trap.

It is tempting, but you need to make sure that the people that are doing the hiring and casting in this business have a clear understanding of who you are, what your image is, where your talents and skills lie and how you are able to help them by filling a need in their casting process. Too many shifts in your marketing strategy will muddy the waters and confuse them. You will be seen as a "flip flopper", which has been the kiss of death for candidates for hundreds of years and will certainly harm your career too.

Do these things and you will be well on your way to  The White House  career success. You have our vote!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome to the Actor's Detective!

The Actor's Detective is a one stop site for tips, hints, advice, leads and other important information geared towards helping actors, entertainers and performers advance their careers.

In addition to frequently updated blog posts, our web store (coming soon)  will be offering Special Reports, ebooks, audio/video seminars and a weekly newsletter for sale, all filled with valuable info.

We will be working hard to compile the research necessary so that actors can have advance notice of film/TV and theater projects that are coming up (including contact information) and begin to submit for them long before everyone else in the business knows about it.

Anyone can make more money, but the one thing you can't make more of is time. The Actor's Detective weekly newsletter will provide a shortcut to the vital information performers need on which shows and films will be casting next -with direct contact information for the producers, directors and key players involved - saving actors countless valuable hours of digging through the trades and working the grapevine for leads themselves.

Each performer is the CEO of their own company and, as such, they are also the top salesperson. The most important responsibility actors have every day is to get information about themselves into the right hands and to attract the attention of those who are in the position to offer them auditions and roles. The Actor's Detective newsletter provides these "golden leads" that allow actors to supercharge their marketing efforts.     

The Actor's Detective stands apart from other services out there that compile lists of upcoming projects because we  provide names and, more importantly, addresses so that performers can be proactive in promoting their talents and skills to the people that count, weeks - and sometimes months - before projects and roles are listed in the breakdowns or casting papers.

So welcome to The Actor's Detective!  Visit us often. We will offer information about the business of show business that others don't (or won't.) Be in the loop before your peers. We have many inside links to the entertainment pipeline that provide us with secret details of projects before they become official and we will get that knowledge into the hands of smart actors (like you) so that you can use it wisely to pave your way to success. Don't get left behind. 

The Actors Detective: 
We do the research so that you don't have to!