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:
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?"
- Sherwood Schwartz