Saying “thank you” is something most of us are taught at an early age. It’s not just a “southern thing” for those of us here in Atlanta – expressing thanks is a universal value. Our parents/caregivers attempt to instill in us a sense of gratitude when someone does something for us and they teach us to verbalize that appreciation. As actors, I’m sure you know to say thank you to those who help you in your career – your coach, your agent/manager, your scene partner, the people at the taping service you use, casting directors, and on and on and on. But do you know how to say “thank you” effectively?
First, learn your “target’s” preferred method of communication. This will take some sleuthing – you can turn to your fellow actors to see if they know this information, or just ask the specific industry professional how he/she prefers you communicate when you meet her/him. Some industry pros don’t mind an email, and others think it’s impersonal. Some (probably most) would be touched to receive a hand-written thank-you card, but occasionally you do meet people that don’t want additional mail added to the pile they already receive. I know one casting director that, when I asked her what the best way to stay in touch with her was, said she preferred people use Twitter to send her the occasional update. I keep a spreadsheet of casting directors for my personal use and it contains their contact information, the best method for contact, the shows they work on, names of anyone else who works in their office, and miscellaneous tidbits such as “does NOT like shaking hands” (seriously, that’s on there for one CD I know). Keeping a document this way ensures you don’t have to hold all that information in your brain!
Next, let’s dive into a specific method for giving a thank you – emailing. For the love of Strasberg, KEEP. IT. SHORT. When you’re dealing with casting directors and agents in particular, they do not have time to read your pages-long novella just to get to your thank you. As artists, we all crave the chance to express ourselves and it’s beautiful, but save it for the camera/stage. That being said, don’t just say “hey, thanks for that audition!” Tell them exactly what audition and the basic time frame it occurred. For example, “HI! I just wanted to thank you for the audition you sent me last week for the part of Amy in “Marston Studios the Live Show!” CD’s and agents send out HUNDREDS of auditions every week – sometimes thousands for very busy casting directors/agents. Don’t make them guess which one was yours! If you’re a lucky person who gets several auditions from one source, I think it’s acceptable to thank the CD/agent for multiple opportunities in one email. I’ve sent ones before that said something to the effect of “I was so grateful to receive so many opportunities to audition for you in September! Hope casting went well for you!”
Another tip for emailing your gratitude – put “Thank You” directly into the subject line of the email. This way, if they’re very busy, they can quickly see that your email can wait until they have a little more time on their plate. Or, maybe if they’re having a not so great day (like we all do from time to time), they’ll open your email specifically to get a boost. In the body of the email, I also like to add a line that shows something specific I’m grateful for in regards to the audition. For example, “I always enjoy reading for characters who know exactly what they want!” It adds a personal touch and gives a little insight into how you see the character and what spoke to you about the role. (If you’re sending a thank you for something other than an audition, of course you can adapt this idea to make it fit the situation.)
So now, let’s turn to hand-written thank yous. Most of the same rules apply – be specific, show how you connected to the role, etc. However, I think you can get away with your message being a little longer than an email. Don’t go overboard – industry pros still have limited time – but people recognize the extra effort a hand-written card, post card or short letter takes, and they’ll give you a bit more leeway. Do your best to make sure your handwriting is neat, or at least legible (no judgement from me – my handwriting looks like I should be sent back to the third grade). It’s tempting to type out and print a note, which, admittedly, still takes a bit more effort than an email. Use your discretion if you go this route – ensure that at least your signature is hand-written and the note is tailored to the specific agent/CD. You don’t want them to think that you’ve sent all the same thank you notes to everyone in town!
In short, think about the kind of thank you that you’d like to receive. If you want to include a business card with your headshot on it in that handwritten note, or put a link to your website/IMDB page in a thank-you email, feel free to do so. Just keep the focus on your gratitude – these folks work hard and a small token of our appreciation is the least we can do.