Personally I’ve been trying to perfect my cover letters for a long time now and I finally think I’ve got it, I’m not saying this is THE way to do it, but the combination of these factors below have got me the most responses. Writing a cover letter to an agent, producer or director is completely different to writing a cover letter for a normal 9-5 job. Here are some of the most common mistakes an amateur (including myself) and sometimes even professionals without agents make while trying to break the ice with the covering letter. Avoid them and you’ll make a good first impression.
Avoid describing your looks. It’s completely unnecessary because you’re sending this letter alongside a resume and headshot. The ramble of ‘I’ve been told I look like young Uma Thurman’ is redundant as well. Many talent agents are against these descriptions and comparisons; it’s unhelpful and just consumes more time to read, which in turn may lower your chances.
You don’t need any space fillers. If anything the shorter the letter, the better. Sentences like ‘I’m a very hardworking actor’ and ‘I’ll be dedicated to improving on everything I can’ truly are flippant in the context of this letter, you should be hardworking and wanting it improve yourself... It will not raise your chances of getting signed by an agent and you might just lower them for sounding like an amateur in this business. Keep it short and get to the point. Don't waste a sentence on the obvious.
Forget all the standards of a regular cover letter. When applying for a regular 9-5 job, it’s absolutely fine to write a solid cover letter with ten paragraphs explaining how valuable you are to the company. The difference here is that such companies do not receive as many letters every week and all year round with no breaks like a regular talent agent does. Stick to one or two paragraphs, three max if you really have something to say.
So what should you mention in your cover letter to keep it concise and germane? Here are some tips:
Always address a person by name. Never, ever open your letter with ‘Dear agency’ or ‘To whom it may concern’. It’s not unprofessional per se, but addressing an agent by their name will greatly personalize your correspondence and attract more focus. Don’t know the name of the agent? Then you have no reason to send a cover letter yet. Do your research first, figure out if this person might be a match. You'll get more responses if they know you did your research. Then, ‘Dear name of the agent’ will do the job, and don’t forget to add Mr or Mrs in front of it.
Highlight your work experience. Any big names you worked with? Festivals or awards? Choose two or three of your best acting jobs, briefly explain your roles (include any reviews of your performance if you can, this shows your talent has been recognised) and explain any jobs coming up. You want to impress the talent agent with the range of roles you have completed. Don't go into lengthy explanations; remember the talent agent's time is valuable.
Try to address where you are going in the business, not just where you’ve been. What is your ‘niche’ a Broadway musical? Film? A primetime series? Or commercials? Express your enthusiasm, your passion, and your clear focus about what you will achieve. This will reassure them that you are committed to being an actor. To help prove this show them you're in demand. Tell them about the play you're currently working on, and encourage them to come see it. Maybe even throw in some comp tickets? This will show them that there's money to be made if they represent you.
Obviously thank the person for taking the time to read your letter, agents, casting directors and managers are very busy people, if they have taken time out of there busy schedule to read your cover letter, make them aware that it is appreciated! And don’t forget to add your contact information. Just like your C.V you need to include at least your phone number. You never know who may get a hold of your C.V, so it's up to your own discretion if you want to include your home phone or address. If you were to include an email address, make sure it’s clean and appropriate.
Finally refer them to your headshot, C.V and showreel/voicereel. Go in for the kill. Once they see these they'll have a better idea of what kind of actor you are. (And whether you're marketable). The bottom line is use the acting cover letter wisely, and with discretion. The point of a cover letter is to expand a little more on the key factors on your C.V, it should not stand alone but remember the thing that will garner you attention is the work you're doing on stage and screen, not words on a page xxx