Imagine that you go on a solo vacation and while on your travels you meet an interesting person with whom you share an afternoon exploring. You have a fantastic time and want to stay in contact so that future travels might be possible. You exchange contact information and your fellow adventurer implores you to keep in touch. But after the trip you start to worry that maybe they didn’t mean it. Maybe they meet lots of people on their travels, so your time wasn’t that special. Before you know it you’ve talked yourself out of keeping in touch. A year passes and it’s time for Travel again, and your mind falls back to your traveler friend who you met a year ago. Is it appropriate to reach out to see if they’d like to travel again? Will they even remember you? Will they be upset that you didn’t reach out sooner? And now you’re kicking yourself, because had you kept in touch to begin with you might be able to skip all of this anxiety and have another fun filled adventure. But instead, your relationship stopped short of developing and now you’re left to start all over.
I’m sure you can see how this relates to our work as actors. We all know that consistent follow up with industry is key, but we somehow talk ourselves out of it for a myriad of reasons. I took some time to examine the concerns most frequently raised by my students and came up with the top 4 reasons actors avoid the follow-up.
“They probably get updates from hundreds of actors”
Surprisingly, this is not true. Most actors send an initial follow up after meeting someone and then avoid sending follow ups thereafter. Even if industry people did get hundreds of updates, a well written update is always appreciated when your recipient knows you and your work. Note that I said “knows you and your work” - I firmly advocate against sending updates to industry professionals who do not know your work. Updates are too personal if they have no context, so I’d focus on getting in the room with them first, then sending updates after that.
“When they say ‘follow up’ they don’t really mean it”
This is a really common fear, but we really do mean it. I run a theater company, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to say no to an actor purely because of circumstances out of their control. I request for these people to keep in touch, because there is a good chance I will be able to cast them next time around. But actors often have their eyes on the short game - they get frustrated and avoid following up - instead of playing the long game and using the initial audition as the introductory part of a longer relationship.
“I heard follow ups just go into the trash”
This might be true for some people. But more often than not, a well-written, authentic follow up is deeply appreciated by industry folks. And you’ll certainly never build the relationship beyond the first meeting if you don’t take that extra step to keep in touch. I call that effort “the cost of doing business.” You’ll get enough of a benefit even if efforts are wasted on some people.
“I never get anything from it”
Think of follow ups like commercials. When we see/hear commercials, we almost never get up from what we’re doing and go out to buy that product. Instead, we file the information away for when we need it. So you’ll never know for certain how it’s working, but you have to have the confidence that it is. The hope is that when the industry person is in the market for someone like you, your follow ups help you be front of mind. I have a friend who just got called into a major casting office a few days after randomly passing a casting director in the hallway at an event. Just that little reminder was all it took - no conversation even took place! Your follow-up can be like that casual sighting in a hallway.
In a future post I will go over what a “well written” follow up will look like. In the meantime, if there are other reasons you don’t follow up with people you’ve met, leave your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll help you work through your concerns!
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