The Ultimate Invitation System
Inviting industry creatives to come and see your show is brutal work.
It’s one of the most thankless tasks that any actor ever has to do. It takes an awful lot of time and often a bit of money too.
After you’ve spend hours painstakingly pulling together a list of people you would like to contact and weeding through all the various sources of information to make your best guess at how they like to be contacted then drafted a letter or email that you can only guess will pique their interest, attached your headshot which cost you a small fortune to produce in the first place, popped it in the post or pressed send…
And 19 times out of 20… NOTHING!
You’re lucky if they even send back the materials you submitted let alone get a generic ‘thanks-but-no-thanks’ slip affixed. If you do hear back at all it’s usually some variation of ‘No’ and if you’re really special you might get a ‘Thanks, we’ll consider it’.
This is the usual experience inside drama school and it doesn’t get any better once you come out. In fact it’s probably better inside drama school because with your fellow students around you for support at least you bother to reach out at all.
The last letter sent by most actors I speak to was for their last show at drama school which could have been years ago.
But is it really any wonder. Who would want to put themselves through that over and over again?
Well the sad truth is that if you don’t continue your outreach especially during the early stages of your career you will categorically fall off the radar. If you’re in drama school you have a limited window of opportunity to make the most of the exposure you get to regular attendees because as soon as you’re out it becomes 10 times more difficult to convince a creative to come and see your work unless it’s a pretty high-profile job.
So how do we squeeze every drop of value out of your outreach to make it as productive for you as possible? How do we make sure that the time you are putting in to the process is well spent and gets you the best results you possibly can?
There are two main goals of any set of invitations or outreach campaign;
- Get a response of any kind from your contact
- Get them to attend your show.
Getting them to attend your show is the most obvious end goal. This shows that they are interested in you in whatever capacity they work in. It also gives you the opportunity to begin forming a relationship with this person. But that is not the only goal.
Getting a response of any kind from your contact whether negative or positive firstly validates the information you collected about them; their contact information, their preferred method of submission, but it also opens up a dialogue between you two and paves the way for follow-up and future contact.
To make your invitations as effective as possible, getting as many responses as you can and hopefully encouraging some attendance, you need to have three things;
- A solid body of contacts that you want to engage with. I suggest 150+
- Laser focused content that piques your contacts interest in the right way and encourages them to respond.
- A system of follow-up that makes sure that content lands on those contacts desk’s at just the right time to get them to take action.
If you just send out one invitation you are shooting yourself in the foot as a large percentage of your contacts won’t even see it let alone feel compelled to respond. You have to follow-up and remind your contacts of their invitation and encourage them to make a decision and let you know what that decision was.
Contacts & Content are covered in great detail in this article: How To Get More Responses From Your Letters
So in this post I am going to focus on giving you a system of inviting industry creatives that will guarantee you more response and more attendance than just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
This is the 6-4-2-1 Invitation System…
6 Weeks | The Primer
Count back 6 weeks from opening night of your show or your premier or whatever it is you are inviting people to.
This is when you are going to send out your first point of contact. This gives most creatives plenty of time to think about it, make a decision and put it on their calendar so they can avoid being busy with other commitments, without being so far in advance that they forget about it completely.
This campaign should be a ‘generally informative’ campaign just flagging the production up on the radar of whoever you are contacting rather than a specific invite for them to come and see your work. If you are at drama school this is the perfect time to send out a general invitation as a group using a group flyer. Sometimes the marketing department at your school will have made these already or you can all pitch in together to have one made.
If you’re not at drama school try to get flyers from the venue that the show is at or their season brochure if they don’t have individual flyers. If your production isn’t that high budget you could ask your fellow cast members to pull together and have one made and printed so you can promote the show together. This shouldn’t cost more than £150 between you all.
Along with the flyer or contact card you just want to add a basic letter or email with it attached. This should be very simple, get straight to the point. Say hello, that you are in a production in 6 weeks time that you want to make them aware of. If their schedule permits it would be great to see them there and how they can let you know if they are interested in any further information or reserve tickets.
Remember not to use this as the “Come and see me” letter. Write on behalf of the cast or company or gust be vague about who is specifically reaching out. Don’t send a headshot or resume with this letter. Think like you are the theatre sending out a mail out. The reason you are sending this is so that when you do send your first “Personal Invitation” it’s not the first time they have heard of the production and you can refer back to the previous correspondence which gives the reader more of a reason to pay attention.
4 Weeks | The Invitation
This is where you will send a more personal letter along with your headshot / spotlight and any other contact information and give the recipient a specific reason to want to come.
The reason we sent the first contact was so that this letter is not the first time you have contacted them. So that you can remind them that you have already written to them so they are more likely to read the whole letter and take some action.
I am just following up on the letter I sent a couple of weeks ago…”
When writing this letter, keep it short and to the point. Time is what these people have the least of so you need to catch their attention and invoke an action as quickly as possible.
To do this you need to imagine reading it from their point of view and think “What’s in it for me?” or alternatively in the case of a director/writer/other creative “Why me?”. What are they going to get out of this, and why have you chosen them to invite? For agents and CD’s it’s obvious so you’ve got to give them something that sets you apart but for creatives not so used to receiving invites they will be asking themselves why did you choose to invite them.
Always lead with your most impressive attribute or accolade. The thing that gives you most credibility.
“…I’m an Actor and I’m writing to you because I love your work…”
“…I graduated from RADA in 2013 and just finished a run at the National Theatre…”
You want them to sink their teeth into you in the first sentence, give yourself as much credibility as you possibly can. If you have a friend at the agency or who is a friend of theirs, firstly get their permission to mention their name but then make sure to point this out in the first sentence so that they feel compelled to read on.
If it’s to a director, writer or other creative be honest and tell them why you have chosen them. They receive an awful lot less invitations than casting directors and agents do, so tell them why.
“…you have directed 3 of my favourite plays in the last 2 years; Bla, Bla and Bla and it would be great if you could come see some of my work”
Don’t mince your words, keep it snappy. They know you are an actor and want to work with them you don’t need to butter them up or beat around the bush.
Next, give them simple, specific information about the show, venue and times;
“I will be playing ‘John’ in “John’s Play” at the Pentameter Theatre from Oct 1st – 3rd for 5 performances;
Oct 1st – 7:30
Oct 2nd – 2:30 & 7:30
Oct 3rd – 2:30 & 7:30
The Pentameter is 5 minutes’ walk from Hampstead underground station on the Northern line and the show will last 2 ½ hours with a 15 minute interval. “
Finally let them know, specifically, what action you want them to take and also include a reason to contact you anyway if they decide not to come rather than just take no action or ignore you. This is important.
“Let me know if you think you can make it and I would be happy to arrange your tickets for you. If you don’t think you’ll be able to make it this time drop me an email so I can stay updated. My email is…”
In this campaign you want to include a full size headshot and CV with your letter if it is to a casting director or agent and also have links you your spotlight or other profile/website printed. Also make sure your headshot has your name and contact details on the back.
In your emails it is best to simply include a link to your spotlight as some people don’t open any emails with unsolicited attachments. If you don’t have Spotlight then upload these files to Dropbox and copy the ‘share link’ into the email so they can still access them if they choose.
2 Weeks | The Reminder
2 weeks before opening night, and two weeks after your last contact, you want to send your next campaign. This will either be a response to whoever has replied to you thus far or a reminder to those who have not yet replied.
If they responded to your last contact, reply to thank them. If they said yes and would like you to arrange their tickets then don’t wait two weeks, do it immediately after they respond.
If they said no for any reason, thank them for taking the time to even respond and (as a consolation) as them if, because they can’t come this time, they would take a look at your showreel and give any feedback they have for you about it;
“…I would really appreciate you taking a look at my showreel and letting me know if my showreel accurately reflects how you see my castability.”
If you got no response then send a friendly follow-up letter/email that reminds them that you sent an invitation and that you would appreciate it if they can make it. This can be effectively the same letter as before only without the opening paragraph explaining who you are.
At the end of this letter you can add a little P.S. and ask the same question as above. If they have chosen not to come and see your show then they will be more likely to respond to this request as a lesser ask from you because they know they are not doing what you really want. Include a link to your showreel and hopefully they will give you 5 minutes of their time.
1 Week | The Hail Mary
I call this the Hail Mary because if you haven’t heard a peep from them at this stage then you’ve got nothing to lose by saying a prayer and doing the following.
This is the scary part. It’s also the part that most actors never do. It’s also the part that makes the most difference to how effective your campaign is.
You’re going to get on the telephone!
To anyone who has responded and said yes up to this point, drop them a quick email to remind them of the details and let them know that it would be great to meet them if they can stick around after for a drink. The truth is many attendees won’t stay past the interval unless the show is really good so don’t be surprised if they say they have to ‘dash off’.
To anyone who hasn’t responded, you have nothing to lose but everything to gain by getting on the old dog-and-bone and asking them yourself. Your goal is to speak to the actual person you have been writing to but often you will get stuck with an assistant/receptionist.
Use this script;
“Able & Cole, Chris speaking, how can I help?”
“Hi Chris, can I speak to Sarah please?”
“Sure, who’s speaking?”
“Thanks a lot, it’s Jason Broderick.”
Now hopefully they will pass you over but usually you will get some variation on…
“What is your call regarding?”
“It’s just a quick call I appreciate you’re busy. I was just following up on an invitation I sent to Sarah to my show at the Pentameter theatre which opens in a week. As I hadn’t heard back I just wanted to check if she was available to come along or not so I can stay up to date?”
If you do speak to the person in question or they answer the phone to you just start here instead;
“Hi Sarah, my name is Jason Broderick. It’s just a quick call I appreciate you’re busy. I was just following up…”
This will turn up one of three outcomes. Either they will tell you that they would have responded if they were interested in which case thank them for their time and say goodbye.
They might say sorry for not responding but they are not available, in which case, ask if it would be ok to email over your showreel for them to take a look at instead. Get their email address (or confirm that you have the right one), thank them for their time and say goodbye.
Or, the best outcome is that they might either say they are coming but sorry they didn’t respond to you to let you know or they might be available and willing for you to arrange tickets for them and the invitation just slipped their mind.
If you follow these 4 stages above in reaching out to your contacts then you can be positive that you did all you could to engage people to come along to your show.
Remember that if you are writing to 150 people then 20-30 responses would be a pretty good return rate but if you go into this expecting less than 15 of your contacts to actually come and see the performance then you won’t be disappointed. This will be higher depending on your profile as an actor and the credibility of the venue or production you are inviting people to.
In the words of the kidnapper on the other end of the telephone to Liam Neeson…
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