When I cast for no budget productions, I post casting calls online and deal with actors directly rather than going through an agent. That means I’ll write a breakdown of roles and information about the production, and actors send their showreels and cover letters to me for consideration.
Guys, there a lot of bad cover letters.
And while I appreciate there’s a limit to the time investment we want to make when applying to no budget gigs, if someone doesn’t take 15 seconds to write my name and one line about why they’re interested in the production, I can’t trust them to take it seriously.
For Relationshit, I got the single best cover letter I ever read.
Ingvild Deila wrote three paragraphs about what interested her about the project, why she liked a previous film of mine, and how she shared my production philosophy.
She was a totally different type than what I’d imagined for Zoe, but I always want to work with people who put in the extra effort, so I suggested her to audition for June. After reading the script, she candidly explained why she didn’t feel right for June but would still love to try for Zoe.
While I wasn’t totally convinced, she had evidently been putting a lot of thought into this, and even if it wasn’t going to work out this time, I was sure we’d end up working together later. So I invited her to audition.
She was the perfect Zoe.
This also meant that I remained open for a June, and the role finally went to Faye Sewell, who understood the June I’d written on such a deep level I barely had any work to do directing her scenes.
The trend continued: Shamir Dawood, whom I’d asked to audition for Paul, called me and explained why he felt better suited for Roman. I generally recommend trusting actors when they ask to try for another role too, because even though their previous roles may have been of one type, they may know of skills they have but that aren’t on their reels yet.
He auditioned for both, and, you know where this is going, he was a brilliant Roman.
The moral of the story: If you’re a director (or producer, or other decision maker) – it’s a good idea to trust an actor if they suggest auditioning for a role even if it’s not intuitive for you.
And if you’re an actor, the extra effort of googling someone and adding a few lines to support your application can make an enormous difference.