What’s the secret of the Christmas Card List ?

DSC_1296This week I did a session with each of the 70+ 2nd years in Musical Theatre, Acting and Actor Musicianship at Mountview. Just an hour, but we managed to pack it with lots of useful “stuff” to help them as they prepare to move into the more public 3rd year – the Christmas Card list is one of my favourite suggestions.

Whether you are an actor in training, about to invite useful people to see your range of graduate shows, or whether you are the highly regarded international New York attorney I met this week in London on their mission to raise investment for a new Broadway music – the Christmas card list is an equally vital tool.

For the actor – start with who you know. Yes friends and family, but also people in the business that you have met somehow, somewhere, who might be interested to see you in your next show. Maybe they taught you a masterclass or directed an in-hour project. Maybe they run the theatre in your hometown. Each one of these people go on a list [a spreadsheet is useful for sorting later]. What do you know about them, their email maybe, their address [we don’t get many letters, we get too many emails].

Too often I meet actors who can’t remember who they were directed by last week in class, or they didn’t pick up a programme from the show they saw recently and so can’t remember the name of the assistant director they met in the fringe bar afterwards. I meet actors who haven’t thought to find out who was on the panel that auditioned them.   All of this information could be useful to add to your list.

Please help yourselves. It is hard enough getting into the business and making connections. It is harder if you “forget” the people who have already seen or spoken with you.

And my favourite sad story of recent weeks also highlights wasted opportunity. I was hosting a casting director who was doing a Q&A with 30+ actors. At the end she asked “any questions” and there were so few that I had to ask one. Then at the end everyone walked out respectfully saying thank you. Not a single person came up to ask a question or introduce themselves.   I was standing at the front and commented on the fact that people were leaving. She said that that was completely normal – almost no one ever came up to speak with one of the leading casting directors when they were 5 yards away and had just talked to them for 40 minutes.

[Just watch this scenario through her eyes.  She has given a talk about casting 50+ times, she doesn’t need to think too hard. Instead she can spend the time scanning the audience and seeing who is showing interest, and spark at this time in their training.  Who’s taking notes.  Who asks questions.  She and her team will see shows next year and some of the faces she will remember from this class.  They may seem familiar. She may remember they were bright and interested. Which of the whole class do you think she will remember best.  Yes – the person who asks questions, or comes to speak after the event. ]

Please please grab every opportunity, politely, to have a conversation. How much easier then to write a personal note to invite them to your show.

My business card describes my business as “making connections”. If you know someone then you can help to connect them to your show, or to someone else. My grateful thanks to a student in New York who I had interviewed by skype. She was talking to said NY attorney and remembered me. She emailed me and connected us. I was pleased to have a coffee with someone new, international, and dealing in Broadway business. We had a great 40 minutes. I have now connected her to three key women in theatre in London and New York who each have widespread networks and may help her with two or three areas of her work.   It cost me the price of one cup of coffee and 40 minutes. I now have a new very high powered friend in New York.   What could be easier. Thank you for the initial student connection.

The attorney has a very sophisticated contact list. We talked about the Mountview class and my Christmas Card list “lesson”. We all need them – so, dear reader, whatever you are doing in life, build a bit of a list of people you know who might help.

You could then take it one step further – and make a list of the people you would like to know…then go out and research who you know who knows them.

For more suggestions to help with this very narrow cast marketing of you as a brand, and your productions and project (whatever artform) get yourself a copy of “Your Life in Theatre”.

PS – My apologies to casting directors, directors, and others doing talks at Mountview and other schools if suddenly you get lots of questions and people coming up to speak to you afterwards.




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