I find it funny to say that I’ve considered writing about the subject of actor gifts to industry professionals and have decided against it several times. Why? Because it’s controversial, I guess. There are two camps: believers in gift giving to industry pros, and those who are firmly against. The “against gift folks” believe we, industry pros, need you and your talent. When you are booked on a job, your being fantastic on set is your gift to us. We should, perhaps, send a thank you gift to you. t’s one way to look at it, and I respect the viewpoint, but not always the way in which it’s delivered (see kindness blog last month). If you are a no gift giving advocate, you are off the CASN reading hook for the month; I don’t want to attempt to change your mind. If you are interested or a believer in giving gifts, and want to do it well, this column is for you . . .
Commercial actors should never give industry gifts in a less than effective way.
Let me quickly address the “industry people should thank actors” issue. First of all, as a casting director (and yes, personally), I am a big fan of the actors that come in for me. I’m inspired by your courage, amazed by your talent, and am grateful for the time and effort you take, from preparation to walking out of the studio post audition. When I’m in the room, I thank you personally every single time. My staff does too. Casting should thank you and I hope many do.
I also don’t believe actors must give gifts. It’s not career ending if you choose to abstain. But I do think gifts are nice and that people appreciate them in all walks of life, so why wouldn’t industry people? Do unto others, right? With a few smart choices, you can make a bigger bang for your buck, and that’s just smart.
Hand deliver (face time is always good), use your first and last name on the card, tag and possibly include one of your actor business cards with your photo (if you aren’t sure the CD will know immediately who you are—your agent should!) in case you don’t get to put the gift directly in their hands.
Timing can be key. I don’t think there’s ever a bad time to give a gift of thanks, but there are times that it might be more noticed than others. During the holidays industry professionals get inundated with presents/cards. It’s lovely but very hard to keep track of what came from who. Casting directors typically get gifts from agents AND actors! It’s crazy. So if you want to ensure a gift is noticed, appreciated, and special, you may consider sending one pretty much any other time. I think a thank you gift for a booking is fantastic. A “thanks for calling me in” on a random day in May works too. If you are going to give a gift, do it when no one else is. It’s surprising, fun, and memorable.
Creativity can count. More specifically, your attention to what the industry pro actually likes can take you a long way. What is your agent or casting director into? Do some research. Social media can give some great insight. Maybe a quick chat with the assistant after your audition about a favorite of the CD or an email to the assistant at your agency could help. The gifts that show thought are special.
Consider an office gift. Include the assistants! Not all CDs or agents are prone to share gifts with their staff (ugh, I know!), and some gifts are next to impossible to share. When I was an assistant, I got really excited when someone bought something by for ALL of us. Really. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say they appreciate it most, because they are mostly forgotten in the gift/thanks realm. Talk about goodwill bang for your buck! And remember, assistants are the CDs and agents of tomorrow.
The amount of money spent is not important. In fact, I’d say keep it low. It really, really is the thought that counts; be creative. The IRS allows a gift $25/person, per year write off and I certainly don’t see a reason to go beyond that, and you could go well below. Thoughtful is superior to expensive. Out of the blue is a delightful surprise.
A thank you (and no gift) is pretty fantastic. I’ve been liberal in sharing my thoughts on the importance of saying thanks. Why wouldn’t you? Maybe you think all actors are doing it and a note or email would go unnoticed, so you refrain? Is there a fear you will come across desperate? I don’t think you can go wrong sending thank you thoughts and there seems to be less actors doing it these days; all the better for you. Worst case scenario, it goes unnoticed . . . and that’s the worst thing??
Just my two cents: hop on the (gift or no gift) thank you wagon, folks. Look for me! I’m already onboard.
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