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Laurieby Casting Director, Laurie Records

…waste time, money, and effort giving ineffective industry gifts and cards.

There seems to be an ongoing series of debates over various controversial “actor issues” that stir up minor to major emotions in the entertainment business. I enjoy being a fly on the wall any chance I get. I find it fascinating. Much more often than not I refrain from weighing in, as I’m a sensitive gal and not a fan of making myself a target for criticism. But I always have an opinion. One topic that seems to raise a ruckus is the one of industry gifts. It seems to be almost as polarizing as the topic of whether Casting Director workshops should be allowed. Which feels a little crazy to me… but ok. Industry gifts enflames the passion of many an actor and a few industry professionals willing to speak out. As I gaze upon my desk and see a pile of holiday cards and trinkets, I have finally decided to speak out. Sort of.

Commercial actors should never give ineffective industry gifts.

To give or not to give… that is the question. That’s the question I will dodge for the most part. It’s up to you. I’ll ask you a few simple questions:

*Do YOU like receiving gifts/thank you cards/holiday cards?
*…even if it’s just for doing your job?
This is a no brainer, is it not?

I’m no scientist, but human nature seems to dictate that we like to be thought of and that we like to be appreciated. Do I NEED to be thanked for doing my job? No. Do I NEED a box of Trader Joe’s peppermint Joe-Joe’s during the holidays? No. Surely my hips will agree. I don’t need anything but a paycheck, I suppose, but being thanked is a really, really lovely thing. This is all, of course, my humble opinion.

If you are going to give an industry professional a gift or card, for the love of Pete, why not make it effective for the good of your business? That is what we are talking about here… not just random gifts, but business gifts. So make the most of it.

Hand delivery. Instead of leaving it up to the United States postal system to come face to face with an industry professional or their assistant on your behalf… why not hand deliver? The Casting Director may or may not be able to take it from your hand. Your Agent may not be available, either. Hand deliver for the possibility of face-to-face time. Look someone in the eye from the particular office, introduce yourself and hand it over. Much better than the random mail carrier… yes?

Sign your first and last name. Whether you are giving a gift or a card, make sure your first and last is on there. You think it’s insulting that I am reminding you of that? I have more cards than you would believe signed with an actor’s first name only.

Include a business card that displays your headshot in the card. I’m not sure why actors are so hung up on not wanting to do that. It’s a business gift. Leave a business card. You aren’t giving a gift or thank you card for your health or good karma… you are doing it to further and nurture a business relationship. Furthering that relationship will be impossible if the industry professional recipient doesn’t know who you are or what you look like.

If the thought of buying gifts or sending thank you notes makes you tremble with the injustice of it all… because we (industry pros) need YOU and we are just doing our job… Don’t do it. If you have zero dollars, don’t do it. Do you want to know if I give business gifts and thank you cards to people who have the power to further my casting career? Of course I do. For those of you who don’t know, you can write off $25 per person/gift every year. Tax write-offs are always good.

Most importantly, if/when you decide to be an “industry gift/card giver”… please make sure that you are accomplishing your business goals by giving an effective gift. Hand deliver, sign your full name, and have a business card with name and headshot. Unless you are best friends with said industry professional, it’s not stupid or cheesy. It’s good business.

Your choice. Your deal. Do what makes sense to you.

Laurie Records, Casting Director