Lingo you may find on this site or others
TTM=through the mail
SASE=self addressed stamped envelope
ISP=Inscribed signed picture
SP= signed picture
BW=black & white
PP=Preprint, a fake. Fakes come in all forms. You may also come across autopens (a copy of a signature signed right on top of the photo by machine) and secretarials.
Studio Fan Mail: A company or service that celebrities use to answer their fanmail. Unlike an agency, I don't think the mail is ever read by the celeb, and the autographs they send are ALWAYS fake. Either autopenned or preprinted. The infamous address is Studio Fan Mail 1122 Robertson Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90035, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Steps for obtaining an autograph
1. Start researching addresses.
Not everyone signs through the mail, especially A-list celebrities. If you really like A-list celebrities, split your requests up between them and less famous celebrities, so you’re guaranteed to get some successes.
When looking for addresses, there’s basically two ways to go: a permanent address, and a temporary address.
- A permanent address can include an agency, publicist, fan club, a person's own production company, or a TV set address.
- A temporary one is through a movie set address, a music venue, or a theatre. You may hear this refered to as "via venue." Many A-list celebrities are known to sign through movie sets, but not through their agencies.
You can also use Google News to look for local articles about the filming. They might list a historical location like a school or museum where filming will take place. You can try to send your request there rather than a production office. In a small town, they might be so excited to have a movie filming there that they will be sure to forward your request.
Concerts are pretty easy, check out official websites and ticketmaster.com for dates and locations. Just send to the arena about 5 days ahead of time if it is in town, and they will often forward your request to the singer or band. Allow more than 5 days if you are sending out of town.
Theaters are a GREAT way of getting autographs. Lots of big names do theatre, and most people don’t even realize! Usually people are very good at responding because you know the mail is going right to them in that very building.
TV pilots are another best kept secret for getting autographs. Most people only think of writing to TV series already on the air, but many well-known actors film pilots for new series. Pilots generally film in the spring during what is known as "pilot season." The filming sessions sometimes last a bit longer than a regular episode (sometimes as long as a month) so you have a larger window to get your request in. You can find addresses in the links below.
Some websites to check out, mentioned above:
Info on celebrities doing theater productions
Movie production listings in New York and LA, TV pilot listings
British Film and Television Production and Post Production Directory Production company addresses in the UK
Kemps Film and Television Production companies worldwide
TMe Production Companies More production companies mailing addresses
Stefan's Autographs A frequently updated database of many addresses
Fanmail.biz Another frequently updated database of addresses
Stararchive Probably the best database of addresses, however they switched to a pay model a few years back, which I think is a little outdated in the google era, but I digress.
Imdb Look up movies, movie filming statuses, and production companies
TV Show Addresses Set addresses for tv shows
City of New York Office of Film TV and Film addresses in New York
Variety Film Production Chart
British Columbia Film Commission
On Location Vacations TV and movie locations, updated daily
State, provinces, and cities often have film commission or film office websites that list the movies being filmed there with addresses. Major Hollywood films are often filmed in New York, Toronto, Vancouver, and other locations around the US and Canada. You can find these easily on google.
2. Write the letter!
Usually it’s not too hard if you’re a real fan! Don’t use a form letter, but try to stay under a page. Some celebrities read their mail, some don’t, so you never know who you’re actually writing to. I just try to stay real and sincere and mention things like when I started becoming a fan and why, what is it specifically about their acting style that I like, or why I like a particular movie. Sometimes I make it more personal add an anecdote, like about watching their show with my family. That way it's about them and me, so they're not reading the same thing over and over, but it still feeds their ego! Sometimes I mention things about their upcoming movies and if it’s a kid I might be more personal and ask questions, because they’re not jaded yet and more likely to respond. Always be polite, but let your personality shine through. Don’t be TOO brief and don’t go overboard either! They get lots of letters so stay light, funny, and sincere. Some celebrities are shy and get embarrassed when people gush all over them. I personally like to handwrite all my letters, and I feel I've gotten better results that way.
If you find you're having a lot of trouble writing a letter you may want to ask yourself why you're writing it. Are you really a fan of this person? Do you really think they are a good actor and love their show or are you exaggerating to get an autograph? It's okay to exaggerate a little, but the best letters are honest letters. If you find yourself with nothing to say then you probably won't be too excited getting their autograph back, and you're just wasting your time as well as the addressee. Save your stamps for people you really like!
3. Get something to sign.
- Magazine pictures! A warning is that magazine pictures might not be archival safe, meaning the pages could have acid in them and will decay over time. This is probably not too much of a worry during your lifetime--just whoever inherits your collection. Magazine pictures are glossy and don't decay like a newspaper would. Entertainment Weekly, women's magazines, hairstyle magazines, teenybopper magazines, have some 8x10s.
- Print pictures!! Check out good fansites for high quality photos. You can also use google, yahoo, or altavista image search to find photos (just set it to large while searching). You can print them on your own printer, or if you don't have good printer, order prints through websites like shutterfly or clubphoto. Technically this is breaking copyright laws, but I haven't had a problem doing it online.
- Buy photos as well from places like art.com or allposters.com
- DVD sleeves, CD covers, tickets, if you’re willing to part and possibly leave your DVD’s forever naked
- Some people send blank index cards. Celebrities might be more apt to sign an index card than a photo because they know you won't sell it on Ebay. Other celebrities don't like signing them.
- Studio fan mail pictures. You can remove the signature with nail polish remover and resend it to a via venue address or another address you know that works! I'm not sure if I've had success doing this, but it could be worth a shot.
- It doesn’t matter what size you send. Some people swear by 8x10s, but 4x6s are cheaper to buy and to send because they fit right in a regular business-sized envelope.
- A lot of celebrities are known to send their own 8x10 headshots, but others aren’t, especially if you’re sending to a via venue, you can’t always expect them to have headshots lying around. Usually I say it’s better to send SOMETHING.
You need 4 things to send to the celebrity.
- A letter
- An envelope to send to them
- A picture (optional)
- A SASE, (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope), what the celebrity will use to send the picture back to you
A SASE is usually a 9x12 manilla envelope since most celebrities send 8x10 photos. Write your own address on it so the celebrity can return it to you. It will fit in thirds in your regular envelope, or will slide right into a 10x13 envelope. You can use any size SASE you want. Sometimes I use a regular white business-sized SASE if I'm sending a 4x6 photo.
Make sure the picture and letter are in there too! For postage, consult USPS.com or weigh it at the post office. The new postage raise is pretty confusing. There is a new rate for "large envelopes" which includes 9x12 envelopes.
Again, you should get a postal scale or go to the post office so you're not wasting stamps. Postage is very expensive and it will really add up if you are wasting a lot of money on unnecessary postage. If you’re sending to another country, consult USPS.com for rates. Remember, you can’t put American postage on a SASE that is being sent from another country. Either obtain foreign stamps or don’t put any stamps on at all. You can also acquire IRCs (international reply coupons) or trade stamps with someone. To be honest, I haven't had a problem with foreign celebrities paying for the return postage.
5. Other tips:
preprints aren’t worth it, honestly. A lot of newbies think "I’ll take what I can get!" but pretty soon you’ll be sick of them, and will be wanting something authentic!
Keep your autographs in good shape! I used to put mine in a photo album (big mistake!) My Jude Law is permanently stuck to it, and a couple of others have marks and sticky crap all along the back. Go to the binder dept of an office store and look at all the different sheet protectors they have. Get some that say archival safe and stick them in an archival safe binder!
If you send to Studio Fan Mail, or get something back from Studio Fan Mail, it's fake. Either PP or autopen.
Keep a record of your requests on a spreadsheet or a notebook. This way you can keep track of things like multiple requests to the same celebrity using different addresses. After a few years or even months, you'll start to lose track of what you've sent.
When writing your letter, be sure to write your address at the top. If your SASE gets lost, you can still get your photos returned to you. Some people even put a post-it on the photo with their address and who to make the inscription out to.