How to get seen by top directors
In my view, there are four methods of getting seen by directors. Inviting them to a theatre play, writing to directors, doing short films, and networking. Using a combination of all four methods would increase your likelihood of been seen.
Try and get into a play preferably in the West End or someone fairly central. Make sure the play has a high profile and write to the directors to invite them along. Ensure that your letter explains who you are, and offers them praise but without being over the top i.e. do a bit of research and mention what it is you like about them in terms of films they have directed or have casted actors. Try to invite as many directors as possible to the play. Make sure that your role is central to the play or is a lead role in order to get seen. When inviting directors, include a headshot (10x8), cover letter and your CV.
Another method is to put together a good showreel and a website. When writing to directors, send them a link to your showreel and website. This will give them an idea of what you are capable of.
Another method is to do as many short films as possible. In 2012, I set myself a target to do at least 15 short films and as many feature and music videos as possible. Directors do go to film festivals and so if you have the lead role in a number of short films, then you are more likely to be seen. In addition, I have seen cases where a director of a short film has then become successful in large feature films and they could consider you for a role if you have worked with them before. Directors like to choose people they have worked with before.
Another method is networking. I have seen situations on set where an actor has approached the director and started saying how good they are - this will only annoy them and could result in you been removed off set. Instead, go to as many networking events and actively get talking to directors. Don't show off but be polite, friendly and discretely drip-feed into the conversation about your successes. Make sure you have a professional business card (which also contains your headshot) and give this to them. The trick with networking is to make a positive lasting impression. Avoid interfering or getting in their way but find a natural moment to get speaking.
However, all of this should be underpinned with a strong publicity strategy, try and determine as many ways to showcase yourself as possible.