Résumé Rules

Every actor needs a strong résumé.  Your résumé is a representation of you.  If it is sloppy, incomplete, inaccurate, or confusing, what does that say about you?  If it is coherent, well-structured, and specific you are going to make a stronger impression.  Here are 10 simple steps to improve your résumé and improve your chances of getting cast.

MAKE A LIST OF EVERY PROJECT YOU’VE EVER DONE

If you don’t have much professional experience you should include college plays and other training-related productions, but those with more experience should start after college.  List everything: readings, workshops, one-acts, full-length plays, musicals, short films, feature-length films, television shows, music videos, commercials, and industrials.

2. GROUP INTO HEADINGS

List every single stage or film/ video performance you have ever given, and then start to group each credit into headings:

THEATRE
FILM
TELEVISION
COMMERCIAL
INDUSTRIAL
MUSIC VIDEO
VOICEOVER

For theatre, create sub-headings for regional theatre and NYC work, also you may want to separate plays and musicals depending on how many credits you have in those categories.

PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD

There’s no need to list credits chronologically.  Put your most impressive credits at the top.  In general, it’s best to leave background extra work off the résumé, but if that is the only film and video experience you have, include the most significant projects you’ve done (but make it clear that you worked as an extra).

SEPARATE THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF

Now it’s time for the hard decisions.  Look at each credit, decide if that credit is representative of who you are now, the kind of work you do, and the kind of work you want to be hired for.  A lot of actors want to be versatile, and that’s a great quality, but on your résumé you need to be specific about your strengths and your niche.

CHOOSE A FONT

Your font must be easy to read.  It also should be large enough so that people don’t have to squint.  Don’t try to be too original with your font, but choose something that you feel represents you.

STRUCTURE YOUR RÉSUMÉ

I have a preference when it comes to résumé structure.

For theatre:

TITLE OF SHOW/ ROLE/ COMPANY/ DIRECTOR

For Television:

TITLE OF PROGRAM/ ROLE/STUDIO/NETWORK

For Film, industrials, music videos, and commercials:

TITLE/ROLE/PRODUCTION COMPANY/DIRECTOR

For some projects, such as a short film, it’s important to indicate the size of the role, so for example:

The Quiet Girl    Sophia (lead)    Quiet Productions    Quentin Quiet

For projects most people will be unfamiliar with, it’s a good idea to denote if the role is a lead, supporting, or featured role, but still include the character name, don’t just put “lead”.  For television, terms like series regular, guest star, recurring, under 5, or day player to denote the significance of your role.  Also, there’s no need to insult anyone’s intelligence by indicating the size of the role in a well-known play.  For example:

A Streetcar Named Desire     Stanley Kowalski (lead)     Streetcar Theatre    Booby Streetcar

Anyone looking at your résumé knows this role is a lead, so don’t add in clarification when none is needed.

HONE YOUR TRAINING

Detailing specific training is a good thing, but make it more about where and what rather than who.  Some actors just list the names of teachers they have worked with, but it makes a difference whether you studied with a teacher for a year at a university or you took a 3-hour workshop with that teacher one summer.  Be specific and just highlight the most significant training.  If your résumé is all training, it looks like you have no experience.

VITAL STATISTICS

It amazes me that actors leave contact information off their resumés.  If you have an agent or manager, it will suffice to just include their complete information on your résumé (unless you self-submitted).  If you don’t have an agent or manager, include your phone number and email address.    Also, include your union affiliations, true height, weight, hair color, eye color (with color headshots hair color and eye color may seem obvious, but include them anyway), and your vocal range for musical theatre.

SPECIAL SKILLS

List everything you can think of and fit on your résumé: accents & dialects, sports, dance, improv, writing, puppetry, flower arranging, standing on your head, photographic memory, double jointedness, driving, singing, fashion design, playing video games, baking, animal noises, juggling, dog walking,  etc, etc, etc.  The only skill I would leave off is directing because some directors might see that as a potential source of conflict.

MY PET PEEVE

There is this practice where actors will put the following on their résumés:

COMMERCIALS

Conflicts available upon request

The thing is that whenever I ask these actors about their commercial conflicts, they always say that they don’t have any and then if I probe deeper, it comes to light that they have never had a principal commercial role.  If you have had a principal commercial role, put it on your résumé, but don’t try to trick me into thinking you’ve done commercials when you haven’t.  No one is fooled.

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