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Advice

How to List Roles on Your Résumé

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How to List Roles on Your Résumé
Photo Source: Thomas Pitilli

Dear Michael:
I recently filmed a re-creation episode for a docudrama show. My character didn’t have lines but was in two reenactment scenes where it was just me opposite the lead. How do I list that on my résumé? Would you call it “principal” if there are no spoken lines? Is it “supporting,” or is that too filmy a term for episodic television? It definitely wasn’t background, and “featured” sort of means extra, right? “Guest star” seems too much of a stretch even though my character was key to the events of the story.

Are there any post-merger, industry-standard glossaries somewhere to clarify what’s called what?

—Confused but Geekily Trying to Credit Properly

Dear CGTCP:
The credit you’ve described certainly falls into a gray area, and I haven’t unearthed any industry standards that apply. Still, there are clues that can narrow things down: Did you audition, or were you upgraded from a background player? (The former indicates a role; the latter indicates featured background work.) Does your character have a name? What about a storyline? A silent desk clerk or a soldier receiving orders is one thing. A silent drugged-out murder suspect or the main character’s therapist is something else.

It would be highly unusual for a non-speaking role to qualify as a “principal,” and as you suspected, “supporting” is a descriptor mostly used in film and refers to secondary leads, not roles like yours. And you’re right to avoid “guest star,” unless you’re contracted as such.

So what then? Actor Steven Hack notes that the question of résumé credit terminology “has been many shades of gray for quite a long time. Many actors put whatever they damn well please.... ‘Featured’ has lost its luster, but it doesn’t mean ‘extra,’ and though many background actors list their background work as ‘featured,’ it doesn’t make it so.… No matter what [you] put, any savvy résumé reader is going to put it all in context and know exactly what kind of acting job it was.” Most of the working actors I polled agreed that “featured” is the way to go on this one. 

Producer Billy Van Zandt offered a different opinion. “I wouldn’t care one way or the other. It’s a docudrama show, so I’d sort of know what kind of role it was anyway. But unless you have great footage of yourself that warrants ‘star’ billing, I would say co-star.” Several others (including agent Samantha Daniels) agreed.

So it sounds like your best candidates are “co-star” (technically inaccurate unless indicated on your contract but probably acceptable) and “featured” (overused but accurate). Unless this unique credit calls for a unique designation. Hack suggests “featured reenactment,” and I’m inclined to agree. If you played a main character, you could even list it as “reenactment principal.” These specially invented categories are clear, accurate, and honest, and when it comes to listing credits, those are what matter most

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