Does an impressive acting résumé really make a difference in the audition room? Often. Can a questionable or vague document raise eyebrows and undercut a fabulously acted appointment? Sometimes. Are there specific ways to take advantage of or, alternatively, pollute an opportunity? You bet.
If you want to learn to make these judgments work for you and your career, this guide has you covered. Keep reading to learn what to include in (and leave out of) your acting résumé, proper formatting, and tips to leave a lasting impression.
An acting résumé is the paper (or digital) equivalent of your foot in the door. It provides casting directors, reps, and hiring managers with a comprehensive but concise overview of your acting experience. Ideally, this rundown includes your training and education, roles played, special skills, and awards. Your actor résumé also includes a headshot so that casting directors can see what you look like.
Here’s what to include in your acting résumé:
- Contact information: There’s no point in creating the perfect résumé if a potential client has no way to reach you. Include your full contact details including your professional name, phone number, email address, and general location (like New York City or Los Angeles). Avoid listing a personal address. Under your name, note your union status: Actors’ Equity Association, EMC, SAG-AFTRA, SAG-eligible, nonunion, etc. Don’t list your age or birthday. If casting personnel see exactly how old you are, they may unknowingly box you in and find it a little harder to see you as a character’s age (if they’re reading you for a specific role). Include your agent (if you have one) and their contact information.
- Relevant experience: Tweak your résumé a bit to match the role you’re applying for. Don’t lie, but do highlight any relevant experience. Include up to 10 years of your acting experience in TV, film, and theater.
- Your look: Your acting résumé should list your physical features such as coloring (hair and eye color), size (height, weight, and body type), and any unique features you feel should be highlighted.
- Skills: List any special skills, like the ability to speak multiple languages fluently, play an instrument, or engage in realistic-looking combat. This can set you apart from other actors striving for the same role. You should also include acting-related skills such as working well on teams and time management.
- Education and training: Include the name of your school, dates attended, and degree earned, as well as any relevant specialized training or certification (such as actor training programs, performing arts certifications, etc.).
- Awards: This is your time to show off any awards or accomplishments you’ve achieved.
- References: Include the names of professional references who can attest to your acting skills—just be sure to ask them first if they’re fine with being your reference. The more renowned, the better; if you’ve ever worked with a big-name director, their name on your résumé will provide a helpful boost.
- Headshot: It’s best to print your résumé on the back of your headshot to ensure it doesn’t accidentally get separated. If that’s not possible, make sure to staple or glue your résumé to the back of your headshot.
These elements can make your résumé appear unprofessional:
- Falsehoods: Don’t lie. If you did a reading at a theater company that rented out space from a more prominent company, you didn’t, in fact, perform with that more impressive company. If you read stage directions for a play in a festival or reading, avoid listing “Narrator” as a credit. Stretching the truth calls your intent and even your integrity into question. Being exposed as a liar means you won’t land roles you’re actually qualified for.
- Indirect contact information: Always have a way for reps and casting directors to reach you directly. Just putting your agent or manager’s contact won’t do it.
- Generalities: Be as specific about your skills and education as possible. Use your judgment here; being able to ride a bicycle isn’t résumé-worthy, but the ability to ride a unicycle just might be.
- Unprofessional fonts: Arial, Times New Roman, and Calibri are great professional fonts—just no Comic Sans, please.
Résumés should be about one page in length; busy agents and CDs probably won’t read anything longer. Also, create different ones suited to different types of positions: For example, one résumé showcases your sitcom experience and another highlights your capabilities in musical theater.
Format your acting résumé as follows:
- Name and representatives
- Credits: The order can vary based on the gig you’re applying for, but these common groupings are usually stacked from top to bottom:
- Film and/or TV (don’t combine; separate them into separate sections, starting with the one you have more credits in)
- National tours
- Regional theater
- Academic theater (if you’re still at a stage in your career where including school productions is helpful)
- Personal stats
- Training and skills
- Include a link or two, but not too many: Listing personal websites or links to performance reels is fine and occasionally helpful, but avoid going overboard with countless URLs.
- Share show titles, roles, directors, and producing organizations: Casting directors and directors often reach out to others in the biz to check in about actors. They regularly ask for feedback and recommendations. Help them help you. For this, use tabbed and aligned columns so auditors can read quickly in the room. For example:
Merely saying that you played “Jean Valjean in ‘Les Misérables’” tells frustratingly too little. Where? Your grandma’s living room? (Though Grandma loved it, of course.) Roles and shows with no director attached frustrate and raise eyebrows—as do professional credits for roles vastly out of your casting range. You’re 20 and just played King Lear professionally? Hmm. Be prepared to explain.
- Be careful with accents and dialects: These can be tricky. Only list one if you have studied it and could, say, improvise any text in it.
- Be concise: The résumé is a big-picture roadmap to who you are professionally, but it isn’t everything. Let it intrigue people to learn more—but don’t be vague. A clean, confident, and easy-to-examine résumé can create wonderful audition moments.
- Review and refresh your résumé: Carefully look over your own résumé before every audition. Refresh the memory. Where have you worked, with whom, and when? What experiences would you happily voluntarily discuss? Who on your résumé might have a connection to that day’s auditors or company? Auditors usually want to discuss actor training, stand-out roles, personnel they may have in common, and any discernible patterns.
Courtesy Hamilton Hodell
To get a better idea of what makes a great acting résumé, check out these examples:
Of course, their storied careers push them well over the one-page limit, so be sure to edit your own résumé down. Even if you aren’t as experienced an actor as they are—just yet, at least—their résumés provide a helpful guide to crafting your own.
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