How To Create a Commercial Acting Résumé

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Commercials are an important part of an actor’s career. They can be fun to shoot, may take us to exotic filming destinations, give us the financial freedom to take classes, invest in our career, pay for materials like headshots and résumés, and can even allow us to quit our day job! On our acting résumés, we make room to detail our work on TV, film, and stage. We list all of our education and training. We even list all of our talents—from Southern accents to being able to sword fight while riding a horse. So where do commercials fit in?

Often I see actors making the mistake of listing every commercial they’ve ever been in, taking up too much valuable résumé space. To figure out how to effectively list your commercial work on your résumé, you first need to ask yourself which category you currently fit into: have I been in at least one commercial, or have I yet to be in a commercial?

If you have been in a commercial, congratulations! Make sure to take the time to create a professional commercial reel and post it on Vimeo or a similar online platform. Then, state “Commercial Reel Available Upon Request” or “Commercial Reel at (your website)” under the Commercials heading on your résumé. 

If you haven’t done a commercial (yet!), there’s still room for a commercial section on your résumé, and here’s an insider tip. As soon as you do book a commercial, you’ll be “in conflict” with all other companies who offer the same product or services. For example, if you book a Ford truck commercial, you can no longer do another car company commercial for as long as your Ford commercial is running. This is the fun part. If you’ve never done a commercial, on your résumé write “Commercial Conflicts Available Upon Request” under your Commercials heading. This indicates that you may have commercial conflicts, without having it be obvious that you’ve yet to book a commercial. If anybody happens to ask, you just happen to not have any conflicts at this moment in time. 

When you do book a commercial make sure you do this important thing on set to help boost your résumé: find the “shiner.” The shiner is an individual, could be a producer or a member of the advertiser firm who is “shining” at you (saying hi or perking up when you’re around). This person is shining at you because they fought for you in the callback and now that you got hired, they look good. This is the person you direct your questions to. You want to ask about when it’s showing, where, for how long, and, most importantly, if you can get a copy of the spot. These days it’s easier to get a download off of YouTube or ISpot.TV, but just in case, ask the shiner if you can get a copy of the spot sent to you. 

We do this to build a reel. You want to do everything in your power to get copies of your work to put them onto a tape. The faster you build a reel, the faster you’ll be able to post that proud fact on your résumé. 

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Bill Coelius
Bill Coelius has been in numerous television, movies, and over 50 national commercials. He also teaches acting in New York, Los Angeles, Portland, and Detroit.
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