Creating the perfect résumé is always stressful, whether you’re an actor, lawyer, waiter, or anything in between. But acting résumés should be formatted differently than the typical professional CV—and it’s important that you get it right to give yourself the best chance of getting cast. We surveyed industry experts, including talent managers, casting directors (CDs), and acting coaches, for their takes on how to make a quality acting résumé. From standard templates to tips on what to include if you’re just starting out, their answers will help actors at any stage put together an impressive résumé.
Include the basics: “What’s on a résumé: hair and eye color, height and weight, date of birth (for anyone under 18), credits, training, and special skills,” advises Cathryn Hartt, founder of Hartt and Soul Studio. “The standard order is: film, television, commercials, voiceover, industrials, theater, training, special skills.” Here's what she recommends that you include in each category:
- Film and television: List the project, credit (character name optional), and studio or production.
- Voiceover: Voiceover work, music videos, personal appearances, etc.
- Theater: List the production, character, and venue.
- Training: List the class name, coach, venue, and city.
- Special skills: List physical abilities or other skills that might be needed to land a job.
Keep it short and sweet: Put “as little as possible,” says David Patrick Green, founder of Hack Hollywood. “Put yourself in the shoes of the person viewing it. In most cases, they only have a few seconds to look at your material. If it is crowded and overwritten, it will be hard to latch onto what is relevant to their project. If you don't have much acting experience, then substitute it with training and/or life experience. Tell the story you want people to hear. The only thing that matters is whether you can do the job. If your experience does not make that clear, tell them something that does.”
Stick to the right format: “Your name should be in a larger font up top with your contact phone, email address, and if you have one, a website and union below,” advises NYC-based acting coach Denise Simon. “Your résumé should be on one page only and laid out simply in columns, making it easy to read.” Check out our guide to formatting an acting résumé for a full rundown plus template.
Aim to impress: “I believe résumés don’t have to be long, but rather they just need to be impressive,” says on-camera and commercial teacher Carolyne Barry. “Agents and commercial and theatrical CDs have less than a minute to look at it. They are usually not interested in the volume of what they think is not significant. They look for teachers, schools, theaters, studios, directors, etc., who they respect. Then, agents and CDs could bring you in.”
“Bottom line: Package and present yourself as professionally as you possibly can,” adds founder of Creative Social Media Tony Howell.
Include relevant skills: When deciding what skills to include on a résumé, consider what might be useful in a film, TV show, or live performance. Include skills like “speaking fluent Spanish, horseback riding, ice skating, playing the oboe, or driving a motorcycle,” says Jackie Reid, manager-owner of L’il Angels Unlimited. “Things that aren’t special skills would be enjoying shopping, reading spy novels, and eating sushi.”
“Use the special skills section to list abilities that could add to a production, such as firing a pistol, gymnastics, and foreign language skills,” reiterates acting coach Joseph Pearlman.
Jessica Rofé, founder and artistic director of A Class Act NY, agrees: if you or “your child has a special skill—like are fluent in Spanish or are a brown belt in Karate—put that down.”
Don’t include silly or overstated skills: “Don’t put silly skills down which would have no bearing on your ability to do a role,” advises NYC-based casting director Ilene Starger. “And be careful about not overstating your skills. I once cast an actor who said he could ride a horse, and, on the film shoot, he was frightened of the horse and it caused serious problems for the production.”
- Earn a degree or certificate
- Gain specialized training, such as completing an online stage combat course
- Train with a notable actor or a renowned acting coach
If it’s a pre-recorded class, however, leave it off.
Name indie and student films: “If you don’t have a lot of recognizable credits, there are still ways to enhance the overall presentation,” advises Pearlman. “For example, if you acted in indie films which played at festivals or won awards, you can denote that on your résumé with an asterisk and a note at the bottom. If you’ve just done student films, list the name of the director rather than the name of the university, unless it’s a prestigious film school, such as AFI or NYU.
Showcase your training: “Highlight your training and make sure the résumé demonstrates that you have studied with reputable teachers,” Pearlman recommends.
“When you are first starting out, the first thing that casting directors look at is with whom you trained. Seeing acting coaches that they know and respect will open doors when you have a résumé with no real acting credits on it,” Reid says.
“If you’re just beginning, put your education and whatever acting you’ve done on your résumé, as well as teachers with whom you’ve studied or classes you’ve taken,” according to Starger. “Most importantly, even if you have no credits, be truthful! There is no shame in being a beginner!”
Work on your other materials: “Many film and television directors, versus stage directors, aren’t as interested in résumés as they are with headshots and demo or sizzle reels—which they prefer above all,” says director-author John Swanbeck.
Demonstrate proof of aptitude: “The key to overcoming weakness is showing strength,” instructs Hackhollywood.com founder David Patrick Green. “A résumé is neither a strength nor a weakness—it just is. It says what you have done, not what you can do. What you can do requires describing and demonstrating. So it’s important to learn how to describe who you are and what you can do to the people who can put your skills to use.”
He concludes, “I once hired an actor who had only one credit on her résumé. It read, ‘Your next movie.’”