Even in the age of online casting platforms like Backstage, the acting CV is often your chance to make a great first impression to casting directors (CDs) and get into the audition room. Whether you call it an acting CV or résumé (we’ll get to that later), this single A4 page needs to present who you are as an actor, from your past credits to what you could do next. But what many actors don’t realise is that just like CVs for “normal” jobs, the people looking at your CV will make up their mind in a few seconds. An acting CV should be a quick sell to a casting director or creative team, not an essay or a long list of credits too small to read. Make them fall in love with you when you’re in the room. For now, we’ve created an everything you need to know guide to creating an acting CV to get you noticed.
- Do I need an acting CV?
- What’s the difference between an acting CV and résumé?
- What should I include on an acting CV?
- How long should my acting CV be?
- How should my acting CV look?
- What should I not include on my acting CV?
- What file format should my acting CV be in?
- Should acting CVs include a cover letter or biography?
- What skills should I list on my acting CV?
- How often should I update my acting CV?
- Should my agent look after my acting CV?
Yes. Even if you’ve posted your profile across the various casting platforms, it’s vital to have a CV which works well both as a digital and printable document for casting directors.
The world hasn’t yet given up on paper and ink, so it’s likely that casting directors will collect CVs to print off ahead of auditions. Even if they don’t print them off, easy-to-read documents in an agreed format make it more straightforward to compare hopefuls for a part, send with self-tapes and keep them on file for future castings. The acting CV is basically an industry standard, so not having one ready to send at a moment’s notice is making things difficult for yourself. And not having a good one could be the difference between getting into the audition room or not.
For actors, they are basically the same thing – a single A4 page of credits alongside some key details and your information.
In “normal” jobs, a CV (from Curriculum Vitae, Latin for “course of life”) means a general document that details your work experience and education that might be used for applying to a range of roles. The American term résumé (or just resume) means a one-page summary of work experience, meant as an introduction to a person’s credentials. For actors, CV and résumé mean the same thing – US casting directors are also looking for a single-page document with all your key info and credits.
Your CV needs to include key information, like name and contact details, a headshot, your credits, and a list of skills.
Sounds simple, right? That’s because it is. As much as you might be tempted to break from tradition and try something unusual to get noticed, remember your acting CV is a document that works for you. Its job is to deliver a set of information quickly and clearly.
To start, it should have your name in a large font size. Everything else should be in size 11 or 12. Near the top should be your personal or agent contact details and your website address, if you have one. Next, the top right should have a thumbnail headshot. Generally, actors don’t have to post their CVs now. But if you do, attach a full-size headshot on photo-quality paper.
Next, outline your statistics. As a minimum, these should include your age range, height, eye and hair colour. Some CVs include location (ie Greater London or Manchester), appearance (ie Mixed Race or Eastern European), hair length and voice quality/character. If you’re unsure about any of your statistics, ask a friend for advice or check our age range guide. As a rule, don’t include your actual age or date of birth as this might distract from your playing age.
There’s some disagreement about what should come next, but it’s either your training or your credits. As a rule, training is more relevant to younger actors or new graduates and recent roles are better placed higher up when you’ve got experience. Don’t mention academic qualifications unless it’s a University drama course.
For credits, list your work under headings for film, TV, theatre, voice work, commercials and so on. If you have any game or new media work, list that in another section. For all credits, include the following in this order: production title, role, venue or company and director. It should look like this:
Production Role Venue/Company Director
Certain Lily Miramax Films Bjorn Peterson
Lastly, list your skills. If you’re a singer, now is the chance to state your range; if you can dance then specify your styles (jazz, tap, street, etc). If you play any instruments, list them here. Put down the range of accents you can perform in, with an asterisk next to your native one. State if you have a driving licence and whether it’s clean. Lastly, it’s time to get specific about any extra skills you have like puppet work, improvisation, stage combat, or second languages.
Your CV should be no more than one side of A4, save more detailed information for rehearsal room chat.
The golden rule is: when your CV runs to more than a page, you’re the only person looking at page 2. So, get rid. And don’t make the font size smaller either, as people need to glance at your CV, not study it with a magnifying glass.
Your CV should look neat and easy to read, with well-presented information that is clear and concise.
There’s very little room to express yourself in a CV but lots of opportunities to mess up. Spelling mistakes, poor formatting or alignment and a misjudged font could mean someone thinks you’re sloppy or lazy. To make a CV that looks professional, choose modern-looking sans-serif fonts like, Arial, Trebuchet, or Verdana. Make sure you format the whole CV consistently and take time to double-check spellings, especially for names.
Check that all the information you want is included and ensure that it’s easy to access. When someone looks at it they should be drawn to your name, photo, and key info, such as most recent or impressive credits. So, make it accessible and don’t lead casting directors on a wild goose chase for information. Here’s an example:
Don’t include your real age, any credits you wouldn’t want to speak about in an audition, or any information that is there to pad out your CV.
Some actors now include social media handles on their CVs, but unless you have a prolific Twitter following or an Instagram that shows off your acting work, this is not key information. Also, be aware that by drawing attention to your social media, you are even more responsible for curating a feed that won’t trip you up further down the line by offending people or showing you in a bad light.
This CV is meant to impress, so don’t be modest. Name-drop the biggest directors or most-renowned theatres you have worked at. However, if a credit no longer looks that impressive, don’t be afraid to drop it from your CV. Casting directors want to see a selection of your recent and best work, not everything you’ve ever done regardless of the quality or your current casting. Having a shorter CV can also be a plus, as CDs like to discover new talent.
Your CV should be in a PDF format so it can be opened by anyone.
When you send a Word file (or equivalent) you risk losing the formatting of your document and a casting director opening something impossible to read. PDFs can be opened on most devices easily, don’t change when opened with different software, and also can’t be edited. You can export to PDF from most common text-editing software, but always double-check the export before sending.
You should also name the PDF with your first and last name, the date and then acting CV. This way, it can be found easily and CDs can request a newer CV if it looks to be out of date.
As a general rule, the cover letter or mini-biography is not appropriate for an acting CV, although there may be instances when they are called for.
If someone requests a cover letter, don’t be afraid to write one, but do keep in mind they are asking what makes you right for the role, not how much you want it. Now that CVs are submitted by email, it’s fine to include a brief note about yourself or your most recent role in the body of an email. But keep it relevant. For instance, if you’re applying for a role that involves working with young people then it might go something like this:
I have extensive experience working with young people in theatre, as both a youth drama club leader and a facilitator for school groups. On screen, a recent role in Bjorn Peterson’s film Certain saw me act in an ensemble cast that included children aged 5-12, and earlier this year a visiting role in Casualty featured several scenes with children. I have a current enhanced DBS certificate.
As for a biography on your CV, think about what you might want to get across and if it’s directly relevant to being auditioned for a part. If it is, your list of credits and skills should tell that story. For instance, if you’re interested in extreme sports, put it in your special skills section. Casting directors are busy people and are more interested in what you can do rather than why you do it.
It’s important to list skills that set you apart but it’s more important to list those you feel confident doing.
As tempting as it might be to say you’re fluent in another language, an expert at stage combat and a skilled horse rider, ask yourself if you really could audition for a fight scene on horseback tomorrow morning while speaking French? Be honest and realistic about your skills. Otherwise, you might get called on to do something which at best will make you look foolish and at worst could be dangerous.
But also, be confident that if you can do something, no matter how niche a skill it might seem, it’s worth listing as CDs do search by skills. Hosting or MCing is a sought-after skill, so list it. If you can blow glass or were a croupier in a former life, then add it to the list in case a part requiring those skills pops up.
You should take a look at your CV each time you send it to ensure it’s the most up-to-date version and there are not edits that could make it more appropriate for a role.
Agent Josh Boyd Rochford advises that you think like a casting director when editing your CV and help them solve their casting. While recent or current work looks good at the top, it might be better to highlight the roles most similar to the one you’re going up for. Josh puts it best when he says: “You might think of yourself as an actor best suited to the Royal Shakespeare Company but if your résumé begins with a list of the last five commercials you shot and no stage work or classical experience, you’re not going to be the first choice.”
Keep your headshot up-to-date and if you have multiple shots that work well, it’s a good idea to change the thumbnail on your CV every so often. It’s a good idea to keep a master copy of your CV with the details of every job, so you don’t forget information and it’s easy to copy and paste credits into your current one. And as well as adding recent work, make sure to list upcoming appearances or broadcasts.
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Agents will update your CV for you and likely keep any casting profiles up-to-date too.
That said, it’s most likely to be your agent’s assistant that does the admin. For actors in small agencies or those hunting their own work, you might want to do this yourself and send updates to your agent when necessary. Until there’s someone else to write it for you, do it yourself and do it well.
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