Acting Resumes That Get You Work: A How to Guide for Actors - Careers in Film
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An acting resume is a must for anyone looking to make this creative skill a career.

While a strong live or self-tape audition will be what books you a gig, and it’s a headshot that will first attract the attention of a Casting Director, your acting resume can seal the deal and convince them to want to see you.

Not sure how to put together a stellar resume that will help you stand out from the crowd? We’ve got you covered! Keep reading to learn exactly what it takes to craft your first or next great acting resume. In this piece, you’ll hear from Actress and CEO/Founder of ActorInspiration.com Wendy Braun (Atypical, Grey’s Anatomy, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia). With 80+ film and TV credits and a portfolio of acting business and mindset courses that have helped thousands of Actors, Wendy definitely knows her stuff.

Try our brand new Film Career Finder!

What Should Be on an Acting Resume?

Let’s begin with the basics.

In many ways, an acting resume is no different from those used for other industries. It’s a chance to quickly and concisely explain who you are and what your qualifications are for a potential job. That’s why it’s important to include all of the following details:

Contact information

Okay, this seems a little obvious, but don’t underestimate how important it is to have your contact information prominently displayed to make it easier for a Casting Director or other individual on the creative team to get in touch with you.

That means your name, phone number, email address, and professional website if you have one. Do you also have a Manager or agent? If so, you can list their contact information in lieu of your own.

Union affiliations

Not all working Actors are part of a union like SAG-AFTRA or the Actors’ Equity Association, but if you are, include it on your acting resume1. Many productions are defined by whether they’re union or not, so the Casting Director must know if you are part of one for legal reasons.

Given that union affiliations typically define the rate at which actors are paid, including your affiliations is likewise important to ensure that the creatives behind the project understand and abide by these stipulations.

Physical description

One glaring difference between an acting resume and those for other industries is that normally the latter would never include details about how the candidate looks. However, an important component of acting is exactly that–the Actor’s appearance.

So be sure to include all pertinent details about your physical attributes, such as eye color, hair color, and height. (Some Actors list their weight; others don’t. It’s up to you.). Should any of those characteristics change, don’t forget to update your resume.

Experience

Now we’re getting to the more challenging part of creating an acting resume–how to list out your prior roles. A couple of details to keep in mind…

1. Section your roles by medium.

That means having separate headings for your film, TV, theater, commercial, web series, industrial and other types of work.

2. Know the difference between and separate various roles.

Under each heading, section your lead roles from your co-star roles from your guest roles, and so on. If you were in a production but had no lines, it’s considered a background role and shouldn’t be included.

3. List out your roles in a clear and identifiable way.

We all have to start somewhere, so it’s perfectly fine if you primarily have independent or collegiate experience.

That being said, odds are that the Casting Director will not be familiar with only a Director’s name, so use the college or theater company name as well. Let’s say that you went to Boston University. Include the school on your acting resume in addition to the Directors who instructed you for each production.

4. Put your most impressive work first.

Attention spans are short. In fact, studies report that you have approximately six seconds before you lose someone2, so you need to quickly grab the attention of a Casting Director.

If you snagged a role on a prominent Broadway show, television series, or major film, do not bury it under your college work! Always list first the roles that are the highest-profile.

Special skills

It’s become a bit of an industry joke that Actors always exaggerate their special skills on acting resumes. Here’s the thing, though… You might actually be asked to use that skill for a job someday, so be truthful about it!3

As far as what to include, the list can be fairly extensive:

  • Accents
  • Athletic abilities (martial arts, skiing, etc.)
  • Combat training
  • Dancing
  • Multilingualism
  • Musical instrument proficiency
  • Singing

Just be sure that you also include the level of your abilities. For instance, if you have conversational French-speaking skills as opposed to being fully fluent, add that distinction. Typically, this section of a resume will be divided by intermediate, advanced, and expert skills.

Education

If you actually went to college for acting, fantastic! Include it. But what’s great about an acting resume is that the education section can extend well beyond traditional higher education. Any type of schooling that has helped to inform your acting prowess is fair game to include on your acting resume, including:

  • Acting school
  • Athletic instruction
  • Dance lessons
  • Improv classes
  • Language study
  • Singing lessons

Awards

Don’t be shy about including on an acting resume any awards or accolades you might have received in the past. Oscars and Emmys are hardly the only types of awards that get noticed, so go ahead and include those collegiate honors or regional recognitions.

What does a good acting resume look like?

Wendy Braun (Atypical, Grey's Anatomy, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia)

A good acting resume is easy to read, and updated as often as you are working or training.

Credits should be listed by genre. You’ll want to separate each genre: Television, Film, Theater, Education, Training. Special Skills, etc. If you’re just starting out, and don’t have any television or film credits yet, then adding any recent theater roles you played is a good place to start.

List experience with most recent credits at the top of each section. Every time you get a new credit, add the name of the project, the type of role you played (For Theater – Lead or Supporting, For TV – Guest Star, Co-Star, etc), and the network/Director’s name (3 separate columns) to your resume.

For example:


Grey’s Anatomy             Guest Star            ABC / Dir. Chandra Wilson

Include your education and training.. It doesn’t matter what age you are starting out as an Actor, training is essential and something to always highlight on your resume. List the name of any schools you’ve attended, what special acting classes you’ve taken (scene study, improv, etc), and if you did any specialized training (stage combat, etc).

Don’t forget your unique skills. After you list your education and training, highlight the unique skill sets that set you apart from other Actors. Make sure you can perform any of these skills at a pro-level, as you will be competing against other Actors in whatever special skills you mention here.

Highlight any awards or accolades. If you did an independent film and won “Best Actress at Palm Spring International Film Festival,” put an asterisk “*” at the end of the credit, and denote the award at the bottom of the Film section.

Ask your reps for an example. If you already have representation, be sure to ask them for a sample of a great resume for you to model.

Prepare like a pro. If you don’t have representation, be sure to do your homework and research templates for layout and best formatting practices, before submitting to Agents or Managers.

Acting Resume Examples

Here are a couple of acting resumes we really like. Notice how they’re neatly organized, with separate sections for different types of credits, education, and special skills. You’ll also notice that these resumes include different info sections and have different formats. That’s great! You’re not a cookie-cutter Actor, and your resume shouldn’t be, either.

Sarah Halford's acting resume

Courtesy of Sarah Halford.

Matthew Gerrish's acting resume

Courtesy of Matthew Gerrish.

What Should Never Be on an Acting Resume?

Your acting resume is only a single page in length, so it’s critical to have only what’s needed on it. Extraneous information can not only take the place of details that will actually help you get a job but also could be more damaging beyond even not scoring that next gig4. That’s why we advise you to never include your home address and social security number (for obvious reasons) or background work (for a perhaps less obvious reason).

Should you put background work on your resume?

Wendy Braun (Atypical, Grey's Anatomy, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia)

No, background work shouldn’t go on a professional acting resume. It’s better to list great training and theater than a long list of Extra work. Doing background work can give a new Actor great behind-the-scenes experience on how things work on a set, so do it to gain a bit of knowledge, but not as a long-term game plan.

Background roles

We mentioned it already but are including it again for good measure. Do not include extra work or roles without lines.

Home address

Wait, what? Isn’t that standard on any resume, acting or otherwise? Perhaps at one point in time, yes, but it’s simply not necessary anymore. A Casting Director isn’t going to show up at your door to offer you a job. Having your phone number and email address–or that of your Manager or Agent–is sufficient.

Moreover, it’s just smart to keep those details off an acting resume so that you never have all your identifying information on a document that could potentially end up in the hands of someone who wants it for reasons outside of getting you an acting job.

Social security number

Remember what we just said about your home address? The same goes for your social security number–except by a factor of a hundred. Never, ever include this information on your acting resume.

For one, it’s not necessary. And two, if you book a job, you’ll have other confidential documents to fill out that will ask for it. Unfortunately, you can’t assume that your acting resume will remain under lock and key in the same way, so keep your social security number off it.

How Can You Make an Acting Resume with No Experience?

If you’re just starting out in your acting career, there’s no reason to feel discouraged about your lack of experience5. You can still create an attention-grabbing acting resume by focusing on all those other elements that Casting Directors notice.

We’ll dive deeper into each of these, but here’s a checklist of what to include on your acting resume, even if you don’t have lots of experience:

  • Emphasize your special skills.
  • Detail your educational background.
  • Add social media channels.
  • Include other relevant creative experience.

How do you get acting credits?

Wendy Braun (Atypical, Grey's Anatomy, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia)

When I was first starting out, I made sure I was studying with great Acting Teachers, as well as taking improvisation classes and even stand-up comedy, too. Then I submitted myself for all kinds of work and started booking theatre, independent films, student films, and commercials.

Put in the work to train and know the craft. Trying to get acting credits without first studying the craft is not going to fuel your career in the long run. To start auditioning, research the casting sites in your market that put out listings for independent films, student projects, commercials, theater, or whatever genre you want to work in.

Don’t get discouraged by rejection. You may have to send a lot of self-tapes before you get cast. Pursuing an acting career is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay at it, don’t let the setbacks derail you or defeat you, and be sure to learn from working pros who serve to empower you.

Want more insights from a working pro? Learn The 5 Secrets To Becoming A Successful Working Actor: Enjoy A Free Masterclass With Wendy Braun: ActorInspiration.com/secrets

1. Emphasize your special skills

Maybe you have minimal acting experience, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have skills that can help you get that gig. As mentioned above, listing out your skills is not only a great way to beef up your resume but also include pertinent information that a Casting Director will want to see. Keep in mind, though, that emphasizing your special skills does not mean exaggerating or lying about them!

2. Detail your educational background

If you’re fresh out of high school or college, it may feel daunting to put together an acting resume when you likely have minimal experience. In such cases, put more detail into explaining the type of classes you took in school that could potentially help with a role.

3. Add social media channels

If you have created social media channels that feature images or videos where your ability to perform or transform into another character is evident, include them on your acting resume. However, make sure that these assets are readily available and not buried under more personal or non-relevant posts. Include them only as a means to showcase your acting skills!

4. Include other relevant creative experience

Acting is a creative outlet, but it’s certainly not the only way for individuals to express themselves. Do you have a background in dancing, singing, or another performative art form? Then include it!

What Should You Include if You Have Extensive Acting Experience?

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and have years of experience in the acting world, you have two routes to take:

  • Condense your resume to include only your most high-profile work.
  • Edit your resume for each audition to include only the most relevant work for that potential gig.

While the latter option is certainly more time-intensive, it may work to your benefit in particular circumstances. For instance, let’s say you’re up for a role in a Shakespearean tragedy. You may want to take out your comedic roles and keep only those that lean more dramatic.

In contrast, if you decide to simply edit down your acting resume to your most notable projects regardless of genre, you will likely be showcasing what is an overall impressive list of roles for a Casting Director.

How Should You Print Out Your Acting Resume?

You have all the above information ready to go. What’s next?

Before you print your acting resume out, keep in mind these additional elements:

  • Choose a simple font.
  • Use the correct page size.
  • Double-check for mistakes.
  • If possible, print it on the other side of your headshot.

1. Choose a simple font

Let the information on your acting resume speak for itself. You don’t need to use a wild font to grab a Casting Director’s attention. In fact, it may end up more of a hindrance, especially if it’s not particularly easy to read. Stick to one of the basics like Times New Roman or Arial.

2. Use the correct page size

Standard acting headshots are 8×10 inches. So should be your acting resume6.

3. Double-check for mistakes

First impressions count, so make sure that your acting resume is free of any grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. If checking for those types of mistakes is not your strong suit, get a trusted friend to do it for you.

While a missing period may not be the reason you don’t get a gig, an error-free acting resume is simply another way to indicate to a Casting Director that you are a professional–and that will be remembered for the next audition!

4. If possible, print it on the other side of your headshot

Stapling your acting resume to the back of your headshot is a tried-and-true tactic in the acting world and is still done today. However, staples are infallible and resumes can rip off. To ensure that a Casting Director will never have just your headshot and no resume to reference, you can print yours on the back of it.

But don’t forget our tip above! Before you commit to printing your acting resume on the back of a headshot, make sure it has no mistakes. You don’t want to have to throw out perfectly good headshots–which can be costly!–all because of a misspelled word. Also, don’t print out too many at a time in case you need to update your acting resume with new information.

Conclusion

Putting together an acting resume is an important undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming one. Just take it section by section until low and behold you have an entire page of information that can help you land that next gig.

Whether you’re just at the beginning of your acting career or well into it, make sure that your acting resume faithfully represents everything about you–experience, education, and skills included–that can make you the perfect fit for that next big role.

As you become more familiar with what details to include in your acting resume and how to format it, it will indeed become second nature–much like your acting skills! Soon enough, it will be yet another valuable tool that you can use as you grow and excel in your acting career.

Actor Wendy Braun
Wendy Braun

Accomplished Actress Wendy Braun is currently shooting her 4th season of Netflix’s Atypical. She’s also appeared recently on hit shows including Grey’s Anatomy, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Documentary Now, Liza On Demand, and Criminal Minds.

With over 80 TV + Film credits, over 100 commercials + thousands of voiceovers, Wendy has combined decades of invaluable on-set experience with her passion for empowering other creatives.

She’s the CEO + founder of ActorInspiration.com, where her transformational tools + powerful teachings have helped thousands of actors overcome obstacles + create breakthrough success. Download Wendy’s Free Self-Tape Success Checklist and be ready to go for your next audition: ActorInspiration.com/selftape

Enjoy this article? Connect with Wendy on Instagram at @actorinspirit

Photo credit: Jeff Nicholson

  1. 1Ates, Alex. "Everything You Need To Know About Actors’ Unions". Backstage. published: 2 March 2020. retrieved on: 30 April 2021
  2. 2Anandan, Rajesh. "You’ve Only Got 6 Seconds to Pitch, Are You Ready?". Medium. published: 8 January 2020. retrieved on: 30 April 2021
  3. 3Daily Actor. "How To Make An Acting Resume". Daily Actor. published: 2021. retrieved on: 30 April 2021
  4. 4Philips, Carmichael. "Never Do This on Your Acting Résumé!". Acting Magazine. published: 11 July 2019. retrieved on: 30 April 2021
  5. 5McQuerrey, Lisa. "How to Make an Acting Resume With No Experience". Chron. published: 1 July 2018. retrieved on: 30 April 2021
  6. 6Indeed Editorial Team. "How to Make an Actor Resume (With Template and Example)". Indeed Career Guide. published: 9 April 2021. retrieved on: 30 April 2021
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