How to Craft a Standout Acting Resume
Before an Actor can wow an Agent or Casting Director with their performance, they need to impress them with their acting resume. While a headshot is an equally important resource for professional success, it only touches the surface of what an Actor can do and the experience they have.
An acting resume is largely the same as a resume for any other field of work in that it’s a brief breakdown of prior jobs and past education that can give that Agent or Casting Director a quick look into a prospective Actor’s credentials. However, the look and content of an acting resume differ greatly from other professions, making essential the guidelines to follow.
Make it a single page. In other professional fields, it has become largely acceptable to have a resume that can extend to two pages. But in the acting world, a single page is still the standard. Why is that the case? Read on.
Attach it to the back of the headshot. As mentioned, a headshot is critical, but it can hardly convey anything beyond physical features. To make it convenient for an Agent or Casting Director to better learn if an Actor is right for a role, their acting resume should be attached to their headshot, hence the need for the resume to be only a single page. Also, having the resume attached to the headshot necessitates that it be 8 inches by 10 inches.
Stick to traditional fonts. Of course, every Actor wants their resume to stand out, but the key to doing so is to make it look professional. For that reason, avoid using unusual or niche fonts and stick to classic styles like Arial or Times New Roman. Also, Actors shouldn’t rely on patterned paper or colored text, which can come across as distracting or amateurish to those in a position to decide auditions or roles.
Keep it clean. A resume should be easy to read and not cluttered with excessive text, so Actors must prioritize quality over quantity. Not every role, especially much older or minor ones, needs to be included on an acting resume. Include only the most pertinent or recent work experiences that display professional range.
Section off work. Speaking of work experiences, Actors who have played roles in more than one medium should have a distinct section for each of them. That means Actors should separate their listings for television, film, theater and web series experience. If an Actor’s experience is extensive, they might even want to consider creating separate resumes for each medium of work.
List roles chronologically. Some Actors prefer to list their most significant roles first, but again, the more typical standard is to list work starting with the most recent.
Tell the truth. It might sound obvious, but an acting resume should contain only true and correct information. Whether it’s a role that was never performed or a skill never learned, an Agent or Casting Director will eventually learn about the inaccuracy. A good reputation should not be taken lightly, and it can be easily tarnished when someone fabricates information, so Actors should put a priority on preserving theirs by being truthful on their resumes.
Include relevant physical descriptions. That means making sure height and eye color, as well as current weight and hair color, are all at the top of an acting resume. Including age is not necessary and is often discouraged, as it can potentially influence an Agent or Casting Director’s decision to audition someone. One exception to that rule: add age if an Actor is still a minor and under 18 years old.
Have contact information. If an Actor does not currently have representation, contact information such as their phone number and email address is necessary. Actors with representation can still include that information, but they should also add the name(s) of their agency and/or management company, and if possible, the appropriate logos.
Add affiliations. So that Agents and Casting Directors can quickly assess whether an Actor is in the union, which can affect eligibility for particular roles, SAG-AFTRA or AEA membership information should also be included on an acting resume.
Forego including performance dates. The premiere date of a television spot or time period of a play performance are not necessary on an acting resume. Again, the goal should be to keep the one-sheet as neat and clean as possible, so avoid including non-essential information like performance dates.
Include relevant theater information. What an Agent or Casting Director is really looking for is information on prior acting roles that might help to inform them if an Actor is right for an upcoming part. For theater, that means listing out the show name, role played, theater company and location for each individual work experience.
Have relevant film and/or television information. When an Actor is listing out their prior film or television experience, it’s important to not include the role name. Instead, include with each individual work experience the type of role played, such as co-star or lead. Each listing should also include the production company and Director.
Add pertinent past education. It’s not particularly essential to have a formal educational background in acting to become successful in the industry, but Actors who have gone to school should include that information. That means any formal training, whether it’s higher education, individual classes or mentorship with a professional Acting Teacher.
Include special skills. This guideline comes with one significant disclaimer: put on an acting resume only skillsets that can be performed without practice. That means accents that can be done on command or athletic feats that require no prior conditioning. It’s always a possibility that someone may ask for proof of that skill, so Actors should always be ready to do so. As a result, only include strong special skills.
Final Tips to Success
Do not include Extra experience. An acting resume should be just that — a concise breakdown of roles performed across the different mediums. While Extra work can provide key on-set experience and a pathway to connecting to other Actors, it has no place on an acting resume, so leave it out.
Do not include any extraneous work experience. It may again sound obvious, but an acting resume should never include other types of work — even if that work still pertains to the entertainment industry. In some cases, very young or beginning Actors may attempt to include that type of information to fill out their acting resumes, but as with Extra experience, any work outside of acting should be left off.
Do not print your resume on the back of your headshot. Some Actors may think it looks cleaner to simply print their resume on the backside of their headshots. However, just like any other resume, it’s important to keep that information up to date. But if an acting resume is already printed on a headshot, the option to revise it is gone. Instead, always keep the resume separate from the headshot until it’s ready to be sent out. Simply staple in opposite corners and it’s ready to go.
Get feedback. One of the best resources at an Actor’s disposal is other Actors. Especially if an Actor is new to creating an acting resume, they should reach out to others in their professional circle for examples and feedback. Actors currently in school can also benefit from talking to their instructors for constructive notes on how their resumes look and read.
Always keep a few resumes on hand. Regardless of profession, it’s always a good idea to have a business card ready to give out. But for Actors, having a resume or two on hand might also be helpful. Especially for Actors living in Los Angeles or New York, opportunities exist for meeting Agents or Casting Directors at events or even just getting a last-minute call to audition. While it’s frowned upon to give out a headshot or resume unsolicited, always being prepared for a legitimate resume request is important.
Tweak, tweak, tweak. Just like with any other profession, Actors should track if their resumes are receiving attention. If not, what could be adjusted or updated to get that attention? In addition to keeping a resume relevant with an Actor’s most current information, they should also be keeping an eye on what works or doesn’t work and making sure that their resume is the strongest it can be.
Creating an effective acting resume takes time, energy and consistent attention. But most importantly, it should be considered a critical part of professional advancement. It’s understandable that many Actors may want to put their efforts towards the thing they love — acting! But before an Agent or Casting Director may decide to select an Actor to come in for an audition or watch their audition tape, they’ll likely want to take a look at their acting resume.
Much of the potential anxiety around creating an acting resume can be alleviated just by following the above guidelines. And again, it’s important that Actors reach out to others to get an idea of whether their initial efforts are having the intended consequences of getting someone interested in wanting to see them perform. With just a little bit of dedicated effort, a strong acting resume can be the calling card that leads to a lifetime of professional success.