Every actor, whether they are unknown or famous, needs an acting resume. Your resume, always partnered with your headshot, has the ability to open plenty of industry doors for you.
You bet that most of the best-known actors in Hollywood, such as Robert Pattinson, known to every teenage fan of the Twilight movies, and Keira Knightley, who became a household name after the Pirates of the Caribbean films, still maintain accurate and up-to-date resumes.
In this article, the first of a two-part set, we’re going to present a step-by-step guide to writing an acting resume that will help you land those prized roles.
1. Get your headshot ready first—your resume will always be attached to it.
This article is called “acting resume” and not “acting headshot,” so we’ll keep this short. Your acting headshot is an 8” x 10” close-up portrait of your face, generally printed with a matte finish. It is supposed to show what you actually look like, at least on a very good day.
It’s a good idea to get your headshot ready first because your acting resume will always be on the back of it. You should either have your acting resume printed directly on the back of your headshot or staple the two together. If you staple them together, try to do so at the top and bottom center, or at all four corners, making sure not to cover up any text.
Now, keep in mind that a standard sheet of paper is 8.5” x 11”, so you will have to shrink your resume to 8” x 10” first. Whether you are having it printed on the back of your headshot or stapling it, make sure there will be a decent amount of white space around the words. If you are stapling it, you can either find 8” x 10” paper to print your acting resume on or carefully cut it yourself.
This also means that your acting resume can never be longer than one page when printed out.
2. Start with a heading that includes your name, phone number(s), e-mail address, website, and any union affiliations, along with your height, weight, eye color, and hair color.
We always advise that you put your name in big, bold letters on any resume, but this is especially important on your acting resume. You need to make sure your name is big and bold, possibly even capitalized or in a different font. You really want the person reviewing resumes to be able to match your name to your face!
If you have an agent, it’s best to list your agency’s name, phone number, street address, and e-mail address. Otherwise, list your own phone numbers, along with your e-mail address and your personal website.
Actors tend to have more safety concerns than other professionals and often move around more, so don’t list your home phone number or address.
Union affiliations are also important. While using abbreviations is usually a big resume mistake, it is OK to do with union affiliations on an acting resume, since many are so well-known. For example, everyone in the industry knows that SAG stands for Screen Actors Guild.
Height and weight are also important. Do not try to stretch the truth—people will notice. If your current eye color and/or hair color are different from their natural shades, as is the case for actors who routinely dye their hair and/or wear color contacts, you may want to list both the current and natural colors.
3. List your acting credits in your “experience” section.
If you are just starting out, this could be a very short section. Experienced actors will often have multiple categories, such as theater/stage, film/television, voiceovers/commercials, and other relevant experience.
The most impressive roles should come first for each category. Chronological order is unnecessary. You should not list dates of credits.
Elizabeth Abbot, academic advisor for Film and Media Arts majors at the University of Utah, recommends using this format for theater experience:
- PLAY TITLE Character Played Theater Company (dir. Director’s Name)
She also recommends adding the city and state in which the play was produced, if not local.
For film or television roles, she recommends this format:
- FILM OR SHOW TITLE Role Type Production Company (dir. Director’s Name)
If the movie or show was independently produced, put “Independent” in the production company slot. If you worked alongside a well-known actor, you can list “(w/Their Name)” after “FILM OR SHOW TITLE.”
Role types for film and TV are:
- Lead (the most important character in a film or the one who appears in every episode on a TV program)
- Principal (has a speaking role that progresses the story line and may appear in multiple episodes on a TV program)
- Supporting or Day Player (has a speaking role, usually of only a few lines, and usually only appears in one episode on a TV show)
- Voice-over Artist (doesn’t appear on screen, but does the narration)
Now that we’ve covered the headshot, required resume length, detailed header, and experience, we’re halfway there. Yes, this is a lot for a one-page document, but an acting resume leaves no room for fluff! Like a good performance, it has to have an emotional impact on the audience before they start getting bored.
Stay tuned for the second installment of this article, where we will cover how to present your education and skills on your acting resume.