Advice and Tips for Actors Helpful thoughts on acting from someone who wasn't the least successful actor of all time.

October 1, 2007

Writing an Actor’s Resume

Filed under: eitan's writings — Eitan @ 5:20 pm

Uch, you’re saying to yourself, I don’t come here for this basic stuff. I come to Eitan’s blog to read about the deep thoughts of a working actor. I want to know the secrets to making it big, not some refresher on stuff I already know. Well, my topic today will go a bit deeper than you think. Oh yes, it will.

I’m not kidding when I say that everything I’m about to discuss will be for naught if you don’t follow the acting resume format for your market. For an example of how Los Angeles actor resumes are formatted, look at mine.

I’m going to teach you the one big secret about resume writing: It’s all about recognizability. The goal of your resume is to show the casting director or agent things that they’ll care about. What do they care about? Projects they can recognize.

I actually have a list, from top to bottom of what I’m talking about. After the chart I’ll discuss how to apply this information. This is a list for a Los Angeles actor. New York actors will have a slightly different list with a few things in the middle switching places.

  1. Major part in a national TV show/major film (aka “series regular” or “star” billing)
  2. Smaller part in a national TV show/major film (aka “recurring guest star” or “supporting” billing)
  3. Major part in well received Indie film.
  4. Guest star work on a national TV show.
  5. Smaller part in well received Indie film.
  6. Recurring co-star on a national TV show or small part in a known film.
  7. Lead in a play on Broadway.
  8. Co-star on a national TV show.
  9. Part in a critically aclaimed short film which has played in dozens of festivals.
  10. Play in a major theater.
  11. Lead in a film no one’s ever heard of or TV show from a small market.
  12. Smaller part in a film/TV show no one’s ever heard of.
  13. Master class with a “name teacher.”Play in a theater no one’s ever heard of.
  14. Play no one’s ever heard of in a theater no one’s heard of.
  15. Original plays, scenes, student and other short films and stuff you did in your basement with your friends.
  16. Anything on the internet.
  17. Class with a teacher no one’s ever heard of.

You can disagree with my order or notice a few omissions.  And there are exceptions to every one of these posts.  Feel free to disagre.  That’s what the comments feature is for.

Notice the last few have the phrase “no one’s ever heard about.”  That’s the key to this whole post.  People want to see stuff on your resume that they already know about.   If you totally rocked Hamlet back in Urbana, Illinois good for you.  Just know that it’s not going to help you get cast in a TV show.
So how do you use this list?  Simple.  When your career starts out you’ll start out with stuff at the bottom of the list.  That’s cool as it’s all you have.  Just know that no one’s really going to care.  They just want to see you have something on your resume so they know you’re not totally green.

As your career moves forward you’ll start getting things higher and higher up on the list.  When that happens, start dropping things that rank low on the list.  Don’t start getting emotionally attached to your credits, it’s just your resume.  You’re not blanking them out of your memory.

It’s better to have two things from near the top of the list than 30 things farther down.  In fact, it’s better to have two things from the middle of the list than 30 things from farther down.

Let me give you an example.  My resume six months ago was filled with stuff from down on the list.  I had a bunch of student films, plays that stretched back to college, other shorts no one had heard about and then a short film that was doing well and a small part on a Lifetime show.  I was really proud of all the work I had done.  Every time I got a job I dropped the font size down a notch on my resume to squeeze it all in.

One day I looked at my resume and realized I could barely pick out the “higher up” credits from the “lower” credits.  I was shooting myself in the foot by doing this.  I was forcing casting people to pour through my resume for useful information instead of only presenting what they really want to see.  So I cut all but one student film (that had at least played in a couple festivals), truncated my list of classes, got rid of every play I did that wasn’t done in a decent theater in LA and cut my special skills down to four.

This did two things.  First it drew attention to my more impressive credits.  And second it made it look as if I had some experience but was still “fresh” and “new” in town.  One problem with having 30 credits no one has ever heard of is that casting people tend to think, “You’ve done all this stuff but I’ve never seen your work and you’ve never booked anything I’ve even heard of, you must not be that good.”  Everyone likes to “discover” new talent even if that talent’s really been slaving away for ten years.  Just talk to any agent and they’ll tell you the story about how they represented some star before they got big.

So the thing to take away from this very long post is to make your resume short, sweet and show only your best credits.  Don’t be afraid to cut stuff off your resume if it’s not going to help your career.  The goal of your resume is to help advance your career, not to show off for people who won’t be impressed anyway.

8 Comments »

  1. […] bio is not a resume. I’ve already written an excellent post (if I must say so myself) on writing an actors resume. So I advise you read it if you’re looking on how to write an acting […]

    Pingback by How to Write an Actor Bio--Eitan the Actor Bio — January 16, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

  2. What if you haven’t really done anything but school plays, but you’re magnificent at singing. So, I really want to get on the scene, but I don’t have any credits except for the school musical!

    Comment by Lily — February 9, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  3. […] it doesn’t count as acting work.  That means you don’t get to put extra work on your acting resume and you shouldn’t tell agents you meet with about your extra work.  If you want to do it, do […]

    Pingback by Getting On Your Favorite TV Show, as an Extra--Eitan the Actor Bio — March 25, 2008 @ 11:17 am

  4. On your list of jobs from top to bottom, what about if you are starting out and all you have is plays from college? How is that formatted into a resume?

    Comment by Pearl — May 3, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

  5. […] on your acting resume? You think this would be a really short post. I’d say something like “don’t do […]

    Pingback by Lying On Your Resume--Eitan the Actor Bio — May 14, 2008 @ 12:40 am

  6. I am a very talented actress. It’s a natural born skill and I have a passion for entering this career path. Things is, I don’t have any experience that would be fit enough for the list. What would you recommend be the first step I should take in beginning my career? I am very talented and destined to be an actress.

    Comment by calandra — January 22, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

  7. Hello! thank you for your very precious information. There is sth i’d like to ask you. Apart from my acting experience in theatre, i have a quite considerable amount of backstage work in films and other productions, as a production assistant or third director. Do you think that this kind of skills are eligible or important for an acting resume?
    Thank you in advance

    Comment by eli — September 10, 2010 @ 3:14 am

  8. The link to your resume doesn’t work – do you still have it up online? Thank you for excellent and succinct resume tips!

    Comment by F — May 29, 2012 @ 11:05 am

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