A surprisingly high number of people find this site after typing the phrase “how to write an actor’s bio” or “acting bio formats” into Google. So I figured I’d take this blog entry and give a shout out to the actors as far away as Malaysia and Iran who are looking for advice on how to write a good acting bio and searching for an actor bio template. While I’m shouting, I might as well distribute some of my very useful advice.
Why-o a Bio?
There are many reasons an actor might need to write a short biography. Maybe they need something to put in a theater program or they need some PR materials for a film they did. Until the day comes that you can hire a publicist to do the work for you, this job lies on your shoulders.
What’s in a Bio?
A 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 resume.
Like I was saying before I interrupted myself, a bio is not an excuse to list dozen parts you’ve had since 3rd grade. It’s a chance to brag about your work but also show who you are as a person. The vast majority of people reading your bio aren’t ever going to meet you, so this is an excellent chance for them to find out something about you as a person. Don’t let them come away thinking you’re defined completely by your work.
It’s also not a place for you to personally thank every member of your family for their support. Unless no one besides your family is going to see the play you’re in, it’s best to limit the thank yous and inside jokes. Make your bio something everyone who sees your play or reads the press packet will care about.
Stop listing what’s not in a bio. What IS in a bio?
Let’s first talk about credits. Unless everyone seeing the show is going to get a copy of your resume (like in a showcase) you’ll want to list a couple of credits. If you don’t have any, this is a perfect place to say “Eitan is making his theatrical debut. Please be nice.” But the general rule of credits is the same as with writing a resume: keep it simple and only list your most well known or best work. Look at the lits on my resume post if you want to know my order for which credits trump which. There’s no reason to list thirty credits in your biography. Depending on how many words you’re give for your bio you’ll want to list somewhere between one and five credits. Any more and you’d better have a Tony or an Oscar gathering dust on your mantle. Otherwise you’re probably not going to impress anyone with those credits, only bore them.
Give up a little information telling the audience who you are as a person. When I read in a program that someone has a degree in engineering I know I’m rooting for them right out of the gate because we have something in common. By telling something about who you are as a person you help the audience like you as a person before you step foot on that stage. You don’t have to pour out details you’re not comfortable with disclosing and don’t mention your recent divorce (unless you just got divorced from one of your cast mates, steamy!). Pets, hobbies, odd jobs and funny anecdotes always fit well in this area.
What if I want to be really silly/funny in my biography?
Sometimes it’s appropriate to have an acting bio which is completely silly and has nothing to do with acting. As you can guess I’m guilty of having done this many times in my career. Here are a few examples of silly bios I’ve written over the years.
- Eitan as the printing Press: Eitan was invented by Johann Guttenberg in 1440…
- Eitan as Abe Lincoln: Eitan was born in a log cabin in Kentucky. He would later issue the Emancipation Proclamation…
- Eitan as a deity: Eitan is a master of all matter and energy. Bow before Eitan…
- Totally made up information: Eitan has never been stuck in traffic. He competed in the 1984 Olympics as the youngest pole vaulter in Olympic history…
These work for me because I’m a little goofy and I think this type of thing is hilarious. Feel free to throw a joke in to a more serious bio if you think it’ll work. Be true to yourself.
First or Third Person?
Eitan says your bio should always be written in third person. It’s standard and doesn’t sound as elitist as you think it does. Also try to refrain from making the “Eitan likes talking in third person” joke in your bio. It’s been done a billion times.
There’s really no wrong format for an acting bio. As long as you keep it in third person, short as possible and appropriate for the production you’re not going to go wrong. Here are a couple examples of bios in various formats for you to enjoy and dissect like a James Joyce novel.
“Eitan has appeared in various TV shows such as ‘Ghost Whisperer’ and ‘iCarly.” He has also appeared in several national commercials for products like Saturn and the city of Las Vegas. He studied electrical engineering at UC Santa Barbara before realizing engineering wasn’t really his bag. He promptly announced to the world he would be an actor and hasn’t been taken seriously since.”
“Eitan lives in Los Angeles where he works as an actor. His most recent TV appearance was on Ghost Whisperer. In his free time Eitan enjoys playing on his computer and updating his website (www.eitantheactor.com). Eitan would like to thank each and every one of you for coming to see his show. Please form a line outside his dressing room after final curtain.”
“Eitan is an avid and horrible softball player. He also enjoys playing Dance Dance Revolution and cooking. Eitan once worked as a telemarketer so it’s very likely you hung up on Eitan at one point in your life. Eitan has appeared on Ghost Whisperer, iCarly and various commercials.”
Hope this has helped all you wayward souls searching for information on how to write an acting biography.