Advice and Tips for Actors

January 16, 2008

How to Write an Actor Bio

Filed under: eitan's writings,theater — Eitan @ 7:34 pm

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.

Bio Formatting

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.

32 Comments »

  1. Hello – I found your post googling “actor’s biography”, and I found your suggestions helpful (and timely). Thanks Eitan! – JLB

    Comment by JLB — January 18, 2008 @ 7:16 am

  2. Eitan, thanks very much for the advice and information. It was real helpful. I dabble in community theatre here in upstate ny. Best to you and will watch for you on television.

    Comment by Stephen Wegman — January 18, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  3. thanks
    im still a little stuck
    but this was really helpful

    Comment by martha — January 18, 2008 @ 3:44 pm

  4. I’m a professional bio writer and I must say this is one of the best articles I’ve read on how to write an actor bio. Your points about writing in the third person and avoiding the “Eitan likes talking in third person” are right on! Another tip I give people is to remember the difference between “bio” (short word) and “biography” (long word). You are writing a bio, not a biography, so keep it short. Otherwise people won’t read it. I’ve got a fill-in-the-blank actor bio template at my site http://www.howtowritebio.com for anyone who needs more help.

    Comment by Barbra Sundquist, Bio Writer — January 28, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

  5. Great info. I found it helpful because the notes were short and to the point. Also had never thought about making a bio humorous before. Thanks. Bronwyn. South Africa

    Comment by Bronwyn — February 4, 2008 @ 8:13 am

  6. How does the wise Eitan feel about name dropping in bios?
    Such as “Ariel studied under [insert teacher/actor/director name here].”

    Thank yehs for the page, by the by. Ariel was confused about third or first person. Ariel feels like a caveman or Darth Vader, and she loves it.

    Comment by Ariel — February 27, 2008 @ 7:45 am

  7. I love your advice about writing an actor’s bio. It was very imformative and particularly good that you write in the 3rd party. I especially liked the idea of the bio being humorous & telling a few fibs. Great work!

    Please do not publish email address.

    Thanks

    Comment by Melissa — February 29, 2008 @ 10:16 am

  8. @Ariel,

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “name dropping”, as in “Areile studied with XXX teacher”. In fact, I think it is a good credibility booster, as it shows that you are serious about your craft. Go for it!

    Barbra Sundquist
    http://www.HowToWriteBio.com

    Comment by Barbra Sundquist, Bio Writer — March 5, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

  9. Cheers!

    Comment by Dave — March 13, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

  10. I love your advice! It’s helpful and like your bios..entertaining! Thanks!

    Comment by Crystal — April 2, 2008 @ 8:55 am

  11. After using a template actor’s website for a few years, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and have my own website – currently in development. Therefore, one of the things I need is a bio and in searching for suggestions, came across your site. Very helpful – thanks for the insight and direction!

    Comment by Dawn Davis — September 11, 2008 @ 11:25 am

  12. Bill thanks you from the bottom of his heart, since he recently was threatened by having to write a bio. Bill is currently at ease with your suggestions and thinks he will now be able to write a sock-o bio. Bill will come looking for you if he fails miserably and gets de-cast. Bill is only joking.

    Comment by Bill L. Behrendt — September 25, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

  13. I am in the process of writing my 10 years old son’s Bio for his first Theater Performance. Your website was very helpful
    Thanks!!

    Comment by Ronnie — March 2, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  14. Thanks so much for this. I think this is the first blog post I have read from begining to end! Usually I tune out half way through! I managed to loose my old bio and was begrudging writing a new one… but now I am looking forward to it! Thanks!

    Comment by Shane Jenek — April 2, 2009 @ 1:04 am

  15. I’m just getting into the whole acting deal and had no idea what to write for my bio before this. Thanks a ton Eitan! You’re awesome!

    Comment by Andy Van Deventer — April 22, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

  16. my website is being developed and i needed a bio, you are right! its difficult to write about yourself.. but I am going to do it easily with your wonderful advise, i feel empowered! thank you very much
    Rosemary

    Comment by rosemary medeiros — June 19, 2009 @ 2:00 am

  17. Ethan, thank you, this information was a GOD send! I’m acting in my first debut performace for my church play, and I was completely lost in nearly every way tying to complete my bio so this info was very timely like you state unless I have some type of publicist this type of guidance is hard to come by or costly! Thank you, you saved me from ruining any acting career/hobby before it even begun!

    Comment by Keisha Jones — August 23, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

  18. hilarious! big BIG help…

    Comment by Dene Gomez — September 5, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  19. THANKS A TON… i am also a silly person and was feeling my bio was so reflecting it… now i feel way more comfortable with it… its me and that who i am!!!!!!

    Jessi is pleased to make her Windham debut this evening. She has been acting for fun since the fourth grade The shows shes been in range from Get Smart to The Paper Chase, Side Show to Into the Woods, and her most recent favorite High School Musical.She enjoys creating art with crayons as well as watching the Disney channel on her day off from cutting hair. If you ask her what her favorite color is she will reply with a loud “rainbow”. Jessi is also proud to admit that she enjoys cheesy jokes that know one else laughs at…. shes quirkey!

    i wrote it befor the sight… now to revise it will all my new found education!!!
    thanks a ton!!!!

    Comment by jessi — September 13, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

  20. Thx, this has definitely made my day!

    _______________________
    wtf

    Comment by LarryXA — November 6, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  21. Thank you,
    You = A lifesavor

    Comment by Daisy — December 14, 2009 @ 12:16 am

  22. You ROCK, Eitan! This has been so helpful. I was thinking how lame to toot my own horn, and in third person. “look at me, I’m sooo cool!” I am confident, now reading this that I can write a totally rockin’ bio.

    Thanks, yo!

    Hannah Morgan

    Comment by Hannah Morgan — February 9, 2010 @ 12:37 am

  23. Thanks, man!

    Comment by Grace — March 9, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

  24. Thanks for the advice! This was really helpful!

    Comment by Amanda Mills — March 25, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

  25. Thanks, Eitan. You have an awesome name. I’ll be sure to use your tips as I create my own bio (even though I’m a classical singer… I like joking around too).

    Comment by Mary Beth — March 31, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

  26. Do you think it’s appropriate to write in detail about the mysteries and complexities of life in a light, joking way in a bio for a high school production?

    Comment by James — April 14, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

  27. Some great tips on here – I’m having issues with how to start my biog off, but this has helped loads with the main content! :-)

    Comment by Melodie Joy — April 21, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

  28. i had NO idea what to write for my bio. this saved my life. thanks!

    Comment by megs — July 31, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

  29. I found this information very helpful, thank you for posting Eithan!

    Comment by G Joseph — October 10, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  30. I have a silly bio on my website, but this opened my eyes. I will re-write it now. Thanks Eitan. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Comment by Sonny Chatrath — November 24, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

  31. Thanks for the help, I needed to write a bio and had no idea how. Your teaching method is great. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Elaine — February 1, 2012 @ 9:06 am

  32. Thanks! This is just what I needed. It’s my first time writing a bio and I really wanted to know if I was going the right direction since it’s going to be up on the website all year and I’ll have to live with it!

    Comment by Stephanie — December 30, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

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