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

May 14, 2008

Lying On Your Resume

Filed under: classes,eitan's writings,film,theater,TV — Eitan @ 12:40 am

Lying on your acting resume? You think this would be a really short post. I’d say something like “don’t do it” and run off for another month or so without posting. Sorry, it’s way more complicated than that.

Some of the stuff I’m going to talk about is risky, some of the stuff is safe as a Volvo. It’s all about your comfort level and how honest the lie actually is.  Mostly these are white lies that actors are expected to tell.  But they can get pushed too far if you’re trying to be sneaky.  The biggest rule I can say is don’t get caught lying.  Even if it’s minor.  You don’t want to have to start justifying your whole resume to a casting director in the middle of an audition.

Lying On Your Resume Can be a Good Idea – In a perfect world everyone’s acting resume would be a list of parts they’ve played and casting people could easily look at the resume and see where the actor is in their career and if they could possibly be a good fit for the part they are currently casting. Problem is, it’s just not possible. No one’s going to recognize every item on an actor’s resume. Credits don’t always mean the same thing in different contracts. School plays can be really hard to sell as “legitimate experience.” And the list goes on and on.

The First Lie Every Actor is Told To Tell – Let’s get this one out of the way. I’ve read this in books and on other websites so this is the least risky thing in the post. If you did a play at Xavier High School and you played the part of the Fiddler in The Fiddler on the Roof you don’t need to list the production company as “Xavier High School,” you can list it as “Xavier Theater.” Or if the theater has a name you can list it. “The Herbert Einstein Memorial Theater.”  Whatever.  Because no one really cares.  It’s a play in a theater they’ve never heard of.  They’ll ask about the play (if at all) and that’ll be that.

Don’t Upgrade Yourself –  I’ve seen a fair number of actor resumes in my life.  I can’t even calculate the percentage of which have obvious attempts at upgrades but it’s a high number.  Suddenly that guy with one line has a “Major Supporting Role” in the film.  Or the guy who passed by the star in the hallway is a “Guest Star.”  Well guess what, the bigger the lie the more likely someone’s going to catch you.  Saying you had a Guest Star part on a very successful show when you had a one liner is typically pretty obvious.  I’ve seen resumes listing multiple large parts and when you type the name into IMDB maybe one of the parts comes up… as “Waiter #3.”  That’s no “Starring” role.  And do you know who’s going to catch you every single time if you list that extra work as principle?  The casting director.  They remember people they hire.  And they’ll never be hiring you.  And if you say you were a guest star someone just might try to check your quote, they’ll find out you were lying and you’ll get fired before you were even hired.  That’d suck.

Move Laterally –  Look at my resume and you’ll see the Final Justice part listed as a “Co-Star.”  My contract doesn’t say “Co-Star.”  In fact, I have no idea where my contract is so I can’t read the actually billing.  But I was hired as a “Principle” and that’s the only billing I had.  Problem was, it just stood out on my resume as a weird thing next to my other two actual “co-star” roles (as of this writing, just for the record).  So I moved myself laterally.  I changed it to “Co-Star.”  It’s not really a lie, it’s equivalent.  If I were hired on any other AFTRA show I’d be billed as a “Co-Star” with that part.  I just didn’t know to ask for that when I was starting out.  Also, they never ran credits on that show.  Uch.  How do you know what your billing is supposed to be?  Read your contract.  The other great time to move laterally is on a feature when you’re booked as a “Featured” part.  Technically this means you got paid a day rate and had a line or two.  In resume world, this means you were an extra who thinks they could pick themselves out of a crowd.  “Featured” is a term that is dead and gone on resumes.  It’s been ruined.  You’re now a “Principle” or “Featured Principle.”  That means you had a line otherwise people think you’re making stuff up.  Isn’t that ironic?

A Real Serious Lie – Ok, this last one is beyond anything I’ve ever done.  I’ve said time and time again that no one really cares about films and plays they’ve never seen and never heard of.  They just see lines on your resume and assume you know something about being on camera or being on stage.  There’s nothing that’s going to excite them unless they recognize something from your resume.  That means you can completely make up student films, short films, original plays, acting classes and cast yourself in plays you’ve read and know well enough to pass a quiz on.  You can, but you shouldn’t.  This is where you really can play too much with your resume and head down a dark and dangerous path.  I did a few student films in college but how does someone know I didn’t do three more in which I was the lead?  Heck, I was in a few plays there that I know like the back of my hand.  Who’s to say I didn’t play the lead instead of the guy carrying suitcases?  No one would ever catch a single one of those lies and they’d pad my resume quite nicely.  Or at least they would have back when that was all I had on my resume.  But know I’ve seen directors ask about a random part, just to make conversation.  Just make sure you could make something up if need be.

Don’t Do That! – I hope you read this paragraph after reading the one before it.  Don’t do it.  Don’t completely make stuff up on your resume, even if you’ll never get caught.  It’s useless, no one cares about these projects.  Why be a liar for something unimportant?  BUT I’m totally down with making things look as good as possible on your resume.  Let’s say you did a staged reading for a class of an original play your friend wrote but never did anything with.  Why can’t that part be on your resume under theater?  You did the part, it just wasn’t a full show.  That short fillm that you shot with your buddies?  Put your friend as the director and put that on your resume.  You shot it, it’s a film.  No one judges an actor by how small the font size is on their resume.  A List actor resumes only have their latest, greatest and most famous roles listed anyway.  B and C list actors don’t even have their theater listed most of the time.  It’s only us working class stiffs.  If you only had one liners in student films no one’s going to be upset if you make one of those a lead.  The director might get annoyed but if he’s teaching 5th grade in Kansas now, how does that affect you?

Lie as Little as Possible – What we can take away from all my examples is that you should lie as little as humanly possible.  Don’t go for any lies that can be caught or pointed out easily (See that guy with an iPhone at your audition?  He’s checking your IMDB page and knows you’re lying).  Lies should be used only to very lightly massage your resume, never to try to bump it up to the next level.  Nothing I’ve suggested here will land you a single extra audition.  None will make any perceptible difference in your career.   They’re small and they just smooth the way towards getting some real credits that you don’t have to work to pretty up.

1 Comment »

  1. Hi Eitan, just read your entry from back in 2008 sometime about lying on your resume. This I know, is NOT a good idea, but being anxious to have something recent to fill in on my resume, my question turns to the ” Featured ” thing. I was hired as background/extra on Angels and Demons and did not even remotely plan to put it on my resume. While on set, the second unit director decided to shoot a very tight close up of my face. I was told to look directly into the camera as though looking at the principle actor as he was passing by, The camera held right in my face, and I was told to follow the lense with my eyes. I thought, since for that particular scene I was not in a huge crowd being shot on a wide angle, I could list it as “featured” on the good ‘ol rez. Is that pushing it too much? Another film, I am crossing Adam Sandler, while he is being engulfed by news reporters. I cross him, I’m in the shot, and then I go up the escalator. Can I consider that to be “featured” or again am I pushing it? No lines in either scenario. Try to hold back the laughter….thanks

    Comment by Anne — March 29, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

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