Building an Acting Resume to Kick Start Your Career

Home » Blog » Start Acting » Building an Acting Resume to Kick Start Your Career

The first thing to know about acting resumes is that they are not in any way similar to a resume for private industry. There are several key points to an acting resume to remember:

An acting resume has to be concise and to the point. It should provide a clear picture of your acting education. Furthermore, experience relative to the acting jobs from point at which your career began.

In most cases, casting directors will review your acting resume either for films, TV or the theater. Casting directors know what they are looking for. Build an acting resume to kick start your career by highlighting your acting versatility, even when you are an acting ingénue. This assumes you have no preference for specialty acting such as Shakespearian roles, comedy, or Victorian characters.

woman with cinema clapper board

Get Started with an Acting Resume

Your acting resume is the story of your career. As such, it should first provide a scope of your plans for your acting future. Write the scope in two or three sentences and place it at the top of the resume beneath your contact information.

Next, include your most recent acting roles, the casting companies through which you got the job, if applicable and the number of acting auditions you had to attend before getting the part. Names, dates and places should be in each segment of the acting experience portion of your resume.

Acting Novices – Details Are Important

For novices who have little or no acting experience, the focus of your acting resume should include any roles you’ve had. This could be in your acting classes during college or drama school education. For example, if you went to supplemental classes at the famous Lee Strasberg Theater Institute, the Acting Institute, or the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts. If so, indicate these on your resume along with the instructors. Many of them are well known in film, theater, and TV acting roles.

Remember, many top Hollywood film actors started off by taking classes with Lee Strasberg. These include Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Al Pacino, and Ellen Burstyn. If a career in Hollywood is your goal, include classes at the Academy of Art University. If you could also get the names of the teachers there, it’s even better. This creates a solid foundation to kick start your career.

Kick Start Your Acting Career

Just as the top publishers are crucial to writers, actors need to have all the information about casting companies and directors. Learn the details of which casting companies accept acting resumes unsolicited, if you are new to acting, and which do not. Sending unsolicited acting resumes to companies that do not accept them can get you blacklisted.
It’s a good idea to link casting companies and casting directors with your acting coaches and instructors to further enhance you acting education and limited experience. Indicate these on your acting resume.

The idea of an acting resume is for the recipient to quickly and easily identify the contents of your resume without having to wade through tons of research on your background. Your acting resume qualifies your acting skills and verifies your experience.

Things to Avoid when Building an Acting Resume

While it may be tempting to exaggerate your prior acting experience, be assured casting directors do check the validity of your resume. A novice to acting might be able to quantify high school or college acting roles. However, these are easily checked by the casting director. Be forthright about your experience, not about your talent and acting skill. These will be proven in upcoming auditions.

If you are unsure of how to stylize your acting resume, spend time reviewing the classified ads in “Variety” Magazine for clues to how others are building an acting resume to kick start their careers.

Submitting an Acting Resume

It is to no real advantage to mass mail or broadcast hundreds of your acting resumes. This can backfire, should two or more roles be offered. Having to turn down an acting role may jeopardize future offers. Also, most casting directors can spot a mass mailed or broadcasted acting resume and won’t waste their time on what will appear to be one of thousands that look alike.

Take the time to know where you plan to submit your acting resume and to whom. Then, customize the contents so it looks exclusive to the acting job that you’re applying for. This is another way to kick start your career.

Proper Acting Resume Portfolio

While it might be okay to email your resume, it isn’t advisable. Acting competition is enormous. Therefore,your acting resume must look neat. The structure must be simple and you should ready to be in the top ten for hiring purposes.

Your acting resume portfolio should include, along with your thoroughly proof read resume, your head shots and list of references from instructors, coaches and any acting industry credits and waivers, such as those you receive for speaking parts. Acting extras receive waivers after having three speaking parts.

Your acting portfolio is the professional method of introducing yourself to the most advantageous acting resources. It can be part of TV commercials, voice overs and a host of other types of acting jobs. Your portfolio should have two head shots, one in black and white and the other in color. The reason for this is that there are acting roles where the black and white head shot is used for promotional and advertising purposes and the color is used mainly to determine the specific “look” of each actor.

Resume and Portfolio Attachments

Most entry level actors begin keeping their press clippings with their first formal acting role. These press clippings are an extra addition to add to your acting portfolio. Press clippings help verify claims you make in your resume.

It is also advisable to consider joining Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the actors union, since SAG provides various job opportunities to members. Becoming a member of SAG is an investment even though membership is somewhat expensive. With all SAG offers members, the investment is usually recouped within the first year of acting jobs. Note that SAG-AFTRA allows non-union members to accept union acting roles. Study SAG union advantages that will help kick start your career.

Acting Extras, Your Resume, and Casting Directors

Many famous actors like Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood and Renee Zellweger began their acting careers as acting extras. These gigs are available in the film, TV and theatrical industries.

There are others who chose this route to fame in Hollywood or on Broadway. One of the best reasons to consider kick starting your career as an acting extra is the daily exposure actors get to how movies are filmed, who directors, producers, starring actors and film and TV crews are.

For example, the long running TV show, “Law and Order SVU” relies on many acting extras throughout crimes scenes, police investigation and outdoor locations in and around NY City.

Acting extras for these scenes are hired by TV casting directors like Grant Wilfley, a top casting director with numerous contacts within the theater, TV and movies. Other “Law and Order SVU” casting directors are Lynn Kessel, Phil Huffman, and Kevin Kuffa.

law and order svu poster

For potential acting gigs, you need a full professional acting portfolio. Then, you need to submit it prior to being considered for acting roles. It is also advisable to meet directly with the staff of casting companies where possible. While there may be no immediate hire, casting directors accept resumes and tend to keep them on file as each acting role comes along that is a match for your resume.

Start Building an Acting Resume to Kick Start Your Career

The best way to start building an acting resume to kick start your career is to gather all of the information about your past acting roles. Collecting every press release on your acting gigs is very important. So is keeping an accurate record of where you have submitted your acting resume. The next step is to coordinate the contents of your career information so it forms a cohesive picture of you, the actor/actress. It also needs to fit seamlessly into the types of acting jobs you intend to pursue. The reality of building an acting resume is that the building “blocks” must fit together to form a solid foundation to take your acting career forward.

person with retro camera black and white

You’ve Submitted Your Acting Resume – What’s Next?

There is always anxiety when you find the “perfect” acting gig and submit your resume. Then, you wait with high expectations of a quick response. If you’ve done your “homework” and gone through the most advantageous venues to send off your resume, in all likelihood the response time will be relatively quick. If you haven’t and sent off your resume just to “get your feet wet,” you may end up in a casting file as a “future reference”. Thus, the key to kick start your career is a finely honed. A fully informational resume that reduces your competition and attracts all the right VIPs in acting today.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3.