Actor Resumes: Pro Tips from the Pros
Thursday, February 12, 2015
By Laura Brueckner
Actors are constantly looking for ways to spruce up their audition pieces and revamp their resumes. To help with this last task, we asked four of the Bay Area's leading casting directors for their pro tips on how to make sure your resume does its job--telling them about you, clearly and professionally. Check out what they have to say!
Don't let the Resume Monster scare you.
(Photo: "Butterflies" by user Samantha T.
on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons
Amy Potozkin, Casting Director, Berkeley Repertory Theatre:
There are a number of ways to format an acting resume, and you can look at quite a few different examples online.
1. Keep it to one page—black print on white paper is easiest on the eye—and staple it to the back of your headshot (printed side facing out so it can be read).
2. A basic layout I would recommend:
Name, phone number, and email address—don't include your home address.
Include agent information if you have an agent.
Height, weight (if comfortable including this), hair and eye color.
If you are a singer, include voice part (Mezzo, Bari-tenor, etc.)
3. Theatre credits in four clear columns across:
Play, role, theatre company, director (or role, play, director, theatre company).
4. Film/TV/commercial credits can be listed first, or after the theatre credits.
5. Below that—education/training, which would include: where you've studied, special programs like summer intensives, if you have your BA or MFA, and, if so, from where.
6. Below that—special skills, which would include: dialects in which you are proficient; musical instruments; fluent languages; athletic, gymnastic, or fight skills; circus skills, etc. Any skills that might be useful for a casting director or director to know.
(Amy Potozkin also gives professional audition coaching sessions. Call (510) 484-4280 for more information.)
Janet Foster, Casting Director, American Conservatory Theater:
1. Don't overload the resume with out-of-date credits. As your experience grows, get rid of old credits. A cluttered resume is very difficult to read, and no one really cares about high school credits or even undergraduate credits after a few years of professional work.
2. Don't ever put your home address on your resume. Stalkers do exist.
3. Make sure that you always keep your resume updated. And if you want to be a professional actor, always have a pic & res with you when you go out into the professional world.
(Janet Foster also teaches professional Actor 411 classes. For more info, visit her website.)
|Photo: "Hollywood Birds - The Actors" by user Bright Vibes on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.
Leslie Martinson, Associate Artistic Director, TheatreWorks:
1. The Bay Area standard is to include four pieces of information for each credit: the show title, the role, the producing organization (not just the name of the venue), and the director.
2. It's also good practice to identify staged readings or studio roles as just that, and not merge them with credits in fully produced shows.
3. A.B.A.F.T.C.N.: Avoid Baffling Abbreviations for Theatre Company Names. You might refer to the company by a nickname, or by initials, but help the auditors out!
4. The standard format is to list roles with the most current at the top, in reverse chronological order. It's also acceptable, and sometimes more helpful, to group credits by genre first. An actor might, for instance, put all his or her Theatre for Young Audiences or Shakespeare or Improv shows together under a subheading.
5. Leave a little white space—room for auditor's notes, easier to read, not quite so desperate.
(Leslie Martinson teaches audition strategies master classes through TheatreWorks. Visit the TheatreWorks website for more information.)
Melissa Hillman, Artistic Director, Impact Theatre:
1. Always use the four-column format—I need to see what role you played, what show it was in, who directed that show, and what company produced that show. You should not, however, include the year. One day you will be as old as I am and all those bygone years will just depress you. But seriously, we don't need to know the year. It just takes up space and clutters the format.
2. If you have a degree in the performing arts, please include that, but you don't need to include the names of every human with whom you studied there. If you studied with someone prominent, go ahead and include that. Otherwise, for me, the institution, degree, and any specializations are enough.
3. Roll off school credits as quickly as possible, especially high school. While it can be a great experience, a lot of fun, and very educational, playing Hamlet in high school doesn't carry the same weight as having played a much smaller role at a professional theatre where the competition and, especially, expectations are much more intense. If you're debating whether to include a high school Hamlet or a professional Osric, go with Osric.
4. If you went to a summer program at a high-profile theatre (Berkeley Rep, ACT, Cal Shakes) include that in your "education" section, not your performance credits, even if there was a performance component. "Pay to play" programs, where your parents write a $965 check so you can be in a production of Kinky Boots: The Youth Version, should not be on an adult resume. Pay-to-play programs are fine for a youth resume, but they need to come off when you turn 18.
5. I need to see your height and vocal range. I never believe anyone's weight, plus I can see for myself what your basic look is. I don't need to know eye color or hair color. I also don't need to know dress size, shoe size, or anything like that. That belongs on a commercial resume. The fine people making that Sunny D commercial will want to know that, but I don't. My costumer won't believe you anyway.
6. Don't include anything in special skills that you cannot actually do. For example, if you tell me you speak fluent Spanish, I will believe you and call you in for a role that requires you to speak fluent Spanish. The same goes for any other skill, especially something like stage combat. Exaggeration works against you. If you have experience in stage combat, I will circle that on your resume. If it turns out later that your "hand to hand training" was a single slap in high school, you've just added an hour to my rehearsal time and I am now unhappy.
7. Do not put "stage management" in your special skills unless you want me to call you in as a stage manager. If you have "stage management" in your special skills, and I call you when I need a stage manager (which is always), and you tell me, "I'm not stage managing anymore; I want to ACT, I am irritated. Why is it on there, then? Stage management skills aren't needed to play a stage manager. The only possible reasons to include it are A. desire to stage manage and B. desire to taunt us.
(For info on Melissa's audition coaching sessions, contact her here.)
So, that's the scoop on actor resumes from some of the best in the casting business, in the Bay Area and beyond! We hope you find these tips useful as you prepare for all the auditions you're facing. Break a leg!