Putting together any form of résumé is a daunting experience.
This can be particularly challenging for an actor, where a résumé has to show a talent that can't be communicated by paper.
There are some simple guidelines to follow for actors writing a résumé.
By using this standard, an actor is able to show off their skills, their experience, their professionalism, and themselves.
What should I put on my acting résumé?
The most important things to include are: your name, your or your agents contact information, any unions you’re a member of, relevant acting experience, relevant training, and special skills.
The résumé should always start with your name. This should be bold and easy to find.
Underneath is your contact information, or the contact information of your agent or manager. Never include your address. Do include any unions you’re a member of.
Below this, you may wish to put a physical description. Only do this if it’s relevant to the role. Never put your age if you’re over 18.
Next, list relevant acting experience. This is divided into categories: film, television, and theater. Keep these separate, and list them in reverse-chronological order.
Follow this with any training you have received. List classes you’ve taken and workshops you’ve attended. If you have a degree, this can be listed as well. You don’t need to include the dates.
Finally, relevant special skills. Here you can show a bit of personality, but don’t get carried away trying to seem cute.
Include things like accents, and any physical skills you have. Try not to overload this section with information.
There is some room for variation in a résumé, but these are the basic principles to stick to. Most importantly - be truthful about your skills and experience.
Make sure to update it regularly. A résumé should show all your recent experience, rather than just what you might see as ‘best’.
Can I put a masterclass on my résumé?
While you may learn from an online Masterclass, leave them off your résumé.
They may give off the impression that you’re padding to fill space where there’s no experience. If there was no participation in the class, then it doesn’t give any real indication of your talents.
If you attended an online class that required participation and gave feedback, that can be mentioned on a résumé.
This way you can show how learning was put into practice.
There is value in a Masterclass, and a lot can be learned by watching them.
However, a résumé should show your experience. If you can’t show how the Masterclass has directly benefited you as an actor, then it’s not worth mentioning.
Do school plays count on an acting résumé?
If you’re new to the business, or relatively young, then you can put your school plays on your acting résumé.
Especially if it was a big production, and you had a large role. You can even put scenes you may have work-shopped on the résumé.
Be clear and upfront about what these roles were. They show you have experience, and are comfortable performing.
As you start to gain experience, then you’ll want to leave off the school plays.
If you’re turning to acting later in life and have little experience, adding a school play is an easy way to fill white space. However, it’s better to look for local community roles and acting classes.
How do you build up an acting résumé?
Start an acting résumé with your name and contact information, such as your agency. Don’t put your address.
You also need to include any union affiliations. Next, list any acting experience and roles you’ve had. This includes film, television, and theater - any performing experience.
Follow this with any training you’ve received. Finally, include a list of your special skills, and any rewards or recognition you may have received.
For those just starting out in the business, the résumé can include school plays and any small experience you have.
To build it up, try looking for roles in community theater productions. Also, casting directors will be interested in the training new actors have received.
Look for well-reviewed classes in your area. Don’t look for extra and background roles. While these are useful, so you can get a feel of a set, they don’t reflect acting skill.
Make sure to include any relevant skills you have. For example, if you can ride a horse, or speak Spanish.
Don’t be tempted to bulk it out with irrelevant information. While it’s okay to include a few quirky details, don’t just list to fill space.
How do you list acting credits on a résumé?
When listing acting credits, they need to be divided into categories. The standard is to divide them into film, television, new media, and theater.
Then, each category is divided into three columns. Column one is the name of the production. Column two is your role e.g. supporting, recurring, co-star.
Don’t put the name of your character - this doesn’t indicate the role you played. In the third and final column is the production company.
For film this is the production company and director.
For television, the network and director. For theater, list the theater company, and only include the director if it’s a big name.
Don’t list the dates of the productions, just stick to the basic information.
Credits should be listed in these categories, in reverse chronological order (so keep theater to theater and film to film).
This means your most recent experience will be at the top. The only exception to this is if you have one large role, or some particularly relevant experience. You can lead with these, if it seems relevant.
Never put extra work on your résumé.
A casting director won’t count it as experience. The only exception is if you were “featured” and somewhat relevant to the scene - if other characters discussed you, perhaps. For the most part, don’t list extra work.
How do you list commercials on an acting résumé?
Commercials should be left off an acting résumé. Or, simply use the phrase “commercials: conflicts available on request”.
A casting director will be interested in knowing if there’s any conflict, but the information should only be made available when requested.
What should never go on an acting résumé?
There are a few basics that should never be included on an acting résumé. For a start, never include your physical address.
As your résumé includes a headshot, you don’t want these things linked. Never include your social security number either.
Never include false credits. These will be found out, and then your reputation will be ruined. If you’re worried your résumé looks empty, lying is never the answer.
Similarly, don’t include skills you don’t have, or skills you’re learning. Even if they get you the role, you’ll lose the role when it becomes clear you can’t actually do it.
Never include background work. It doesn’t reflect actual acting experience. On a similar note, don’t include modelling or print work.
Don’t put your date of birth, unless you're under 18. If you’re over 18, your age is less relevant than the age you look.
Physical attributes, such as hair color, eye color, and weight, aren’t necessary.
You may include them if it seems important or relevant, but it’s not always applicable. Height is more common, and is often worth including.
Never use fancy fonts and formatting. Casting directors want something that’s easy to read. If they have a pile of résumés to go through and if yours is impossible to understand, it will go in the trash.
What’s an actor's résumé called?
An acting résumé or acting CV is simply called a résumé. It’s used to show casting directors and producers the experience, training, and skills an actor has.
As well as basic personal information, and the name of the agency and union the actor belongs to. It’s formatted similarly to a standard résumé. Actors will submit their résumé alongside a headshot when they apply for roles.
Should I put my age on my acting résumé?
If you’re over 18, don’t put your age on your acting résumé. It’s only needed if the person in question is a minor.
Otherwise, an actor's age is the age they look in the eyes of the casting director. Actual age isn’t as important as the age you look. By listing the age, you can give casting directors a pre-set idea.
Can you lie on an acting résumé?
No, do not lie on an acting résumé. No matter how clever you think you’re being, it’ll get found out. Then, your reputation is ruined.
The film industry is surprisingly small, and word spreads. It’s better to have an empty résumé that shows enthusiasm and willingness, over a list of fake credits.
Also, don’t lie about any skills you don’t have, or are still learning. You’ll only lose the job when it becomes clear you can’t do what you said you can.