In Part One of this series I shared tips for getting the best headshot. Once you have a good professional headshot, you will need to have an acting résumé to go with it. Ideally, you will want to work on both of these simultaneously since your headshot and your résumé go hand in hand.
When I started acting, I had no experience or credits to put on my résumé. I had a group of friends all interested in breaking into the industry and we were all in the same boat. What do we put on our résumés?
Some of my friends had experience in theatre, and if you do, this is a great place to start. Try to think about any roles you may have had in plays in the past. If it has been a while, you may need to jog your memory a bit, but if you know you have done theatre in the past, then all you need to do is sift through those memory banks and start making a list of what you've done.
Since I had never done any theatre, I had to come up with a different strategy for getting credits on my résumé. I started looking for opportunities where I could do acting jobs for free. For me, this was a win-win situation because I could start working in front of the camera and get some good credits for my acting resume. Doing free work when you are just starting out is a great resume builder.
So, how do you get these acting jobs? There are many ways which I will discuss in another part of this series, but for this segment, I'll give you a simple overview.
The very first thing that I have to stress is the importance of being proactive. It is great to be represented by an agent, but you also need to take responsibility for your acting career and do whatever you can professionally on your own to propel your career forward. One of the big mistakes we make sometimes is to sit by the phone waiting for our agents to call.
Note that I say "professionally" because this is such a competitive business that some actors and actresses fall into the trap of engaging in unprofessional behavior which hurts other people's careers, and in the long run, their own careers as well.
I the past few years, online casting has gained increasing popularity with industry professionals. This trend means that actors and actresses can have access to much more information than was ever available in past decades. By networking with others working in the industry, you will find out about viable and reputable websites where you will be able to self-submit for acting jobs and auditions. If you have a agent, it would be good to keep them updated periodically on what you have done, and list them as your agent whenever you have the opportunity to audition.
When you're getting started, working on student films, independent films, and doing extra work on big budget features with big name stars, is definitely an asset to your career. You gain invaluable experience working on set, and get great credits to start building your résumé. There will even be jobs which you will get paid for, sometimes a little, and sometimes a lot depending on the budget of the productions. There is a lot of non-union work which pay very well. Finding a good balance between doing acting work for free and working on paid projects is definitely a good way to go. This way, you can offset the cost of some of your expenses like travel, wardrobe, and other business related expenses.
As soon as you have a few credits, you should create a one page resume. I have seen several different formats, but there are some consistent components to the basic acting resume.
First, you will need to list you name and contact information at the top. If you have representation, your agent's contact information will go there as well. Some agents specifically request that you do not put your personal contact information on your résumé, only theirs. Following your agent's instructions is a good course of action.
The body of the résumé is broken down by categories which will be your subheadings. In general, these would be FILM, TELEVISION, COMMERCIALS, INFOMERCIALS, INDUSTRIALS, TRAINING VIDEOS, PRINT WORK, PROMO WORK, AND SPECIAL SKILLS. At the beginning, all of these categories may not apply to you, but as you gain more experience, you can add more categories to your résumé.
A basic acting resume format would be to add your credits under each applicable category. Starting at the left margin, list the name of the production you worked on. In the middle, list the role you played. Especially note if you got booked as a lead, principal, guest starring, or co-starring role. On the right, list the production company. It's a good idea to remember to get the production company's name while you are on set and write it down in a safe place. It's always a good idea to take a small notebook with you when you work on projects, since these ar also good networking opportunities where you might learn important information from other more experienced actors and actresses.
There are also online resources which off free sample acting resumes and templates, so you can get an idea of what they look like. For newcomers, a simple easy to read resume is best. Regardless of length of experience in the business, a one page resume is all that is required.
Once you have completed your résumé, apply it to the back of your headshot. so that your headshot shows on one side, and when it is flipped over, the résumé shows on the other side. Some actors and actresses staple their résumé to the back of their headshot. I prefer to use double-sided scotch tape which goes in between the headshot and résumé, since this gives a much neater look and presentation.
Review Auditioning Tips Part One: Getting The Best Headshot which discusses tips on getting a professional headshot for acting.
Part Three in this series will discuss reproducing your headshot and résumé using your home computer and printer.