Is Your Acting Resume Working For You?

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  2. December 29, 2010 10:21 pm

By Alex Swenson

When you submit to acting auditions, your headshot and acting resume are usually put into a pile for the casting director to look at. Casting directors look at headshots first. If a shot grabs their attention, the first thing they do is turn it over to look at the acting resume in the back. The same thing happens when an actor submits to auditions online. Casting directors see acting pictures first, then click on the ones they like to view the actors’ resumes.

The goal of your headshot is to be pulled out of the pile, the goal of your resume is to stay in the keep pile. How do you make sure your resume achieves that?

First, by having a properly formatted, professional-looking resume. Second, by picking and choosing what to reveal on your resume so the casting director will want to meet you. Third, by getting quality acting work and training to add to your actor resume. Let’s take each of these one at a time.

1) Getting a professional-looking resume

When they turn a headshot over, most agents and casting directors will only scan a resume for a few seconds. Therefore, if your resume is not properly formatted to industry standards, what is written on it will most likely never be read.

To look professional, your resume should always be cut to 8 x 10 and be stapled neatly to the back of your headshot. Use plain white paper and black ink and stick with one simple font. Some reproduction houses allow you to print your resume directly on the back of your headshot but this is expensive (especially if you need to update your contact information or add an acting credit) and is completely unnecessary.

Your name and contact information should be featured in bigger letters at the top of your resume. Acting credits should be listed on 3 columns. The first column is for the name of the project (play, movie, TV show, etc.). The second column is where you write your role (the name of the character in a play, the size of the role for film and TV parts). The third column is used to list the venue for plays or the production company and network for screen credits. Each entry should be properly aligned.

2) What to include and what to leave out of your resume

If you’re a beginning actor facing a blank page, it can be tempting to “make up” acting credits, but that’s never a very good idea. Not only can you get called on it, but here’s what could happen…

A headshot grabs an agent or casting director’s eye. Could this new face be the next big thing? They turn the picture over and see a list of obscure credits they never heard off. What will they think? They either know the actor made it up or they decide that if the actor was any good, they would have heard of them by now.

Here’s an important acting resume tip – Agents and casting directors love to discover talented actors. It is much better to choose a few good quality credits to put on your resume than to have a long list of smaller roles at unknown venues. This is also true for more experienced actors. Leaving less impressive roles out of your resume can be a great strategy to make your career successes stand out.

Another area where picking and choosing is important is the special skills section of your resume. Only lists a few skills so those few stand out. Leave out the special skills that aren’t so special (like swimming) and concentrate on real unique skills you have that will spark an agent’s curiosity. If you do have a real skill that can seem mundane at first glance, write it differently, highlighting your achievements in that field (for example, ‘Ohio free style swim champion’).

3) Getting quality acting work and training to add to your actor resume

Getting your first few quality acting roles can be hard, especially when there’s not much on your resume yet. If you keep submitting to auditions and attending open casting calls, acting jobs will eventually come along. Make sure you drop off your headshot and resume at local film schools. A role in a student film can be a nice addition to your resume if that film enters film festivals, plus the student filmmakers you work with now may hire you when they graduate for bigger projects.

Another good place to look for acting work is at film festivals and independent film screenings. It’s usually much easier to approach indie filmmakers at these events than through their agents or managers. If you have the drive to do so, you can also give yourself your first acting job by producing a play or directing a short film. It can be a rewarding experience, but if you want it to make a difference on your resume, you will have to commit to making a good film and not just a showpiece.

Hope all these acting resume tips help you get more calls for auditions and acting agent interviews. Put some work into your acting resume, your acting resume will really work for you!

Alex Swenson has worked as an actor, writer and film editor for the past 15 years in New York and Los Angeles. She has created the website Acting-School-Stop to help young actors start an acting career. You can view sample acting resumes on her website at For more on how to format your acting resume, visit

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