Louis E. Catron.  A Primer for Actors.

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Your Résumé


       "A Primer for Actors" offers you information about helpful books, constructing your résumé, getting appropriate headshots, making your own website, and preparing for auditions.  You'll also find tips that are designed to help you become more effective.  Throughout there are websites you'll want to visit for additional insights. 

        Here we look at your résuméPlease also look at "Headshots" because your photograph is part of your résumé. 

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A Primer for Actors.

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        Your résumé is a one-page list of your significant theatrical experience—stage roles, training, education plus your physical description and  contact information.  Its goal is to help directors know more about you to help them decide if you should be cast.  You attach your résumé to the back of your headshot (discussed here) so the person to whom you give it—a casting director, agent, whoever—will be able to keep them together.  (Tip:   Most actors staple the two together back-to-back.  Spend a moment or two to be sure the staple doesn’t have hostile points.  Yes, if you make the casting director bleed, you’ll be remembered, but....)  Instead of attaching a page to the photo, some actors have their résumés printed on the back of the headshot.

        Just as your headshot should be as professional as you can make it, so also you’ll want to spend time on your résumé to make it look attractive, clean, clear, complete.  Think of your résumé like an audition, albeit an audition on paper, so be sure it is your best work.  This is your professional introduction and is crucially important:  Don't rush it.  Get your mentor or a friend to look at it and make suggestions.  Revise, re-format, improve.  When you've made it as neat and professional as possible, get it printed at a quality duplication service.  You can find some such services online (Acting Résumé Link and AuditionSearch Link), although it is hard to imagine a town without at least a Kinko’s and your public library undoubtedly has a photocopier.  (TipSave the original on your computer so you can revise and print off fresh copies as needed.)

Typical Résumé Format

        What does a actor's résumé look like?  Sites on the 'net can help you by showing you forms.  For instance, ActorBiz offers examples of headshots and résumés, the latter divided into beginners and advanced actors.  (Link.)  You also can see illustrations of actual actors' résumés in the section (below) of this Primer called  "Websites."

        (Tip:  If you use the word “résumé,” note the two accent marks.  You’ll appear less than literate if you omit them.  To make MS Word apply those marks, type “r” then hold down Control while you strike the accent mark—the dohicky below the quote marks.  Release Control, type “e” and—that easily—there’s the é.) 

        There’s a standard format for résumés that, while not a hard-and-fast rule, is typically followed.You use only one 8½” x 10” page, so arrange your space carefully.  The format will cover the following nine ingredients and typically are in this order.

        1.  Start with, logically enough, your name.  Boldface, center.  (Tip:  if you place your résumé on the Internet, search engines will pick up the first line.  Make that your name and consider adding “actor” or comparable descriptive terms such as "actor-singer-dancer.")

        2.  Beneath your name, also centered, list your professional affiliations such as SAG, AFTRA, Equity.  If you're not a member of a union, simply skip this entry.

        3.  Give your physical description—height, weight, hair and eye color, and vocal range.  If you’re a singer, specify the notes.  Non-singers will use a generic term like “baritone” or “alto.” Some actors include clothing sizes although that seems pointless to me. 

        4.  List contact information—your phone (or answering service) number, email address.  (If you don't have email, you're behind.  There are a zillion free email services.  To find sites that list most of them and tells you individual strengths and weaknesses, try "Free Email Addresses" at link or check "select sites" at "Free Email Providers Guide" at linkMy favorite email server is FastMail, which indeed is fast as well as being extremely dependable link.)  If you have an agent, put his/her name here under "Represented by...."  (Tip:  It is best to have a phone number in the same dialing area as the director’s.  For illustration, if you’re auditioning in New York, a 212 area code is best.  Consider using an answering service or a phone company’s voice mail.  And get into the habit of checking it regularly.) 

        5.  If you have a website—and if you don’t, get one!—include the URL so those to who you give your résumé can check your site for newer information than your résumé listed.  We’ll discuss websites in another section of this Primer, and you can link into it with the list of contents at the top of this page.

        6.  Experience.  This is the meat and potatoes of your résumé.  It also is the most difficult to organize because space is limited.  (Tip.  Because of space limitations, some actors use a smaller typographical font for their experience entries.)  Subdivide it into “film,” “television,” “stage,” “voice overs,” “commercials,” and “other” such as trade shows, theme parks, or cruise ships.  You’ll want to devise a table to organize the categories in columns.  This can be a bit tricky at first, so be patient.

Column One:  Name of play or movie.
Column Two:  Role you played.
Column Three:  Name and location of the theatre, the director’s name.  (It is common to save space by abbreviating "director" to "Dir.")  If you appeared with a “name” actor, that can be included here.  
Space is at a premium and it's hard to fit everything in.  Still, I'm one who wants to know where the actor played Cyrano.  If at a name theatre like, say, the Mark Taper Forum, that carries a great deal of weight.  If no theatre is named, the director may infer that means you performed at Poduck Polytech High.
(Tip:  Actors may tend to, um, “fudge” their experience to make it look more impressive.  Be very careful:  Theatre is a small village, and you might be surprised when the director says, “You were in the ATL production of Lear?  Hey, I was, too!”  I once saw an actress’s résumé that indicated she had played a lead for me.  Strange:  I didn’t remember that [matter of fact, she wasn't even in the show at all, minor or lead].  Another actor said he appeared in a play our theatre had produced.  Good play.  I wish we actually had presented it.  The point here is that if you aren't truthful, likely you'll get caught, which is destructive to your reputation (you do not want directors making you the butt of jokes at the local pub, and remember that word spreads easily throughout the small village).  If you're starting out, bear in mind that directors understand that young actors can't have accumulated a vast amount of experience, so you really don't need to, um, embellish the facts.  On the other hand, one actor says to pad the experience entry:  “Lie,” he says bluntly.  For his recommendation about successful fabrication and for a sample résumé, look here:  TheatreGroup Link.)

          By all means, if you're just starting out do list your college experience, but you can omit playing Carrot #3 in that grade school show.  As you gain experience, you can begin replacing the amateur productions with professional appearances.  This means you should be prepared to revise your résumé constantly.

        7.  Training.  Acting, voice, dance, workshops, scene study—where you studied and with whom.  If space permits, and if the training session was substantially long, consider indicating how long you studied.

        8.   Special talents.  List your special skills such as juggling, acrobatics, pantomime, dance, stage combat, ability to speak foreign languages, dialects, and the like.  You may be feeling a bit giddy from all this work but fight the temptation to get cutsie-funny here:  this is a professional record.

        9.  Theatrical awards and honors.

Cautionary tip :  Never put your social security number on public documents such as your résumé.  Identify theft is a major problem and the thieves are damned industrious.

Sample Résumés for You to Examine.

        Here are some sample actor résumés that you can study, see what you think is most effective, and develop your own.  You'll notice that each is different but yet the basics are covered. 

        Brad Friedman offers a clean, clear, distinct look.  Note the multiple photographs. Link

         The organization that Cortelious Youri uses is quite clear.  He has a link to his photos.  What do you think about the music?  Link

        Singer-actor Brendan O'Brien begins with a narrative, instead of the more typical outline, and follows that with a statement of vocal and stage strengths.  Link.

        Rosemarie Ballard's home page offers immediate links to her actor résumé and entertainer résumé.  Clicking the "actor" section leads to a typical organization of experience and training.  Link

        Jeff De Lucio-Brock intelligently gives directors the option of clicking a printable version of his résumé, a clear advantage.  He also has links for photographs of some roles he's played as well as short recordings of voice-overs.   Link.

        To find more actor résumés, Open Directory lists links to a large number of actors, living and dead, organized alphabetically.  This is probably the most convenient and complete site for you to see what your favorite pro is doing.  Link.  Google Directory has a shorter list, perhaps including some that Open Directory missed.  Link.

Links for More Information about Résumés.

       The 'Net offers links that can help you prepare your résumé.  Here are a few examples.

       The University of Alaska shows a sample template.  (Some specialization-- "Burp on demand"?!!)  Link.

       Audition Search.Com describes the ideal headshot and résumé, with samples for you to consider.  Link.

       For-pay aids.  I list here a few of the websites that help you prepare your résumé and post it on the 'Net.  A search will help you find additional resources.
       ActorResume.Com offers a template for you to create a résumé quickly and post it on the 'Net for $19.95 and up.  Link.
       Photo Call offers internet photo and résumé service for $50.00 (regular listing) to $100.00 (special listing).  Link.
       Actor.com also offers comparable services (with that attractive name) plus email for $99.00 annually.  Link  (But if they charge $99.00, why do they post all those advertisements?)

         I hope this material helps you prepare a killer résumé!  If there's a secret, quite likely it is simple:  don't rush.  Instead, take the time necessary to make your résumé a professional jewel.       

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