Rules for Creating an Acting Resume That Gets Noticed


Kameron Badgers on Set

When you work as an actor, it’s important to tell people what kind of role it was, and who directed the film or TV show you were in. Your character’s name may or may not be important. This is a series of photos of me on the set of a TV series, filming a scene for a movie against a white backdrop, and recording a voice over for a film.

It’s time to update my resume and demo reel, so we just sent some new footage to the video editor. And it’s time to update my resume, too. I’m 15, and a lot of casting directors hire actors over 18 to play kids who are 14-16 years old. So my agent and a couple of casting directors say it’s important to let potential casting directors know that I can “play younger”.

So, for the first time, my resume includes the filming dates and the age of the character I play. It looks different than any resume I’ve done before, but I’m told it’s a good idea.

Here’s a sample of what a resume showing the type of role, age range, character, and director should look like.

2015-2016 Film/TV:

  • Color Me You – Supporting (Art Festival Booth Worker, age 16) – Director, Marco Bottiglieri
  • Reagan: A Life – Supporting (Movie Theater Employee, age 16) – Director, Brad Osborne
  • TV Series I Can’t Name Yet – Recurring (Refugee Kid, age 10) – Director, Name I Can’t List Yet
  • Hilary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party – Supporting (Plantation Owner’s Son, age 10) – Director, Dinesh D’Souza
  • Missing – Supporting (Billy, age 13) – Director, Brian Mbipeh/Maria Golihar
  • Changed – Supporting (Joey, age 14)  – Director, Jackie Haidar
  • Hinge – Supporting (High School Student, age 16) – Director, Adam Dietrich
  • Into the Badlands – Supporting (Colt, age 10) – Director, David Dobkin
  • Ellie – Supporting (Young Sean, age 12) – Director, Alexandra De Rossi

After this, there’s a section for older film & TV roles, and for live performances. I don’t list commercials on my film/TV resume. (There’s a separate format for that, and my agent wants a separate resume for that.)

Kameron Badgers on Set

I play characters who are age 10 to 16. Casting directors like being able to cast someone who “plays younger”, so if you can play a range of ages, be sure to say so on your resume. In this group of photos, all taken within a few months of each other, I play a two 16 year olds (the two photos on the left), a 12 year-old (upper right), and a 10-year-old (lower right). The main difference for me is how I use my voice, and what kind of character I play.

If you’re putting together an acting resume, here are the rules I learned from my agent and from casting directors who have commented on my resume.

Rule # 1: Divide your acting credits by type.

List feature films, short films, industrials, television, theater, and commercials in separate categories.  Most actors have a commercial resume and a theatrical resume. Most film and television actors do not list modeling, theater or commercial credits on their resume.

You should talk to your agent about what to include on your resume – and what to leave off. Awhile back, I was waiting outside an acting class listening to one mother  bemoaning the fact that her son was only cast as a bully or a gang member. She showed a copy of his resume to the parents in the room, and it was obvious why casting people thought of him for those roles first: half of the one-page resume consisted of the karate, mixed martial arts, and boxing titles he’d won. Another parent suggested eliminating most of that and simply listing karate, mixed martial arts, and boxing among her child’s other skills on the resume.

Among the other things that your agent might (or might not) want you to omit from your resume are academic achievements, child beauty pageant titles, and catalog or print modeling jobs. The key here is to ask your agent – and if you don’t have an agent, ask an experienced professional acting coach or casting director what they want to see on the resume.

Rule #2: Use the right words.

Television, film, and commercials use different terms, and none of them use the same terms as theater. There are no Principals in film, and no Leads in a commercial. (Note that the word is principal, not principle. Spelling counts.)

Here are the words most casting directors look for:

FILM: Lead (or Starring), Supporting Lead, Supporting Featured, Supporting, Extra, Background

TV: Series Regular, Guest Star, Co-Star, Featured, Supporting, Extra, Background Note: Co-star and Guest Star roles can also recur, just add it (i.e. Recurring Guest Star, 6 episodes, Season 2).

Commercial: Principal, Featured

Rule #3: No one knows your character’s name.

Most of the casting directors who see your resume will have no clue about your character’s name — and even fewer will care.

All they care about is whether you were the lead, a supporting actor, or an extra.  If you want the name of your character in your credits, list it as Lead/Mary or Supporting (Mary).  Be consistent in your formatting.  If you list one role as Lead/Mary, don’t list the next one as Supporting (Hannah).

Of course, if you won an award, or are famous for a specific role, make sure the character’s name is on your resume.

Some casting directors want to know the name of the production company and director you worked with – especially  if  it’s a famous one. Here’s how to list a credit where the production company is important:

  • Into the Badlands – Supporting (Colt) – American Movie Classics (AMC), Director, David Dobkin
  • Salem – Recurring (Season 3 – Refugee Kid) – WGN Television,  Director, Nick Copus
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Recurring (Bobby) – FX Networks, Director Fred Savage

Rule #4: Don’t guess — don’t lie.

If you aren’t sure what kind of role you booked, ask your agent. No agent? Check IMDB or Google. You can bet the casting director will!

If you don’t have any credits to put on your resume, list your training and amateur experience (by amateur, I mean things like school or college plays, community theater, and student films), and get some experience as quickly as you can. Unpaid roles, student films, work as an extra, and other “blink and you miss him” parts won’t stay on your resume long — just enough to let the casting director know that you’re fresh talent looking for that all-important break. Replace them when you have more impressive credits to list.

Rule # 5: Always include the director’s name.

When you list your film and TV credits, the key information is the name of the film or television show, your role (lead, supporting, etc.), and the director’s name.

Other information, such as a particular TV show season or episode name, and the name of the production company, is optional.

Here are some correctly formatted examples.

Series Television:

The Mentalist — Guest Star – Director, Chris Long

Dallas – Extra – Director, Steve Robin

Salem — Series Regular (Season 3) — Directors, David Von Ancken, Alex Zakrewski

Film:

Daylight’s End – Supporting – Director, William Kaufman

Bonnie and Clyde: Dead and Alive – Supporting – Director, Bruce Beresford

Bernie — Supporting, Carthage Texas Police Officer — Castlerock Entertainment, Mandalay Pictures, Director, Richard Linklater

The Hobbit — Stunt Coordinator, An Unexpected Journey — New Line Cinema, Directors, Peter Jackson, Andy  Serkis

What Goes on a Resume (Besides Credits)

Besides your credits, here are the things that should be on an ADULT actor’s resume: Name,  email, phone number, agent’s name & contact information, union status (SAG, SAG-eligible, non-union, etc.), height, weight, eye and hair color, and other “vital statistics”. Note that age is not on this list for adult actors.

CHILD or TEEN actor’s resume has the same requirements as an adult’s resume, but must also include the child’s age, a parent or agent’s email and phone number instead of the child’s direct contact details, work permit status (state, expiration date if your state requires an annual permit), and Coogan Trust status (some states like California and New York require that a portion of a child or teen actor’s earnings go into a special trust fund that neither the child nor his/her parents can touch until the child is an adult, and you must have one set up in order to work in those states). Note that age is REQUIRED for anyone under the age of 18.

Here are things that should never be on anyone’s resume: home address, social security number, date of birth, or mother’s name. Why? Because they could be the keys to identity theft and other dangers.

Last, but not least, your acting resume should have sections for Special Skills & Talents (this is where you list things like military training, and the sports & performing skills that might make you sought-after for a role — anything from horseback riding to surfing, archery to juggling can be listed here), Training (acting-related education & classes/workshops go here if they are significant), and links to your online demo reel and any important sites like IMDB where a casting director could learn more about you.

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