An actor's CV

As casting director and author Bonnie Gillespie says, 'Your resume is not a list, it's spin.'

The CV (UK) or resume (North America) is a marketing tool edited to get you work. Never lie, but spin. Display the accurate and true facts in the order that they will best present you for the roles you want to be considered for. Some actors mistakenly think that to impress casters they should list as many projects as possible. On the contrary, this is a brilliant way to bury yourself in a sea of words. Help us by selecting your best and most relevant credits.

Organization

Make sure that all of the information on your resume is very clearly presented and itemized. CVs are laid out slightly differently in the US and UK. Lucinda Syson recounts a time when a US producer sat in on her casting session in London. All heads turned when the producer asked the actor if his hobbies were shopping and f***ing. That’s apparently what she thought it said on his CV. She didn’t realize that Shopping and F***ing is the name of a play by Mark Ravenhill.

Ignore rules that say you must list work strictly in chronological order and in a uniform way each time. Feature your most prominent work first. If your best leading role was last year, then put that project at the top, and list this year’s project, in which you played the supporting role, below it. It’s not a lie. It’s spin.

A professional resume is generally organized as follows:

• Name in bold at the top, with contact or agent contact information
• Height in appropriate measurements. (Remember that Americans aren’t familiar with the metric system and don’t know what a stone in weight is)
• Colour of hair and eyes
• Playing range, not age
• Union status: SAG (Screen Actors Guild) or Equity, etc. If you don’t have membership, skip the section entirely. (Sometimes non-SAG members are preferred on independent projects)

Employment history

Trim the resume to one page, itemizing selected credits neatly in three easy-to-read columns. List your best area first. For example, if you have many strong stage credits, push them to the top. Otherwise list as follows:

Film: List your best projects first. If your experience is limited, include student films and unpaid video work. Apart from naming the title of the project in the first column, there is no one right way to list your credits. In North America, actors often denote their billing in the second column. That means: lead, supporting, featured, or extra. Some actors list the name of the role, but that is less informative. Some actors simply list the project, the director and the company, without mentioning what they played in it. Make your decision based on what showcases you the best. In the third column, list the most impressive thing about the film. For example, mention the production company if it was produced by Universal Studios. If it was an unknown production company, but a well-respected director, like Gus Van Sant, then hustle his name into the column. If it was a small independent film produced by George Lucas’s company, then George Lucas gets the third column place. If everything about the film was unknown, except the star, then go ahead and mention that it starred Ben Kingsley or whoever.

TV: Thiscomes after film or can be listed under one heading, 'Film and TV'. If you choose to list your billing, the standard is: series regular, recurring, guest star or co-star. Your billing should be denoted in your contract, if you have any doubt.

Theatre: If you’re brand new on the scene, you can list school theatre. Everyone has to start somewhere. For theatre the three columns are play, role, and the name of the theatre company and/or director (whichever is better.) If you played a lead in an unknown play, feel free to write ‘Gary (lead)’.

Commercial/Industrial: If you have a long list of commercial credits you may want to write, ‘conflicts available upon request’. That way the commercial credits don’t overwhelm your CV if you’re trying to develop a film career. (Conflicts mean that when you’ve represented one brand of soap, you can’t appear in a commercial for another brand of soap in the same year.)

Training: Here you can list a university degree and any training courses or teachers with whom you’re studying. If you’re just starting out and your strongest suit is your education, you can list it at the top if you wish. Casters like to see that your training is ongoing.

Special skills: Your skills and interests can be important in the casting process but never lie. If you ride a horse, say at what level (intermediate, recreationally, professionally, etc). If you sing, that means not only that you can carry a tune but that you sing professionally. Mention your voice range (tenor, alto, etc.) Be sure that you can really do the accents you have listed. You may have to prove it at an audition. Say whether you speak a foreign language and at what level. Say whether you have a driver’s licence.

From Secrets from the Casting Couch, Methuen Drama (Bloomsbury)