1. Choose a font that is simple and easy to read.
2. At the top, put your name, union status (SAG, AFTRA, AEA, etc.), website, contact info and/or agency info.
3. If you're non-union, don't write "Non-Union." You don't want to advertise that fact! Just don't mention anything about union status.
4. Many actors list their height, weight, eye & hair color, and age range. This isn't really necessary, because they can see your coloring and build from the photo. And NEVER mention your age - many people can play older or younger, but if a casting director sees that your real age (or range) is wrong for the part, they won't call you in!
5. Organize your resume into these sections: Film/TV, Theatre, Commercials, Training, and Special Skills. Set the section title apart in some way: bold, caps, or underlining. (Some people divide their Film/TV Credits up more: Film - Features, Film - Shorts, Television. In New York, it's common to have several sections for Theatre: Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional.)
6. For the Film/TV and Theatre sections, you should have 3 columns: Title of Show, Role, and Production Company/Theatre.
7. For Film/TV, don't list the name of the Role (e.g. "Audra"). Unless the casting director has seen each film, he won't know if you were the lead or just had one line. Instead, list the type of role: Lead, Co-star, Supporting, Principle, Featured. If you have even one speaking line, it's a principle. If you have no lines but are doing more than standard background work, it's featured.
8. Don't list standard background work UNLESS you have a skimpy resume. If you need to flesh out your resume, then instead of the type of role (Background), you'd list the character: High School Student, Reporter, Restaurant Patron, Opera Attendee, etc. Casting directors will catch on that it's background work, but it will at least show that you've been on set.
9. Under the Commercial section, simply write "List available on request." Don't list your credits. I know this seems odd, but it's the industry standard... Usually, people only want to know your commercial credits if they need to check conflicts. (Meaning, they want to know if you just did a McDonald's commercial before they submit you for a Burger King commercial.) The exception is: If you're just starting out and have mostly commercial credits but very few theatre or film/tv credits, go ahead and list them to flesh out your resume.
10. For each section of credits, list your jobs in chronological order STARTING with the most recent. An alternative method is to list all your STARRING roles first, then all your supporting roles, all the way down to your featured/background roles. (I prefer this method, because if I listed mine chronologically, it would go: Featured, Co-Star, Lead, Featured, Principle, Supporting, Featured, Lead, Lead, Lead... And this may seem weird to a casting director.)
11. DO list student films. Put them alongside your other films in the Film/TV section. Student Films don't usually have a production company name -instead, put "UCLA Student Film" or "NYU Thesis."
12. ...But DON'T list high school theatre! If you're fresh out of high school and you don't have much other experience, then it's okay. I would say that once you're out of college, definitely scratch all your high school credits.
13. Under training, list all acting, singing, or dancing classes/workshops you've taken, and who you took them with (instructor or studio name). If you have a degree in theatre, list it here.
14. Under Special Skills, list skills that you ACTUALLY HAVE. Any sports (basketball, martial arts, golf, gymnastics, snowboarding, etc.); musical talents (piano, saxophone, classically trained tenor, etc.); accents and languages (for languages, indicate level, e.g., "fluent in German, basic French"). You'll want to mention any special training you've had, such as military or medical. Other good examples of special skills are: sword fighting, stage combat, horseback riding, ballroom dancing, break dancing, juggling, waitressing, bar-tending, painting, photography, poetry, whistling, Michael Jackson impersonator, double-jointed elbows, can drive a manual transmission, can wiggle ears, can hoola-hoop for one hour straight. Basically, anything that not everyone can do! It's okay to be cute or funny in this section. But DON'T say you can do something that you can't, because you'll probably get called out on it!
15. DON'T LIE ON YOUR RESUME. While you can get away with listing a goofy video project you did with your friends as a short film, you can't say you had a speaking role in a major motion picture if you didn't! You will look very foolish if you get caught.
16. Keep your resume to one page. You can make really small margins if you need more room, but never exceed one page!
17. Trim your resume to 8x10 size - don't staple an 8.5x11" sheet to an 8x10" headshot with the excess hanging off. It looks sloppy and unprofessional. You don't need to print it on resume paper; plain white computer paper is just fine.
If you follow these tips, you can be confident that your resume will have all the info a casting director needs, and that you look professional! Good luck!
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