Whether you’re applying to an agent, or submitting freelance for auditions, at some point you will need an acting CV. Your acting CV (or arts CV, or resume – same thing) obviously needs different content to a CV you would give to a retail or hospitality employer, but often it’s hard to know what to include and how to format it, especially when you feel like you don’t have much to include yet!
Let’s start with format. There are a zillion different ways to format an arts CV, so the smart thing to do is check your agent’s website before you submit to them and see if they have a preferred format. Sometimes agencies will list the people they represent and have an option for downloading their CV – so pick someone who is a similar age to you or has a similar background and check out how they’ve set theirs out and what they’ve included. Then check out some of the more experienced actors for more ideas. If the agent you want to submit to doesn’t have any CVs listed, have a look around some of the other websites to get ideas and choose a format you like. You’ll probably be asked to reformat it at some stage anyway, so just choose one that looks striking and presentable to you.
In general, your arts resume can include:
- Your name and contact details
- Title (e.g. actor/director)
- Physical attributes (and age if you want)
- Education/training (this must be ARTS-BASED, not just general high school education)
Then include sections as applicable (don’t include them if you haven’t done any!):
- Theatre (can include subheadings, eg. ‘Backstage’, ‘Theatre in Education’)
- Musical Theatre
- TV (can include commercials)
- Film (can include crew experience)
- Special Skills
- Other Information
You can choose which order to put the sections in – I’d recommend starting with whatever you’ve done the most, and finish with Other Information. Special Skills and Awards are usually towards the bottom as well. Credits are usually listed in descending chronological order per section, ie. Theatre: 2012, 2011, 2010; Film: 2012, 2011, 2010. Dates don’t need to be more specific than a year.
In regards to content, the most important thing is: don’t lie. It’s always quality over quantity. Agents don’t expect you to have a million things under your belt when you first start out. If you do, fantastic; if you don’t: never, ever make it up. It’s much better to have four good credits than ten average ones, and chances are you’ve got more to write about than you might think. Remember that as a performer, any skills you have are worth telling your agent about, because you may need them for a role.
Some ideas for fleshing out your resume in an honest way:
– In your Education/Training section, you can include not just acting but also any dancing, singing, or physical training you’ve done. Even if it was a one-week course, list it. Don’t make it sound longer or bigger than it was, just list it. Especially if it was run by someone well-reputed.
– If you can do (or naturally have) an accent or speak another language, mention that somewhere as well. A word to the wise – unless you have a natural accent or have worked with a vocal tutor for a long time to perfect a particular accent, don’t list it. It needs to be professional-level.
– Any arts-related work experience you have. Maybe you worked as a volunteer at a youth arts festival? Put it down. This is less for your agent and more for any independent auditions you might submit to – you may find that smaller companies may want to take actors who can also work in areas of production (typical cost-cutting, but it works in your favour). It also shows a level of passion and commitment to your chosen field.
– Any accreditations you have. Working with Children Check is a common one, but if you have your Bronze Medallion for swimming, that could be useful in water-based roles, so put it in ‘Other Information’.
– On that note: If you’re worried it’s not really relevant, just make sure it goes in ‘Special Skills’, ‘Other Information’ or ‘Interests’. That’s where you can tell them if you’re a cooking enthusiast or hockey champion. It’s not really arts-related, but if they’re looking for a character who plays hockey and cooks, it’s useful to them. Just make sure you only list it if you would be comfortable pretending to be an expert at it on screen, not if you just have a passing interest in it.
Whether or not you include it in your CV, at some point you will also need:
A biography (bio) is a paragraph describing who you are, what you’ve done, and what you want to be and do. It basically sums everything up in a really clear, concise way. I recommend either putting one at the top of your CV or in your cover letter. If you do a lot of stage work, you will use it again later when you’re asked for a bio to put in the show’s programme (so the nosey audience can read about what you’ve done). Bios are also used in grant or season applications – basically anything that you’ve signed onto that has to ask for money or permission from someone else before they go ahead – they will use your information to impress that third party with the calibre of artist involved in the project.
In writing your bio, again, choose quality over quantity – no fluffing – and keep it recent. When listing your goals, don’t go for delusions of grandeur – it will just make you look like you are either very arrogant or don’t understand the industry. Stick to 1-2 year goals.
Here’s an example:
Peter Stein is an actor and writer with an interest in early Twentieth Century plays [who you are]. He recently played Stanley Kowalski in TheatreLovers’ independent production of A Streetcar Named Desire [what you’ve done – recent, good quality]. He is currently working as both playwright and performer for the upcoming Blue Room Theatre production of All That I’ve Always Wanted [what you’re about to do]. In the next year, he plans to gain more experience in the film industry, both behind and in front of the camera [what you want to be and do].
You can clearly see from his bio that Peter is particularly interested in acting and writing and has been concentrating on those areas; he has a little bit of experience in the theatre industry and is on his way to getting more; and that he’s interested in film as well. An agent or independent producer can see in just a few lines whether Peter’s values and skills match what they are looking for. Ideally, this is what your resume should achieve as well, just in a different format.
Your bio and resume represent YOU. That’s why you don’t want to fill them with lies or exaggerations. You need to feel passionate about every single thing you mention. If an agent or director asks you about anything on there, you should be able to wax lyrical about your experience or your dreams (although keep some restraint if they do ask!). It is much, much better to have a short, concise resume full of good-quality things you’re proud of than a long, messy resume of half-assed things you did once upon a time. It’s quality, not quantity, that indicates professionalism.
So that’s a start! I’d recommend also checking your local library or searching online for pointers on how to write a good resume. Keep in mind that different countries, even different states, prefer different formats and content, but you can still pick up little tips that work for everyone. The arts and entertainment industry is not that different from other industries – a professional-looking and easy-to-read resume will always make your resume stand out from the rest.