Your Acting Resume: A Beginner's Guide (with FREE downloadable template)
In this business, your acting resume is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have at your disposal. You get one page to tell them where you've been, and what you can do.
On this page, we have created a beginner’s acting resume template - all you need to do is download it and plug in your credits. Scroll down the page to access this template.
(And while it has been created for beginners, it’s also suitable for more you experienced actors. You’ll have more credits to put down, but the format remains the same.)
But what if you have no experience as an actor? How do you write a resume if you have nothing to put on it?
To answer that question, we first need to talk about WHY you need an acting resume at all…
What is the purpose of an actor's resume? For you as a beginner, it's to show agents and casting directors that you are serious about this business. How do you do that?
Simple… you start by going out and gaining experience. Rack up a few credits in your local area. Go out and do a few student films. Do some theatre. Take a few classes. In fact, ALWAYS be in some sort of class. Always.
All of that is experience that you can proudly put on your acting resume. Now agents and casting directors can see that you've been doing this acting thing for a while now - at least a year or two. That shows that you have discipline and commitment - that you're a real go-getter!
In order to build your resume, you first have to have credits to put on it. Just two or three to start.
Blend In - Don’t Stand Out
The objective of your resume should be to BLEND IN. As an actor, you’ve been taught to do whatever you can to grab the attention of casting directors - to STAND OUT. But not with your resume.
Your resume needs to demonstrate that you are a professional - even if you’re a beginner. It needs to demonstrate that you know the industry lingo used by all acting business insiders.
Take the resume template we have provided below, and follow it to the letter. If you try to stand out you will appear try-hard, desperate, childish - you’ll look like an amateur. And no one wants to work with an amateur. It’s too risky.
Anatomy of your Acting Resume
Before we get started, here are few basic rules...
- One page: You only get one single-sided, 8” x 10” page for your resume, that’s it.
- Three columns: Not two. Not four. THREE. Each column will have a different heading, depending on the section.
- Keep it simple: Use black and white - no color. Use a font that is simple and easy to read - sans-serif only. No unnecessary borders, shading, dividing lines, et cetera.
- No personal information: Do not list your address, age, social security number, or any other info that identifies you personally.
- White space: Your resume should feel roomy, with lots of white space. No need to cram in every single credit since kindergarten.
- Your Name in all caps, in large font at the top.
- Your union status - if you belong to a union or are eligible. If you are not affiliated with a union, don't write "Non-Union" - just leave it out.
- Your website, if you have one.
- Let’s talk about links. Your finished document will be a PDF. That means any links you include can be clicked on by casting directors. See the video below entitled “How to Use this Template”.
- Put down your contact info. Use your cell phone, and indicate that you are able to receive calls and text messages. Also put down your email address.
- If you have an agent or manager, put down their contact info instead. More discussion about this in the FAQ section below.
A few notes about this section...
It used to be customary to include info pertaining to height, weight, hair and eye color. We no longer do that. Most of the time, it's not helpful to you as an actor. It can take you out of the running for roles. However, if it's unique to you - you're 8 feet tall, or you have one green eye and one blue - you may wish to put that down. If they want to know, they will ask.
If you are uncomfortable putting your personal phone number on your resume, consider signing up for a Google Voice number - then forward all calls to a confidential number.
Some actors will include a small photo of themselves in this section. There are differing opinions on this tactic - some pros will say it's helpful, while others will say it's a waste. We have left it out of this template for simplicity's sake. We suggest you follow suit.
- If your ambition is to work in film and/or TV, then either of those sections should come first. As a beginner, you probably won't have enough credits to justify separate categories. Therefore, we combine TV and New Media into one section.
- For Film, you use your three columns to list the title of the film, the size of your role, and the director / studio. (e.g: “Steven Spielberg / DreamWorks)
- For TV, it’s very similar. You list the title of the project, the size of your role, and the producer / network.
- For theatre, it’s a little different. You list the title of the play or musical, the character you played, and the theater where it was produced. If the director is recognizable, include their name in the third column as well. If the play is not well-known, you’ll need to indicate the size of your role in the middle column. Put it in parentheses next to the character’s name. (e.g: Lead, Principal, etc.)
- After that come your theater credits in a separate section.
- List your strongest credits FIRST. List your credits strongest to weakest.
A few notes about this section...
Only put down roles that you could play again - right now - at a professional level. If a professional company would not hire you to play that character right now - either because you’re age inappropriate, not the right ethnicity, or otherwise not believable - don’t put it down. The job of your resume is to teach them how to cast you.
Actors tend to get emotionally attached to their credits - and therefore, want to put down every single credit. This is a mistake. No one cares as much about your credits as you do. Be ruthless, be efficient, be smart.
- The proper heading for this section is ‘Training’. Do not write ‘Education’.
- The left column is the subject of the class. Not necessarily its title. If the class was titled “Improvisation for the Well-Rounded Actor” - just put “Improv”.
- The middle column is who taught that class.
- The right column is where you took that class.
- Do not put down the when or where. Do not put down any other information at all.
- Workshops, master classes, intensives, and online classes do not count as training. They do not belong in this section. They belong in the next section...
Special skills are skills that make you more castable. These are skills required for the role, but that producers do not want to train the actor. They want the actor to already have that skill coming into the job.
Do you play a musical instrument? Do you speak a foreign language? Are you an athlete? Can you speak with a specific accent? Do you have martial arts or weapons training? All of that can be included within this section.
What COUNTS on your resume?
When you’re a beginner? EVERYTHING. Community theatre, student films, that web series shot on your iPhone... Any project that you worked on to improve your chops as an actor COUNTS to put on your resume.
There are exceptions to this rule: no background work, and no stand-in work. That’s not really acting, and it doesn’t belong on your resume.
You know what else doesn’t count? Projects you haven’t done. Do not lie on your resume. Ever. You will get caught.
How to Send your Resume
Once your acting resume is complete, it’s ready to send out. But before you send it, you have one more step to take. You need to convert it to a PDF. Why?
Think about it. Part of your job as an actor is to make other people's job easier. Don't make an agent or casting office go cross-eyed trying to read your shoddy formatting. That's being a savvy business professional.
If you send you resume as a Word document, it may end up looking like a mess when opened by the person receiving it. Is that the impression you want to leave with an agent or casting director?
But if you send your resume as a PDF, all the hard work you put into it - the formatting, the font selection, the margins, the character spacing - all that hard work will be perfectly preserved for the person receiving it.
Wondering how to convert to a PDF? Please watch the video below entitled “How to Use this Template”. It’s covered at the end.
What section comes first?
Typically, it’s film. Followed by TV or New Media. Then Theatre. There is some wiggle room here, depending on your career goals. Always follow your credits with Training. Special Skills come last.
Should I put my photo on my resume?
There are differing opinions amongst industry pros. Some hate it, while some others don’t mind. We think you should leave it off. Your headshot is literally stapled on the back, so there’s really no need.
Should I put down my union affiliation?
Yes, if you belong to a union. You should also put down if you are union eligible. Do NOT put ‘non-union’. This information goes at the top.
Should I list my credits in chronological order?
NO. Lead with your strongest credits first.
My agent told me to leave my contact info off - should I follow their advice?
When an agent tells you to take your personal contact info off your resume, he is operating from a place of fear. He is afraid that he will be cut out of the loop, so he wants all communication to filter through him.
The problem with that - you are not your agent’s sole focus. He has other clients. He has a life. He will sometimes miss things.
If you must, print a couple hundred resumes without your contact info on them and give them to your agent. Then print the rest with your contact info on them, and keep those for yourself.
I did such-and-such project, but didn’t get a credit. Can I still put it on my resume?
Did your name appear in the opening credits? How about the credit reel at the end? If not, then you may NOT put it on your resume. By definition, you didn’t get a credit.
What is ‘New Media”?
This is a newer category - it encompasses anything that is not traditional TV - web series, music videos, streaming video, etc.
Resume Tips for More Experienced Actors
Now, onto you more seasoned professionals. Here is a laundry list of resume requirements...
- Leave your height and weight OFF - it can sometimes disqualify you for a job. (Unless your agent or manager requires it.)
- TV, Film, New Media are separate categories
- Put ‘Partial List’ next to the category (Film, TV, New Media) when you have too many credits to fit
- Do not put the names of characters anywhere except under theatre credits. (DO NOT list characters names under TV, New Media or Film.)
- New Media and Film do not go together
- There is no such thing as ‘Principal’ in film - only Lead or Supporting.
- For Film - Last column should be the director, production company OR the network - whichever is more recognizable. Otherwise, just put the director.
- For TV, here are the categories…
- Series Regular - This means you were in every episode
- Recurring - This means you were in several episodes
- Guest Star - This means you worked 3 to 5 days
- Co Star - This means you worked a single day
- NOTHING ELSE (NO principal, NO supporting)
- New Media is billed the same as TV - see above
- It’s ‘Training’ - not ‘Education’
- Training should be formatted into 3 columns - not bunched all together
- Do not list where you trained
- Do not list when you trained
- 1st column is what class you took: e.g: ‘Scene Study’
- 2nd column is WHO you took that class with - the teacher
- 3rd column is the name of the school where you took that course
- Never list extra work / background, ever
- Never list stand-in work, ever
- Never use the word ‘Featured’, ever
- Do not list your commercials - just put ‘Conflicts available upon request.’ OR ‘Commercial reel available upon request.’ (If you have a commercial reel)
- Make sure you add your website and email to the bottom
The most important thing to remember here is that your acting resume is a marketing tool. It’s not a list of every credit you’ve ever racked up. Experienced actors tend to get emotionally attached to their credits. Don’t be afraid to lop off that one Co-Star you did twelve years ago if it no longer fits.
Your resume should tell casting directors how best to cast you. Your previous credits should be serve as a roadmap to your next job.
When you cram all of your credits onto the page, you smell desperate. You look like you’re trying too hard.
Don’t fear the white space. Be simple. Be elegant. Be confident. Teach them how to cast you.
The Importance of Getting It Right on your Acting Resume
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “This is all a little nit-picky, isn’t it? Why do all these little details matter?”
Here’s why - The people that you are targeting with your acting resume are industry professionals. They have the power to invite you - or NOT invite you - to work with them. And when they invite you, they are taking a risk. They are risking their money, risking their time, and most importantly - risking their reputation.
These professionals have their own language. And when you don’t speak their language on your resume, you are telegraphing just how BIG of a RISK you are. When you get it wrong, the pros will say…
“She’s an amateur.”
“No thank you.”
But when you speak their language, you put them at ease. They feel reassured that if they invite you to audition, you are a seasoned professional who won’t let them down.
BE that professional. PUT them at ease. MAKE their job easy. WIN this game.