Whether you’re planning to pursue small acting roles in your local theater or box office movie roles in Los Angeles, you need to know how to write a professional acting resume to land the gig. As an actor, your resume is your best marketing tool, together with your headshot. It’s what shows casting directors that you’re serious, professional and capable of fulfilling the role. A professionally written resume will give you a better chance of not losing out on those callbacks for roles in the film industry.
From Hollywood to the West End
To a degree, writing an acting resume is easier than writing a resume for other professions.
When writing an acting resume - or an acting CV - you don’t have to sell yourself or draw attention to specific achievements like you do for other industries.
However, if you want to be taken seriously as an actor, it is vitally important that you follow the very specific resume writing standards that are expected in Los Angeles and the acting world in general.
In this in-depth guide, we provide you with professional advice on all facets of the resume writing process for the film industry. This extends to:
- What to include in your resume
- How to present and format your resume
- The standard formatting principles for detailing your acting credits
- Step-by-step advice on including your acting training
- Advice and guidance on the most effective headshot to go with your resume
- How to write an acting resume with no experience
- Advice on which 'special skills' to include
- Tips for distributing your resume to casting directors and acting agencies in LA and across the world
- The best length for acting resumes
- How to include special skills
- And everything in between
What should be included in an acting resume?
- Start with your name. Don’t include the word ‘resume’ at the top of the document; your name will suffice as a title. This should be your stage name, not your real name.
- Include the name of the union you are affiliated with below your name. If you are not affiliated with a union, don’t include anything here.
- Below the name of the union, insert your phone number, including the area code. You may also add your email address if you wish.
- Next, move on to your physical details. Ideally, the physical details should be included in one neat line, below your contact information. Physical details extends to height, weight, hair and eye color. You should not include any other physical information.
These details are not optional. It’s important to include all this information at the top of your resume. Some people who are new to acting don’t include physical details, such as hair color. Visual appearance is a key factor in acting. Leaving out information that is expected on all acting resumes could have a negative impact on your search for acting gigs.
Take a look at the image below to get a visual idea of how the top of your resume should look. Notice that this example resume does not include the candidate’s age or address. Aside from the actor's name, union title and phone number, it only includes the four pieces of information that are necessary: height, weight, hair color and eye color.
Now that you have added your contact information and physical details, it’s time to delve into your acting credits. If you’re an experienced actor, this is where you show off your career highlights, whether it be starring in box office hits in Los Angeles or local theaters shows in your hometown.
Your acting experience should be separated into three parts: film, television and theater. Of course, if you don’t have experience in one or more of these spheres, just focus on the spheres you do have experience in. Ideally, you should prepare a different resume for each of these three branches of the acting profession. For example, if you have starred in Hollywood movies, sitcoms and West End theater performance, you should create three resumes, focusing on all three respectively.
Write your acting credits in reverse-chronological order, starting with your most recent role and working backwards. If you would prefer not to use the reverse-chronological format, that's fine. Some actors prefer to list their credits in order of significance, starting with the most well-known movies or TV shows. If you've starred in big movies in Los Angeles, but your recent roles are more low-key, it would be beneficial to start with the big Los Angeles movies.
The acting credit section doesn’t necessarily need to include your entire acting history. The amount of acting history you include will depend on your level of experience. If you’ve played multiple movie roles, you won’t need to worry about including high-school plays. On the other hand, if you haven’t got any acting experience, it would be beneficial to include such experiences.
If your resume seems to have a lot of empty space, don’t be tempted to include other work experiences that are not related to acting. These are not relevant and will negatively impact the effectiveness of your resume.
Try to put yourself in the position of the casting director. With hundreds, or even thousands, of resumes to get through you're going to want to see resumes that are concise and relevant.
How do you present your acting credits?
As previously mentioned, this will vary slightly depending on whether you are pursuing film, television or theater roles.
For roles in film, start by including the name of the film. Then include the type of role that you held (such as a “lead” or “supporting” role). Follow this with the name of the production company and the director’s name.
See an example of an acting resume's film credits in the image below.
Don't be tempted to add descriptions and provide further information about your acting credits, even if you think it could add value to your resume. The only details required are film title, your role, the name of the production company and the name of the director. Follow this format rigidly.
Presenting your television credits should follow a similar format to that of film. Include the name of the television show, followed by your role, the name of the network and the name of the director.
Take a look at the example of an actor's television credits in the image below.
The format of your credits changes slightly when it comes to your theater experiences. As with film and television, list the name of the show and your role/character name. Then include the theater company and the production location. It’s not necessary to include the name of the director, unless the director is a recognized leader in the theater world and drawing attention to him/her could add value to your resume.
The image below demonstrates how your theater credits should be presented in your resume.
Follow this process until you have included all of your relevant acting credits. Don’t be tempted to include specific details anything else. It’s not expected or necessary. The information included in the resume example shown on this page contains everything casting directors and acting agencies need to see.
Aside from the film, television and theater credits section, the rest of your resume will follow the same format regardless of the type of acting you are pursuing.
The next section...
How to Include Education and Training in an Acting Resume?
Below your acting credits, including your acting training. Detail any acting classes, workshops, courses or even degrees that you have completed. You may also include any seminars you have attended or any private acting sessions you have participated in.
In many cases, agents and casting directors look through resumes for acting teachers and acting schools that they respect. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get high-quality acting training under your belt from respected professionals in the acting industry, if you haven't done so already. If you don’t have acting experience, it would be very beneficial to complete such training and draw attention to it on your new resume.
How do you present acting training on your resume?
Unlike resumes for other professions, acting resumes have a very specific formula you should follow when listing your training.
Start by including the name of the acting teacher or the organization. Follow this with the type of acting training you completed. These might include vocal, movement, improvisation or classical acting classes. Finally, include the location.
Present the education and training details in reverse-chronological order. As previously stated, this means starting with your most recent training and working backwards. If you’re currently taking acting classes, include them too with the words ‘ongoing’ or ‘in progress’ in brackets.
Don’t feel the need to go into other training that isn’t relevant to acting. Casting directors aren’t interested in health & safety training from your previous career or your high school grades. Ensure acting is the focal point of your resume.
Below is an image that shows how your education and training section should look on your resume.
How to Include Special Skills in an Acting Resume?
This section is a good chance to make your resume stand out from the crowd. Here, you can highlight your proficiencies that casting directors might be looking for and that other actors might not possess. The special skills section is the final section to include in your professional acting resume. This is a fairly simple section, where you list specific acting skills you have acquired.
What are special skills?
Special skills are capabilities you have obtained that could be relevant to acting, in the areas of sport, languages, music and accents. These may include foreign accents, martial arts ability, singing, instrument proficiency, vocal range and languages. If you’ve mastered an Australian accent, ensure to detail this in the special skills section. Or if you’re trained in ballet dancing, write ballet as a special skill. These are skills that may be required for certain acting projects; including this information on your acting resume can be the difference between securing the acting gig and getting turned away.
Some special skills are more relevant to others. Accents and dialects are recognized as very useful special skills on your acting resume. Power lifting, however, would not be. A knowledge and capability with firearms is also desirable, as is combat training. How often do you see firearms in movies, compared to the amount of times you see characters power lifting? Recognize which special skills in your arsenal are the most relevant and include those ones first.
If you have mastered certain acting techniques, such as the Meisner Technique or the Stanislavski Technique, ensure to draw attention to those. Other acting techniques and proficiencies that you might want to add to the special skills section include method acting, the Chekhov Acting Technique and the Lee Strasberg’s Method.
As you’re probably aware, you can greatly improve the impact your acting resume has on casting directors and acting agencies by including certain skills. If you’re an inexperienced actor with little to no experience, it’s time to get out there and acquire these skills.
Whichever skills you decide to include here, make sure you are completely proficient at performing them. You should have mastered these skills and be ready to use them at the drop of a hat. There is a strong chance you will be asked to demonstrate the skill at some point, so if you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so, don’t include it.
Skills included here should be potentially relevant to acting; don’t include other soft skills, such as ‘communication’ or other skills that you would not need to use in acting. For example, you might be skilled at forestry work, but it is highly unlikely that you will need to employ the skill as an actor.
Here is an example of how a special skills section should look on your resume.
How to write an acting resume if you have no experience?
If you’ve recently decided to become an actor and you have no acting experience, don’t worry. Even the best actors had no experience at some point in their lives.
You’re not signed up to agencies in Los Angeles yet and you haven’t built key connections in the movie industry, but you’ve taken the first step. And sometimes the first step is the most important one.
But how can you prepare an acting resume when you don’t have any experience?
Having no experience isn’t as big of a problem as you might think. Everyone has to start somewhere, and casting directors understand this.
However, having a poorly prepared and presented resume is a big problem.
When you have no experience, the key is to make other areas the focal point of your resume, such as your acting training, special skills or physical details.
Acting training is a fantastic second best to include on your resume. If you’re eager to establish a career in acting, you have likely completed various acting classes and workshops. These will show casting directors or acting agencies that you're serious about acting and taking active steps to build your capabilities as an actor. The more training you can get under your belt and on your resume, the more effective your resume will be.
There is only one way to do this.
Sign up to acting classes. Search for acting workshops in your local area. Get yourself out there and complete more training to fill out your acting resume and demonstrate your commitment to acting as a profession.
This is one of the most important aspects of resume writing for actors with no acting experience.
If you want to improve your resume even more, find the best training available. This not only enhances your acting skills, but it also gives you a better chance of impressing casting directors.
When casting directors and agencies scan through actors' resumes, one of the key things that catches their eye is training from respected acting teachers and schools. As such, it’s a great idea to try to train and learn with renowned acting teachers and schools. Having training from these recognized schools on your resume will be sure to impress.
But which acting schools and teachers would be the most impressive on your resume?
It depends on your location and the resources available to you. There are many great acting schools and teachers across the world, who have played key roles in the development of award-wining actors. If you’re in Los Angeles, The Sanford Meisner Center has had great success throughout its history, teaching actors including Sandra Bullock and Christoph Waltz. Of course, Los Angeles also boasts a long list of other fantastic acting schools and teachers. It’s up to you to do some research and find the one that would add the most value to you and look best on your resume.
Another way of ensuring your acting resume makes an impact is to include any ‘special skills’ that you have mastered. The ‘special skills’ section, which is explained in more detail above, gives you a chance to demonstrate specific qualities that casting directors might be looking for. These could include accents, dialects, singing, sports and dancing. There have been many cases of actors with no experience gaining roles in high-profile movies via their special skills. As an example, acting gigs have been snagged solely as a result of martial arts proficiency.
As a final note on writing acting resumes when you have no acting experience, you should ensure that your resume contains all the information that casting directors or agents need. If you don't adhere to the standards that are expected when writing a resume for acting gigs, you might be fighting a losing battle.
Formatting, fonts and layout for acting resumes
Weakly formatted and presented resumes don’t generate a great deal of success in the acting industry. They scream 'amateur' and they might cause the casting director to wonder how much time you have invested in preparing your resume.
Are you eager to demonstrate your professionalism? If so, ensure you produce a high-class resume. This way, you’ll show the casting director or agent that getting that gig is important to you.
Keep the layout and presentation of your resume simple. Don’t try to improve it with fancy graphics, colors or images. This won’t have a positive impact on the reader.
Avoid uncommon fonts that make the text appear unprofessional. Instead, use easy to read fonts, such as Calibri, Times New Roman or Arial. These are standard fonts that are commonly used in various professions. Fonts that are overly elaborate result in your document appearing amateurish, and in some cases unreadable. Additionally, ensure your fonts are always black in color while keeping the font size between 10.5 and 12.
As with colors and graphics, don’t include icons on your resume. Although these are often used in resume writing for other professions, they are not expected or necessary in the acting profession.
Your resume's margins should not be too wide or too narrow. Aim for between 2 cm (0.78 inches) and 2.5 cm (0.98 inches). Of course, the margin sizes may vary depending on the amount of content you have to include, but try to keep them at reasonable dimensions.
Spacing is also important. Use at least a line of space or 4 pt. spacing between sections for ease of reading. Avoid cramming an overload of text onto the page. If there is too much text squeezed into your resume, the key information will be difficult to locate and read.
On the other hand, ensure your document doesn't contain an excess of white space. You don't want a half a page of white space, as this draws attention to the fact that you have little information (experience) to include. The key with white space is not too much and not too little.
Furthermore, ensure the section headings stand out and are clearly defined. To do this, make the fonts larger and use the 'bold' option.
Acting resumes should be one page in length. No matter how much experience you have acquired during your career, never exceed the one-page limit. If necessary, remove content to trim down your resume.
If you already have an acting resume, apply these basic formatting and layout tips to the document and you will instantly enhance the professionalism of the resume.
If you have no acting experience, follow these formatting tips closely to ensure your resume is professional and polished.
Professional Resume Writer's Tip: To ensure the three columns of information on your resume remain equally aligned, use invisible tables. To insert a table on Microsoft Word, select ‘Insert’, then click ‘Table’, and then select a table of three columns. Then make the table invisible by highlighting the table, selecting ‘Table Design’, and then selecting ‘No Borders’. This will ensure the three columns of information on your resume are equally aligned in the neat table columns, while hiding the unattractive outline of the table.
Print your resume
Acting is one of the only professions that still prefer hard copies of resumes. This is especially true in the theater industry. Print your resume and staple it to the back of your headshot. Don’t use paperclips; if they come off, your headshot and resume will get separated and ultimately end up in the trash.
As an actor, your headshot is a representation of your professional brand. It communicates a great deal of information to casting directors about your appearance, age range, professionalism and socioeconomic status. Alongside your new resume, your headshot is a crucial part of your arsenal.
What should a headshot look like?
It's simple, really. Casting directors want to see a headshot that looks like you. While it should give an impression of the characters you may play, it needs to be a photo of what you look like on your best day, an accurate representation of yourself.
An effective headshot should also give an essence of your personality. You don’t have to look great, you just have to look like you. If that includes wrinkles and grey hairs, then that’s what your headshot needs to show. Don’t retouch the image, wear costumes or change your appearance for the headshot.
Casting directors are inundated with headshots and resumes on a daily basis. As such, your headshot needs to stand out and follow the recognized industry standards. Keep it professional, ensure it is engaging, avoid low-end headshot services and make sure your eyes are the window to the soul.
The recognized industry dimensions for a headshot are 8 x 10 inches. Don’t deviate from these dimensions. As previously mentioned, adhering to established standards speaks about your professionalism and knowledge of the industry. To make the headshot and resume fit evenly together, trim your resume down to the same dimensions as the headshot.
Distributing your resume
Now that you’ve written your resume, it’s time to get it in front of agents. Identify the agencies you would like to target - whether they be large Hollywood acting agencies or individual agents from out of town - and find out if they are accepting submissions. If they are, send off your resume in line with their submission requirements.
Despite agencies being swamped with submissions, most of them are always on the lookout for quality talent. And they will always need to acquire new actors. If they didn’t, they probably wouldn’t be able to meet the requirements of their clients.
Use your new resume to network with others professionals in the acting industry. Attend events that casting directors and writers will attend and try to engage with them. Additionally, don’t forget to utilize social media to build your professional network.
Acting resume example
We have prepared an acting resume for you to use as an example while creating your own resume. This example resume is an exact replica of how your acting resume should look.
If you have any questions about writing your acting resume, please feel free to get in touch with our resume writers here.