Know how to market yourself
One of the first things you have to learn as an actor is how to sell yourself. Most actors fall victim of ‘type-casting’. You will have to get used to being typecast because your whole future career will be based on that. When looking at your headshot and CV casting agents will immediately study you and categorize you as either a ‘lead type’, ‘a character part type’, ‘housewife type’, ‘best friend type’, ‘geek type’ and so on. Get to know your best selling points and build your CV around that. Sometimes your CV may have to be redesigned to hightlight your comedy skills or even ‘show off your Shakespeare’. Having different drafts of your CV can help you market yourself in different ways when that time arises.
Keep it simple…and honest!
One of the best tips is to keep your CV simple and honest. Even if you have very little experience just be honest about it. Don’t ‘pad out’ your CV with fake roles and made up experience. Honesty is the best policy in this business and it counts for a lot.
If sending out a printed CV make sure you use good quality white or extremely light coloured paper. Remember the CV and headshot is your first contact with any casting agent or potential employer, first impressions mean a lot. Sending ‘dog eared’ letters and CV’s that look tatty won’t get you anywhere, no matter how talented you are.
Keep it to one A4 page
Make sure you keep your CV details to one page only. The industry needs to judge you almost instantly so sending them a four page life story of your acting work will only bore them. Keep it brief and to the point. And don’t cram numerous pages into one page by using a tiny font! If they can’t read it, it will end up in the bin.
Font and layout
Your CV should be typed and not handwritten. You may have the most beautiful handwriting but CV’s and cover letters need to be typed. Your CV should also be laid out and formatted properly. Use a large clear font for your name header. Make it big and bold and clear to read. For the rest of your CV use a clear readable font that is easy to speed read. Use a font size of around 12 pixels. All your CV details should be printed in black ink on white paper, so it’s easy for them to read and photocopy. Some actors try and ‘stand out’ by printing their CV in bright coloured fonts, which is always frowned upon.
Make sure there is some ‘white space’ on your CV by creating spaces after every section on your CV. This acts as ‘breathing room’ for the reader.
You should place all your contact details at the top of the CV. This should include your name, agent details and any contact telephone numbers or emails. Make sure that they are always updated. Using an incorrect or out of date phone number may lose you the role if you can’t be easily contacted.
Your actor CV should show details of your appearance such as your hair colour, eye colour, ethnicity, body build, and height. It’s also a good idea to write a discriptive word for your voice tone and quality. For example, is it ‘warm’, ‘friendly’ or ‘clear’? All this information, along with your headshot can provide the reader with a reasonably good description of you.
When sending out your CV, it’s crucial that you also send a professional headshot which is securely attached to the CV and covering letter. A good tip is to scan your headshot and include it on your CV page in the top right corner. They can then get a better idea of you when reading your stats.
It’s a good idea to include your drama training on your CV. Sometimes where you actually trained, or who you were trained by can account for a lot, even if your professional acting experience is limited. Your training also shows that you are serious about your craft so include it on your CV.
Your acting experience should be listed in reverse-chronological order starting with your most recent work. If you have very little theatre experience, be honest and don’t make up anything to pad it out. Lying on your CV may trip you up at the audition. The acting business can be a ‘small world’ when it comes to who you have worked with or been directed by.
If your experience is limited, list any school or college productions you have been in. All your acting experience is ‘experience’ after all. Keep your CV honest and accurate.
As you do more acting work, you can update your credits and lose the ‘college experiences’ one by one until it’s completely made up of professional work.
If you are lucky enough to have numerous productions and roles to list, just list the good parts. You can also distinguish them by putting them into theatre, TV and film categories.
Each acting role should list the year, the role, the production, the company and the director. And make sure this is consistent throughout your CV.
Accents and other key skills
If you can do any accent or dialect to a high professional level you should list them, if you can’t, don’t include them. It’s also important to highlight your ‘native’ accent whether it be ‘northern’, ‘Scottish’ ‘american’ or ‘cockney’. This can be extremely important for television work, especially if a production is set in your native area. The industry would rather know specifics, there used to be a fad to write ‘good ear for all accents’ – this translates nowadays to mean ‘can’t do any accent to a high standard’!
Also list any key skills that you may have such as presenting, singing, dancing, magic, horse riding, and even if you have a driving licence. Once again these small details may be exactly what casting agents are looking for and they can actually enhance your personality and grab their attention. Again, don’t fib about what you can and can’t do, don’t include stage combat, trapeze or acrobatics if you haven’t actually been trained in them!
Check that spelling!
Some actors don’t really check their CV for any spelling mistakes and some don’t see the mistakes when they proof read it. Get a second opinion and have someone proof read the CV and any covering letter. Check that you have the correct names for the production titles, playwrights, directors and character roles. A badly written CV doesn’t make you look very professional at all.
Cover letter and headshot
When you apply for an acting role make sure your CV always has a covering letter and headshot attached. This acts as an ideal introduction to both you and your CV, you can whet their appetite first before they read your CV, experience and skills. But keep your cover letter short and simple.
Also make sure that your details are securely stapled together as they can pass through many hands and departments when they reach thier destination. Make sure your CV and letter have your name and contact details on them in case they get seperated. Your name and contact details are also best placed on the back of your headshot too. When attaching your documents together, place your details in this order: cover letter on top, then headshot and then the CV. Line them all up together in the top left corner and staple securely.
Some agents require your CV to be fixed to the back of your headshot, which is very common in the United States, if this is the case you need to make sure your CV is the same size as your 8×10 headshot. We have some tips on writing a cover letter so don’t forget to check them out!
Updating your CV
It always important to keep your CV updated whether it is in printed form or on-line. Some casting agents we spoke to said that some actors have actually sent updated CV’s which have had the new details added with handwriting. This is not acceptable. Keep everything updated, neat and professional looking.
Examples of an actor CV
Below are a couple of examples of an actors CV. Just click on a link and take a look at the CV layout. You will see that the layouts are roughly the same, even though their experience and skills do differ. They are both easy to read and describe the actor and their experiences in a clear and concise way.