So, as you may have heard, I’m producing the first ever Cricket Feet Casting Actors Showcase right now. This is a LOT of work. And I am learning so much. I love it! Every day is different and the experience has already been one of the most gratifying I’ve ever had, as I’m working with one of the finest directors in town and a cast of some of my favorite actors on the planet. It’s just sincerely amazing. But that’s not what this week’s column is about. It’s about something that I’ve been doing as a part of the prep work for the showcase, with the actors in the cast.
We’ve been having these Self-Management for Actors sessions in which we go over headshots, resumés, demo reels, questions of type, discussions of best-matched representation for each actor, how to work the room, and other business-of-the-business issues. Not surprisingly, I’ve noticed that I’ve started focusing on these issues in conversations with actors at other various speaking engagements (including talks at the SAG Foundation, Industry RSVP events, and visits to various acting studios). In doing so, I’ve tracked some trends — no. Not trends. Mistakes — in selection of headshots, formatting of resumés, and content of demo reels. So, why not put together a list of quick fixes that you can do right now to make yourself more marketable? Why not, indeed!
Fix Your Headshot
I’ve said it before. I’m sure I’ll say it again. Your headshot is not a photograph. It is a marketing tool. Therefore, if your headshot is not helping you get work, it is costing you work.
Look, I know you want to choose the headshot in which you’re beautiful. But when you come into the room and lead with quirky, I’m just pissed that I called you in on the beauty role. I’d rather call you in on the quirky role and then note, “Ooh, she’s also a beauty,” as there’s often a benefit to casting a pretty gal in a quirky role. There is rarely a role in which we SEEK OUT the beauty and decide to “go quirky.” So, you need to lead with what you lead with.
If you come into the room quirky, I want your headshot to sell me that. If you’re the leading man’s wingman, I want your headshot to sell me that. Getting called in incorrectly because your headshot doesn’t match your primary casting type is just going to frustrate you (because you won’t earn a callback, no matter how much you rocked the audition, since the role was never intended for someone of your type) and me (because I saw you read for something you have no shot at getting, rather than for the role you would’ve been perfect for on the last project but for which I never called you in because your headshot didn’t show me how perfect you were for that role).
I don’t know how to make it any simpler than this: MOST actors SUCK at choosing their own headshots. And it’s because they’re letting their egos help with the decision-making process, rather than thinking about their “actor self” as a product and a headshot as “advertising.” Advertising that Dr Pepper tastes like Coke is a waste of money. Advertising that Dr Pepper is the nectar of the gods is better.
Fix Your Resumé
Have someone proofread your resumé. Seriously. HAVE SOMEONE PROOFREAD IT. I am not kidding. Yes, I know. You’re brilliant. You have a degree. You’ve used Spell-Check. I know all about it. For the love of all that is holy, will you PLEASE just have someone look it over? Do it for me. Wouldja?
Now why do I feel so strongly about this? Well… in four years of casting, I’ve seen major careless errors (y’know… like the actor’s NAME is missing from the resumé, there is NO contact information at all, entire SECTIONS are duplicated) in addition to the standard misspellings (ranging from the use of “principle” when it’s a “principal” role to improper spellings of famous directors’ names… y’know, like “Speelberg”). *shudder*
Okay, so beyond those proofreading-related issues, let’s talk about some others that are easily remedied right now.
In your TV and Film credits, always list BILLING, not character names. The only exception to this “always” is when you had a small, but very memorable role (for example, Haley Joel Osment played “Forrest Gump Jr.,” so only having listed “supporting” on his resumé back in 1994 would’ve been a mistake).
Avoid multitasking. Look, your acting resumé is just that: an acting resumé. I know you’re proud of the modeling jobs you’ve had. I know you really dig voiceover. I know hosting is fun and profitable. I absolutely get that you want to share tales from the trenches about projects you’ve written, directed, and produced. And your status as a major recording artist or touring standup comedian is cool. But NONE of that is going to help you get an acting job until you have reached a “certain level” in the industry.
In fact, indie film directors that see directing credits on an actor’s resumé worry they’ll have “on-set competition” from an actor who thinks he knows better than the guy hired to direct the film. Do me a favor and relegate your non-acting credits to a separate section of your resumé (make it part of your Special Skills area) if you can’t find the strength to let your acting resumé stand on its own.
If you have a demo reel, mention that it’s available to us. And if it’s available online, include the URL to your Actors Access profile page, your SpeedReels page, your MySpace page, or your personal website (wherever it is that your video is stored). You have no idea how long we may hold onto your headshot and resumé. And just listing that URL where we can find your latest footage could help you get an offer outright based on a previous meeting and the existence of your online reel.
In fact, listing your website address on your resumé is really a no-brainer (even if “your website” is currently parked at your online casting service profile or something of that ilk). What if you’ve left your agent or manager since we obtained your headshot and resumé? You may think it’s no big deal, but I’ve heard many nightmare stories about actors missing out on major opportunities because the calls went out to their former representatives, who — busily working for their current roster — have no interest in passing along the info. Yes, of course, we can look you up online, but if we’ve got a stack of a half-dozen headshots and resumés for this particular straight-offer role and three of them have URLs right there on the resumés themselves, why would we spend extra time Googling when we can just hit the exact spot we need right away and make the good call?
If you’re currently in an acting class, put the word “ongoing” or “currently” in parentheses after the listing on your resumé. You never know when we may want to check in with your current coach to find out whether you have the chops to do a particular role, when the credits on your resumé don’t reflect that level of work. Also, it’s good to show that you know you’re a work in progress! And if you’re in a play that is opening next month, include the dates and industry RSVP info, if you have the space on your resumé. If a film you shot is opening at a festival in the next couple of months, mention that! If we’re already planning to be there, we could make a point of checking out your work.
Finally, don’t be too clinical about it. I know that whenever I suggest a good dose of resumé Feng Shui, actors take out a hatchet and get rid of a LOT of stuff. That’s good. We like the white space. We like to focus on what’s important, rather than a laundry list of everything you’ve ever done EVER (more on that issue in the next section of this article). But don’t take out any sense of YOU that might have existed. This is where your Special Skills section can really be your best friend.
Yes, it’s where you’ll talk about your dialects, athletics, and related activities of interest, but it’s also where you can provide a little glimpse into who you are outside of acting. And since we want to cast actors who live rich, full lives, it behooves you to share a wee something that helps us “get you” better. Think of it as a chance to provide one quick “fun fact.” Y’know, that thing you’ll tell a story about when you’re on The Tonight Show. Yes. It may be silly. And you may be silly too. And then we’ll know that about you. And that’ll help us cast you more appropriately. Or at least set us off on a conversation starter.
Fix Your Demo Reel
The last item I want to cover actually applies to both your demo reel and your resumé, but I think it’ll make more sense in the demo reel example, so here it is.
NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH YOUR HOME MOVIES. NO ONE WANTS TO SIT AND FLIP THROUGH A SCRAPBOOK WITH YOU. Seriously. Even your mother gets bored, reviewing every page of every photo album you’ve ever put together.
And I understand that it totally breaks your heart to remove the clip of your work on M*A*S*H, but y’know what? That was a generation or two ago and no one is going to cast you like that now. I loved playing Cha-Cha in Grease when I was a teenager. And I clung to that credit on my resumé for over a decade. “I won a local theatre award for it, for cryin’ out loud! That was awesome! I’m not taking it off my resumé and you can’t make me!” Yeah. But no one in Los Angeles was looking to cast a nearly-30 plus-sized character actor as “the best dancer at St. Bernadette’s — with the worst reputation,” so it HAD to go.
It’s the scrapbook syndrome. You don’t want to choose a favorite among your babies. You don’t want to omit credits or footage from projects that were important to your career trajectory. Okay, I get that. But it’s very simple: IF IT’S NOT HELPING YOU GET CAST TODAY, it’s actually COSTING you work. So, on your resumé, if you have a dozen credits at a single theatre, get rid of the least prestigious. If you have a dozen co-stars and three guest-stars, get rid of half of the co-stars to show the industry you are now a working guest-star. If you have studio films, start losing those indies that didn’t do the festival circuit… and those student films should be long gone at that point.
Save the big, scrolling list of everything you’ve ever done and the “career tribute” clip-fest of every scene from every project that’s ever aired for a nostalgia section at your website. Take the one-liners off your demo reel (yes, even the one with Tom Cruise and the other one with Phil Hartman) and use a still from each of those clips in the closing montage. One of your most important jobs as an actor is showing the industry how to cast you. Your demo reel, your resumé, and your headshot are all TOOLS for accomplishing that mission.
Unless you refuse to use them as such. Then they just become obstacles between you and the roles you were meant for. And why CHOOSE to have more of those?
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000698.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.