Actor Resumé Questions

One of the major reasons for choosing this week’s column topic (outside of having just done the workshop at SAG) was that my inbox is always bursting with resumé-related questions. Here are some of them!

Hi Bonnie,

I really liked your Confidence article and definitely identify with it at times. I had a quick question about my resumé. Before I had a chance to read your on-camera column, I did a two-month stint at the NYFA, and have since auditioned and been training at a reputable school for the last six months. Would it be best for me to take NYFA off my resumé? I remember you saying that having an unreputable place on my resumé may close some doors. Any advice is much appreciated.

Also, if I was an extra in a professional show, but received some good camera time, is it best to put “featured”? Thank you.

Best,
Anthony Bradford Bisignano

Definitely list instructors rather than the institution if you’ve trained at any of the less-respected places. That way, you still get to show you’ve had training, but you avoid the kneejerk reaction that many will have, simply by seeing the “bad letters” on a resumé. When we see on a resumé any of those “package schools” that pass themselves off as “scouts” in malls, we think, NEWBIE! And that’s fine, but if you now know better, your instincts are right about minimizing the damage.

“Good camera time” as an extra is good fun. Family back home can call and tell you how proud they are, having seen you on their favorite show. It’s not acting work, though. So it doesn’t belong on an acting resumé. Calling it “featured” just cuts into the legitimacy the actual contract term “featured” has on a principal actor’s resumé.

Don’t rush to be a principal actor before you’re ready. Own the credits you have and build speaking role credits legitimately. Calling extra work “featured” on a resumé is telling a lie. Start off on the right foot in the industry by waiting to share your first principal acting credit when you get it, and leave off the extra work, knowing it was a good time, lots of laughs, good learning, and a paycheck. Don’t try to make it more than that.

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Hi Bonnie,

I have a question about the IMDb Resumé service. I was thinking of using that service but I didn’t know if that would be a premature move since I have no credits. I am not sure if it would be a great way to get seen or not. Is this service better to invest in once I have some credits like student films, shorts, theatre, etc.?

Thanks,
Yolanda Allen

I think IMDb Resumé is a great service if you already have an IMDb page (with credits recognized and linked up by the IMDb staff) and have a significant number of credits not recognized by IMDb (spec pilots, Internet projects, commercials, stage work, etc.) but certainly recognized and sought out by the industry.

By adding those credits to your IMDb Resumé page, you show “what else you’ve got” that’s not showing up on your standard page. (Of course, you can also use the Other Works section of your IMDb page to accomplish this task, even if that’s not how the staff of IMDb might prefer to see you use it.)

Basically, if you have no existing IMDb credits, creating an IMDb Resumé page is not suddenly going to give you “industry legitimacy.” We know the difference between a linked-up IMDb page and a resumé page that happens to be hosted at IMDb. It’s no different than having your own resumé page anywhere else (Actors Access, your own website, any of the online services), so decide if that makes it worth the cost at this stage in your career.

* * *

Hi Bonnie!

First of all, I want you to know how much I am loving reading your columns. I have recently moved to LA and I am finding them to be a tremendous resource! Thank you so much for being so generous and providing us with so much useful information!

One thing I have a question about is: the resumé! I moved from a smaller market where I did quite a few small, independent films. I am not sure how much of this to include on my resumé. I have heard a lot of people say it’s best to emphasize quality over quantity. If this is the case, what is a good standard to use in determining what stays on the resumé and what is left off? IMDb credits, the size of the role, whether or not we think the film turned out well? If you are new and you put a lot of “indies” on your resumé — do people see that as a valid credit in this market? I would love to get your thoughts and feedback on this topic!

Thank you again for being such a great resource for actors!
Ashley Ledbetter

Let’s start with the cold, hard fact that none of your out-of-market credits really “matter” once you’ve moved to LA. I know that sucks, but it’s true so why hide it? 😉 So, knowing that very little of what you’re showing on your resumé is going to make that big of a difference to anyone here anyway, hopefully that should make your choices of what to keep and what to cut a whole lot easier!

There are some projects that weigh more on your resumé than they do on your demo reel (and vice-versa). Some things look GREAT on a demo reel but won’t really help you on a resumé. And some things won’t matter either way, so you can just let go of worrying too dang much about what you do.

If the film turned out great, you should have great tape. Good. That’s a powerful demo reel piece and its weight on your resumé might not compare. If the project is on IMDb, great. Verifiable work from a minor market. That’s awesome. Size of the role is important when you’re trying to steer someone toward how to cast you next (if you feel you’re leaving the supporting roles behind and headed into LEAD-land, you’d want to minimize those supporting credits), but there’s a whole column above about that.

Since everyone will assume that every film listed on your resumé (unless they recognize the title and remember having seen it in a theater or on a Netflix list) was an indie or student film (whatever your market), I wouldn’t worry too much about how anyone feels about those credits. List them in order of “weight” on your resumé and start cutting from the bottom when you book your next gig. It’s okay to have credits that make you look “new to town” when you are, in fact, new to town (and even after you really aren’t anymore, sometimes). Just make your resumé its strongest.

* * *

Bonnie,

Thanks for sharing all your knowledge and wisdom with us. I just learned about identifying the “logline” for an actor. Should I include this under my name on my resumé or headshot as long as I know that it is accurate or should I refrain from including it?

Thanks for everything!
The Camarillo Kid
Chris Formby

Your logline is as useful to you as identifying your type is useful to you. That means, do this, learn this, figure this out (write your own breakdown, do your type research, hire a professional, whatever) and then let that inform how you shoot and select your headshots, how your craft your cover letter, which credits to include on your resumé, how to edit your demo reel, on which roles to submit, etc.

This is good information to have, as it helps you navigate the waters of this business with a bit more focus. But you never need to tell US your type (or your logline) because we’re already pretty sure of what that is just based on seeing your headshot and picking up your vibe. It’s what we do.

The information you’ve gotten is great for informing you in crafting the materials you show us so that we get your vibe most efficiently. Use it for yourself, but don’t subject others to it, lest you convince us you’re something other than the exact type WE know you to be.

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Hello Bonnie,

I’m a weekly reader and love your column on Actors Access. I appreciate the advice you give to us actors and the fact that your personality shines through and makes for a fun read!

My question is about screen credits and the resumé. Last spring I was working as an extra on the TV show Unhitched (previously: The Rules for Starting Over) and was given a Taft-Hartley after an upgrade to a singing waiter. This gave me SAG eligibility and a nice paycheck for the day but is this something I can put on my resumé? You can barely see me onscreen and there wasn’t much acting, but I was listed as a co-star in the credits (Waiter #3; you can download the pilot episode free on iTunes).

Thanks for your time and feedback!

Matt Clark

Absolutely! You booked a job that came with a surprise upgrade! Yay! And you did the work and got the billing and your Taft-Hartley letter and your SAG eligibility and all sorts of great stuff. Awesome. Yes. That’s a “co-star” on your resumé. Now, it’s a “co-star” you’ll want to remove from your resumé as you continue to book co-star credits in which you are less on the cutting room floor and more on the screen, but for now, it’s absolutely a credit you earned (a verifiable one) and a story to tell, when someone asks for tape of the episode.

“Ah, it was a tiny co-star. No real footage for a reel,” is the answer. And some actors hate that answer so much they’d rather just leave it off the resumé than have the conversation in which the punchline is “no real footage to use.” Remember what I said about where the credit might “weigh” more. This is definitely a case of the weight being its CREDIT, not its footage. The weight is in the tier jump you got to make with your SAG status and of course the paycheck.

Seen or unseen, you were booked (albeit through an upgrade, but that counts and there was paperwork involved, so you know the casting office is aware of it) as a co-star and earned the right to plop that credit on your resumé. Congrats! May the next one be an even bigger deal!

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Bonnie,

I’ve read Acting Qs and learned an awful lot from it. I also read your columns every week and find that you always have new and useful information to impart. I’ve started to dig into your archives and have a question about something you wrote back in Feb. 2005 about what billing to give on a resumé.

I know that every part of the country probably has different interpretations but I’m curious how folks in LA note their non-broadcast roles.

I’m in San Francisco and have done little TV and film work. However, I’ve done a lot of corporate industrials that are for internal use only. I’ve also done quite a few webisodes and viral videos. I’ve asked a few local agents these questions and get different answers from each of them. So, if I was in LA, how would I bill these on a resumé?

And what if these projects are filmed but are never aired, whether for film, television, the web, or a trade show? Would you advise to list credits only of projects that were completed? I’ve done a couple of films that simply ran out of money and have never had any post production work done on them. Is it fair to list them?

David Menashe

Webisodes and viral videos are great to list on your resumé and go in the section most closely related to the work you did. For example, if you did an episode of LonelyGirl15, I’d put that in with TV, because it’s an episode of an ongoing series. And then I’d note parenthetically after the show’s title “Internet.” If you did something that went viral at YouTube or Funny Or Die but was pretty much a stand-alone “short film,” well that goes in the film section. Again, note that it was for the Internet and include the URL if you have room.

Industrials, trade show work, corporate videos, and non-broadcast projects fall into item six in this week’s column, really. Yes, I know you were hired to act and these were acting jobs, but unless you’re in a market that has a thriving industrial, corporate, non-broadcast industry, every entry on your resumé of that nature detracts from the film and TV work you actually want to pursue. It becomes part of your branding and you become known as someone who is the go-to actor for non-broadcast stuff. Nothing wrong with that, you just have to know whether that fits your overall career goals.

In Los Angeles, that stuff would be taken off your acting resumé altogether and if noted at all, placed in the same category as commercial or voiceover work (list upon request). Obviously, in a minor market, that might not be a good Resumé Feng Shui move. Of course, remember, you can always have different resumés to use for different projects. In the one you use for film and TV work, minimize your non-film and TV work! The one you use for non-broadcast should highlight that experience and those relationships.

As for projects that lost funding, well, that happens all the time. If you shot the scenes (and hopefully got tape), absolutely keep it on your resumé, but remember the rule of listing your strongest stuff first, which would put something like this lower on your list of credits (and first to come off, when you get something better). If you never shot, unfortunately, that’s gotta go. Yeah, it’s a grey area for some, because you figure you booked the gig and that’s a good relationship to advertise on your resumé, but the truth of it is, it’s a WEAKNESS on your resumé to advertise work you never actually did, and I’d save it for a conversation with a prospective agent who wants to know about your industry relationships. He may like to know you booked but never shot, because that’s a casting office he can get you into more easily next time. But as for taking up space on your resumé (and detracting from the legitimate credits you do have), I’d think it over… and remove it!

* * *

Dear Bonnie,

I have been reading your columns and they are very informative. My son started acting professionally last year. He was cast in a SAG feature film. He did not have any lines because he is an alter ego of the child lead. I read what you said about background and he was given a principal contract. We saw the film his role is actually pivotal to the film and much more significant than some of the roles which were categorized as leads due to the number of lines. He did act without speaking (facial expressions, body movements).

Is there any other way we could have dealt with this so that he could list it on his resumé?

Thanks,
Robin Bernstein

Nothing to change! You can already list it on his resumé. He got a principal contract and that’s the billing for the resumé. There are plenty of times a non-speaking role is also a principal one. Think of Paul Dano’s role in Little Miss Sunshine, for example.

Only if the work is booked as background (which is usually through a different casting office than the principal players) and paid as background should you feel obligated to treat it as such. This looks like a principal role with a principal contract, and that’s how it should be billed! Congrats!

* * *

Hi Bonnie,

I’m Joseph Kim and I attended your resumé workshop at SAG last year with Mark Sikes. Thank you so much for your invaluable time. You’re as pretty as you are insightful.

I thought you guys were rocking good fun to spend the afternoon with, and I was very much enlightened on quite a few issues. Dare I say that I had never read your columns before? But I spent the whole next two days getting caught up.

I had a question I wasn’t able to ask you during the workshop.

I booked twice on The Young and the Restless. The first time my role was cut because there was a shortage of cop costumes that day. However I still booked it and got paid for it though I was told not to report to set several hours before the taping.

They brought me back in the next week, but as a different character: an orderly. I remember you telling an attendee that if you’ve booked twice on the same show, then you can put down recurring on your resumé.

So, I booked twice and got paid twice but for two different characters. Can I still put recurring on my resumé? Thanks so much.

All the best,
Joseph Kim

In general, I like the idea of putting any second booking on the same series through the same office with the same crew as “recurring,” because it shows you have a history with these folks and they liked your work enough the first time to bring you back a second time. You’ve booked and shot multiple jobs with these people and that’s great for risk management purposes.

However, your first time didn’t really “count” (even though you got paid, which is great) and the second time, coming so close on the heels of the first attempt, was almost like a “make up” for the “bad” of not being able to use you the first time. So, I’d be careful labeling that a recurring role, because you never shot the first time. You didn’t work with that crew twice. You only went on set once, and I’d go with billing of under 5 or day player, depending on how many lines you had in your day of AFTRA work, of course.

As with everything, the “rules” are a little on the loosey-goosey side simply because there are so many variables and that makes it tough to get overly specific about what to do and what not to do. Someone else could have a similar situation but not the same specifics, and where one of you could get away with saying “recurring” and have backup from the casting office, the other could be seen as puffing up credits and that’s never a good idea.

Bottom line on all of this: Trust that you’re enough. Be where you are (not where you’ve been, all career long, and here’s a big list to prove all of it). Enjoy the process. And control your own spin by crafting your resumé at least as much as you craft yourself!

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000931.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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13 Comments

  1. Avatar Judith July 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Hi Bonnie,

    First of all thank you for taking the time to read my message! I just wanted to know , that I am currently working on my acting resume. And I wanted to know if ever you have been/participated in a Game Show would it be possible and correct to list it under television in your resume?

    Thank You.

    Reply
  2. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie July 31, 2013 at 12:37 am

    Hiya Judith. Here’s the filter I would run *every* decision through, as the resumé is concerned: “Is this how I want to be cast NEXT?”

    If the answer is yes (meaning, you WANT to do more game shows), you absolutely put that on your resumé because it teaches the buyers that you CAN do that, you HAVE done that, and you WANT to do that again.

    If the answer is no (meaning, you did the game show but it’s not your life’s goal to do more of that), you leave it OFF your resumé and treat it like a survival job you did, which happened to give you some exposure or maybe connect you with some people who work in the industry and who MIGHT see you as an actor later… but it’s not your goal.

    Does that help?

    Once you stop seeing your resumé as a list of everything you’ve ever done and, instead, as a recipe for how to cast you next, you get very clear on which ingredients to leave out. 😀

    Reply
  3. Avatar Darcie Siciliano April 15, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Bonnie, I finally transformed my resume following many of your comments and suggestions, and ended up feeling really great about it! Turned it from vertical to horizontal, and I feel it represents a much cleaner, crisper idea of my credits, work and image. Cut to: recently paid to meet with a legit agent who really didn’t engage much except at the end to say “by the way, you should FIX your résumé.” (referring specifically to the uncharacteristic orientation) … FIX! I thought…But it’s not broken! Luckily knowing I’d followed your advice helped keep the negativity at bay. The comment offered me much more useful information about her than about anything “wrong” with me! Just wanted to share. Thanks for being such a great actors’ advocate!

    Reply
  4. Avatar Ashley Romero April 19, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Hey Bonnie!!

    I’m SAG-E should I list that on my resume?

    Thank you for all of your helpful tips, hints, and tricks!! The internet is an amazing tool to connect and learn!

    Ashley Romero

    Reply
  5. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 20, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Darcie — Awesome feedback! I don’t know that I would recommend a horizontal resumé… it’s quite non-standard, and part of the reason I teach the standards is so we know when breaking the rules works for our brand. If you’re feeling that presentation, that’s awesome! 🙂 And what you’ve learned is that *this* particular agent does not prefer horizontal. Nor do I. Cool! Data for your show bible. 🙂 Right on!

    Ashley — I’m definitely a fan of mentioning union eligibility on a resumé, because if I’m casting a project that is at a budget level that would require Taft-Hartley, your notation of “SAG-AFTRA eligible” lets me know you won’t cost us a fine or paperwork, should we cast you. The caveat is to be sure you have the money IN THE BANK for paying that initiation fee. Because if I cast you and you have to be on set tomorrow, you’d better be able to run to SAG-AFTRA today and pay that initiation fee! 🙂

    Rock on, ninjas!

    Reply
  6. Avatar Ashley Romero May 24, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Thank you for your response Bonnie!

    Two more questions. 1 regarding the SAG-E on the resume. On casting websites (AA, LAC) CDs can see eligibility on the resume. Is it a good idea to put in the notes when submitting to a union project that funds are available to join the union if needed?

    Also I have links on my website to my IMDB page (credits), my AA resume, and my LAC resume, do you think I should add my actual resume to my website instead of linking it to these other websites?

    Thanks so much for you continued help!

    Reply
  7. Avatar Bon June 2, 2014 at 12:03 am

    Hi again, Ashley. Totally up to you, stylistically, whether you want to have your resumé living on your own site or just linked to those other sites. I’ve seen both work really well. So, it’s just a creative choice; as long as the buyers can SEE the goods, you’re good! 😉

    I don’t know that you need to mention “money in the bank,” although some actors certainly do. This, for me, would be a case by case basis thing. If you see in the breakdown, “Only submit if you are union or can join TODAY,” then, yeah, say “Money in the bank ready to join!” in the notes. 😉 But that’s really up to you (and not necessary) to share.

    Reply
  8. Avatar Mier January 25, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Hi Bonnie!

    I have a question. I was on a TV show in Taiwan as a guest star. Can I put that on my LA resume as a credit?

    Thank you for all your helpful tips!!

    Reply
  9. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie February 23, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    Hi Mier! Yes, of course. Credits don’t have borders, so you can include your Taiwan TV credit on your LA resumé; just note in the third column that it was for a network there. Hooray!

    Reply
  10. Avatar Sarah March 11, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Hi Bonnie! Some classmates and I have heard mixed things from managers/teachers/other actors/etc. on what to write on our resumes since a lot of roles that would have been considered guest stars in the past are now being paid as co-stars. Some of the actors wondering have done many guest stars before and even booked pilots as series regulars. Would you write Co-Star on your resume since that’s what you were paid as, or would you write Guest Star if you have a substantial scene(s)? My instinct says to be literal and truthful across the board, but there’s been a lot of talk from representation about other actors beefing up their resumes in these cases so they think, “it’s necessary to be competitive.” Obviously we would never want to piss off casting…so…thoughts?

    Reply
  11. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie March 12, 2016 at 1:17 am

    Hiya Sarah,

    Have you checked out this post yet? https://bonniegillespie.com/billing — I think some of your questions could best be answered there, as I cover what to do when you didn’t have a contract that specifically spelled out what the role’s billing *should* be. Of course, if there’s a contract, you go with what was ON the contract. Changing it because the INDUSTRY is changing is disingenuous and a bit revisionist, right?

    Why beef up a resumé? That’s like lying about your weight on your drivers license or cheating at solitaire. Does it *really* help you? Almost never. And then you feel like crap about what you’re telling yourself you SHOULD feel about your credits. 🙁 Don’t do that to yourself. Be proud of what you’ve booked and call it what it’s called! 🙂 Your integrity will pay off because you won’t be walking around feeling icky about your lie.

    Trust your instincts, girl!

    Reply
  12. Avatar Rachel April 6, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Hi Bonnie!

    I’m a voice actor with twenty years of experience in other markets. I’ve recently moved to LA and decided to pursue on-camera acting as well. Since I’m new to the on-camera world, my resume is very thin. Should I list a few of my biggest voice-over jobs/clients to fill up space and show that I’m a professional, or will it be distracting from my bigger goal of gaining on-camera work?

    Thanks for being such a wealth of information!

    Reply
  13. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 7, 2017 at 12:17 am

    Awesome, Rachel! Congrats on all your voiceover work and welcome to LA! 🙂 Remember to see your resumé as a living document that you actively update. For now, you may find that some of your voiceover work has enough weight to help show on-camera buyers that you’re not a newbie… but hopefully you’ll begin adding on-camera credits to your resumé pretty quickly and you’ll restructure your resumé with less of the voiceover and more of the on-camera on and on ’til you have as impressive an on-camera resumé as voiceover! 🙂 Hope you’ll join us for the next SMFA Retreat now that you’re here in town! <3

    Reply

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