Creative interpretations of billing are common on actors’ resumes. Certainly, there are variations from market to market, but the standard for Los Angeles actors’ resumes is pretty clear. Regardless of where you started, once you come to LA to pursue a career in acting, the lingo goes like this.
Lead: principal role in the film, in most scenes, on-screen credit is often in the credits that start the film (as well as in the complete end credits).
Supporting: principal role in the film, in one or more scenes but not a lead character although important to the storyline.
Featured: principal role in the film with one or more lines but easily cut from the final version of the film. Unfortunately, many extras have started using the term “featured” to describe their extra work and that means casting directors are less and less convinced that a job listed as “featured” actually was a featured principal role.
Extra: non-speaking role in the film with no on-screen credit. This billing does not belong on an acting resume.
Series Regular: contract role with exclusivity to the series, network, and production company for a term of a year or more; paid for a predetermined number of episodes produced, on contract for all episodes, even those in which the character doesn’t appear.
Recurring: character returns over multiple episodes, either on standing contract or contracted periodically, based on negotiations and number of appearances.
Guest Star: one-episode guest whose character’s storyline is central to that episode, works at a weekly rate (and is under contract for the week, even if only shooting a day or two).
Co-star: one-episode guest whose character’s storyline may or may not be central to that episode (since co-star billing actually depends more on negotiation than size of the role), anywhere from one line to multiple scenes.
Contract Role: a soap opera AFTRA contract term for a daytime series regular or recurring character.
Under 5: an AFTRA-only contract term for a character with between one and five lines.
Extra: non-speaking role with no on-screen credit. This billing does not belong on an acting resume.
Billing is pretty much non-existent for theatre credits on a resume. Most theatre credits include the character name, as role size is generally known. If, however, the production is of an original work or relatively new play, it is fine to include a parenthetical notation of “lead” or “supporting” after the character name. Also note that you originated the role, if that’s the case. Depending on how well known the play becomes down the line, this could be especially impressive information.
With all issues of billing, check your contract. If you are working a union television contract, your billing will be spelled out specifically in your contract and there is no room for error. If you do not have a contract or deal memo for your work, check the original breakdown for the project, as the billing for the role will likely be listed after the character description. When in doubt, check with your agent or someone in production. You do not want to mistakenly upgrade yourself on your resume and then meet up with the casting director in the future. “Oh! You got bumped up from featured extra to co-star? That’s GREAT!” “Uh, no. I actually didn’t. Oops.” “Oops is right, and I already knew that, since I’m the one who cast co-stars and the extras casting director is the one who cast you.” Cue the lights and creepy music. That show is over.
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Got any follow-up questions on billing? Pop ’em in the comment box below! I’d love to help your resume shine!
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/000187.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.
Should you put in parenthesis if the film is a short/feature?
Hi Liss! You definitely don’t need to do that. It’s fine if you choose to, but really, it’s a better talking point than it is a resumé feature, so I’d leave that out, since it’s assumed the credits are indies that most folks won’t have seen, anyway. Only if it’s some awesome, award-winning short from a major festival would I draw attention to the fact that it was a short. 😀
Hi Ninjas and Black Belt Ninja Bonnie: I’m at a speed bump. Send help!!!
My resume is VERY good as a theatre actor. I’m no beginner. Ok. I am pursing work now in BOTH theatre AND on-camera. Ok. My on-camera credits are somewhat limited. Fine. Here’s the rub: I did “extra” work for a Major Television Network Program, a household NAME that’s been running over 35 years. This credit is so eye-popping and awesome, that I would love to keep it on my resume, even as an “extra”, at least until I have better credits to replace it with. It’s just too delicious!
If a CD, Agent or Producer, happens to flip my picture over (awesome!) and SEE this credit (wow!), I intuitively feel they’ll be interested enough to read on and then (luck be a lady tonight!) take a chance on this actor.
Call AAA !!!
Thanks and ninja power!
Thank you so much for all of your advice. I love your columns and I’m working my way through your books.
When do you use Principal on your resume? What do you use for a main role in a commercial, industrial, or music video? We live in Nashville, TN and my son, Sark, is just staring out.
Andie — Just remember that your resumé is a recipe for how to cast you next, so by putting extra work ON your resumé, you’re telling the buyers that you’d like to do more of that. Far better to mention that badass experience in your cover letter and then talk about it in context, unless you’re in a market where extra work *is* appreciated (because it proves you have on-set experience at the professional level). So… case by case, darlin’! Rock on and stay ninja!
Jodi — Principal is a big, catch-all word that covers roles of all sorts of sizes (basically, it means “speaking role”) and while it was used in the AFTRA days (before the merger) as a contract term, today, it’s better to get specific and label the role “lead,” “supporting” (or “large supporting” or “small supporting”), or “featured” for film, and for TV, as listed in the piece above.
For commercials, they generally don’t go on a resumé but instead are listed separately on a conflict list provided upon request. Industrials and music vids don’t go on a resumé in a major market but, sure, in Nashville, you can have more of these types of credits on your resumé (especially while a kiddo) and then pare down as you build it up.
Rock on, rockstars! <3
What about commercial credits? I know that as a rule you don’t list them and put “conflicts available upon request,” but if you’re in a situation where they are specifically asking, how is that billing defined?
Jonathan — You treat it just like a short film. Was it a lead role? Supporting? That’s the most approximate version of billing for commercials, though you could also describe yourself exactly as the role was released in the breakdown (hero dad, spokesperson, etc.) if that applies. Congrats!
Hi Bonnie, thanks for the great column! I was recently cast (by background casting) as a featured extra on a show. I was a character with a name and close-ups, but the non-speaking wife to a co-star with lines. I was bumped in pay and given a stand-in my second day of shooting since they liked the work I was doing. Can I write co-star on my resume or should I leave it at featured to be safe? The show hasn’t aired yet, so I can’t be sure how I’m going to be billed in the credits.
Hello SRG and congrats on the booking *and* the upgrade! Sounds to me like that’s still a featured role (if it remained non-speaking) but with some really sweet perks! 🙂 And unless you’re in a minor market where listing extra work on an acting resumé is more “okay” than it is in major markets, I’d keep the featured billing and then shift it per the credits should it turn out your perks included an official upgrade of billing as well! With union projects, of course, that would have included some paperwork on the set and a nice bump in pay too, so I’m guessing the billing won’t shift *or* the show was nonunion. Either way, you got great confirmation that you’re doing good work and people like working with you, which is all phenomenal stuff! Well done! 🙂
Hi! Thank you so much for your helpful articles. If I am new to the industry and I’ve only worked in one TV show as a member of an interactive audience, would I include that on my resume?
Only if you’re creating a resume to try and get more interactive audience roles! 🙂 Check out my post called “Inverted Pyramid” for an idea of where this credit may fall. Some things just aren’t meant for the resume, but they’re great for experience and relationship-building. Congrats on getting started!