Dear Bonnie Gillespie:
I have a question about my acting resume that I’m putting together. I’ve done featured extra work on several high-profile television shows in New York and I’ve had family members and even strangers recognize me from being on shows like Law & Order and Boardwalk Empire.
Now that I’m in Los Angeles, is it okay to list those jobs as “featured” on my resume or should I leave them off because casting pros will assume it was regular extra work?
Hey Darnell. Welcome to LA! 🙂
The answer to your question depends on your goals, now that you’re in Los Angeles. If you’re hoping to continue booking high-profile television extra work (featured or “regular,” as you called it) here, absolutely, you’ll want to create a really fantastic resume that shows the extras casting companies that you have a history of bookings in exactly the type of area you’re hoping they’ll consider you.
If, however, you’re hoping to transition to principal (speaking) on-camera roles here in Los Angeles — which is what I assume you want, since you called it an “acting resume” — well it’s time to let your career as an extra go. Yes, even though you’ve booked featured extra roles in high-profile series in a major market, if you want to work as an actor in speaking roles in Los Angeles, you need to show the buyers here that you are low-risk in speaking roles (even if you only have those at the student film or self-produced level, at first).
Principal casting directors generally care as much about your work as an extra (featured, “regular,” or whatever) as they care about your work as a waiter, a tutor, or an attorney. It’s great that you’ve had on-set experience, but extra work of any kind is rarely a point of entry for principal work. Truly, these days, your work (in a speaking role) on the set of a low-budget indie or a self-produced webseries is going to carry more weight than the fact that you were recognized from your featured extra work in something high-profile.
This is not to disparage the important work that atmosphere actors do! Not at all! In fact, there’d be no storytelling without ’em! 🙂 It’s to give you an indication of the separation between those who book speaking roles and those who fill in the background, where the large-scale productions in Los Angeles are concerned.
So, absolutely, do extra work. Do featured extra work. Meet people. Make money. Build relationships. Learn life on the set. Get crazy smart about whose job responsibilities are where. Study their shorthand. This is all good stuff. But! When it comes time to let the casting director on that same set know that you’re a great fit for a role on the project, based on all the targeting you’ve done, a resume that highlights your extra work is not going to make as much a difference as your relationships will.
Think of it like shifting gears on a bike. It feels like you’re working a lot harder at a higher gear, but you’re going a lot farther, faster, and with much less effort overall, once you commit to that tier.
Have fun! And lemmeknow how it goes for you. 🙂
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Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001546.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.