Featured Is a Bogus Credit

A few weeks back, I got a Google Alert with my name in it. The link sent me to David Fairhurst’s brilliantly funny column — Mr. Bad Example Strikes Again! — in Backstage.

It started out like this:

Is there something about being an actor that turns us all into obsessive-compulsive nutjobs…?

Oh, I knew right there I was gonna enjoy this column, no matter what it was about!

I’m the Martha Stewart of resumé writing.

Yep. I love it. This actor is funny, and he’s writing about something that every actor does (and hopes to never get caught doing): “resumé enhancement.”

While what I did is common among actors desperate to make their anemic film and TV credits look a little more impressive, it’s still lying no matter how you look at it.

So after very bravely, publicly deciding to rid his resumé of those credits “on steroids,” David found himself at a crossroads.

How am I supposed to describe my credits that really were featured roles, now that the term “featured” has been so co-opted by exaggerating extras that it inevitably raises suspicion? Technically, I suppose, the TV parts were “Co-star” roles, to use contractual language. But I don’t know: “Co-star” seems too highfalutin a term for one measly line on an episode of Ed. “Featured principal”? That’s a coinage that Actors Access columnist Bonnie Gillespie has suggested; I’m not crazy about it, but I can’t think of anything better.

A-ha! That’s what the Google Alert flagged. Okay. Yes. In a previous column on billing (one of two, here), I suggested some form of hybrid wording for the contract term “featured”. Because every aspiring actor who does background work — as David pointed out — has promoted his or her “roles” in order to have something on that first acting resumé.

But another way to take back the truth of the word “featured” is to begin using it truthfully. Of course, that means that you have to trust that people will believe you, when you’re calling your featured work “featured”. The good news is, whenever someone confronts you about it, you have the pleasure of speaking authoritatively about the fact that you did, indeed, have a featured role and that’s why you’ve listed “featured” on your resumé. Woo hoo!

While “featured principal” is a tweak of the real billing, it does at least remove that awful, “Does he mean extra work, here?” question from the table. At least until background performers start using that trick too. Ugh.

I spoke to about 200 actors at the SAG iActor seminar recently and the topic was resumés and resumé formatting. One of the themes was this: You are enough. You needn’t promote your credits, try to be a pro when you’re a beginner, or lie about what experience you do have. I know it’s tough to “only” have a few things on your resumé, but think of it this way: We love to be the ones to “discover” someone. It is with great joy that we come across someone wonderful who is also new to town or just starting out. So why would you want to make it look like you’ve done more work than you have? That actually pushes you into a different category for us. Suddenly, you’re someone with a ton of credits but whose work we’ve never seen. Why is that? Hmm… okay, well then can you get us your demo reel? What? No tape? All this work on your resumé and there’s no tape? Uh-oh… it’s not looking good for you now. You’ve bastardized a standard contract term and we’re no longer interested. Oops.

Be new when you’re new. Be authentic always. Hmm… I’m sensing a theme, here. Check back next week for my piece on Authenticity vs. Type. Until then, work on building your resumé through work (not word processing).


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/000727.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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