We’re back for another round of bios. Remember my summary from last week: Lay off the clichés, check your grammar, go easy on capitalization, have a SMART friend proofread, cut it for length if it’s longer than a tweet, and give us a sense of who you are without being too dang cute. (A little bit goes a long way on that stuff.) With all that in mind, ready for five more? Let’s go!

First email with bio:

Hi Bonnie,

Well, here’s mine: short, maybe too short. Knock yourself out. πŸ˜‰

Pia Thrasher’s acting experience started in 5th grade in school theater and several small stage productions in her hometown in Germany. After her move to the U.S. she was bitten by the film-acting bug while working on several film sets as an extra, including James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’. Wanting to learn more about the craft, she began training in earnest and enrolled in acting classes and showcases. Soon, student films offered her opportunities to play speaking parts, adding experience and confidence to win her supporting and eventually leading roles in short films and independent films. Her most recent feature-length indie film ‘Reagan’s Wharf’, in which Pia plays a troubled woman getting involved with the criminal element, won Best Feature at the El Cajon Film Festival, Tampa IFF and IndieFest USA, Anaheim. For photos and resume, please visit www.piathrasher.com. Pia is also listed on IMDb.com.

Thanks and have a great week(end)!

Pia Thrasher

Okay. Good. Short. But not packed with personality like I know you to be, Pia. πŸ˜‰ Whenever an actor is older than 20, I see no reason to talk about the age at which he or she became interested in acting. I mention in longer versions of my bio that I started out as a kid actor in Atlanta, but it’s an in and out, and it’s nothing I’d include on a bio this short, especially when your more recent “goodies” are really good. I mean, three festivals calling your feature “best”? That’s worth so much more “ink” than Germany grade school theatre performances!

I don’t love “bitten by the film acting bug” (cliché) nor the use of theater instead of theatre (see this post for the why on that last bit). You need a comma after “the U.S.” to offset the adverbial phrase before the independent clause. I’d put titles in double-quotes or — better yet — italicize them, rather than using the single quotes. But overall, this is a very good — if not terribly personality-filled — bio for you.

Second email with bio:

Bonnie, I read your article today about writing a bio and I got so embarrassed about mine that I am having it deleted off my IMDb profile.

You mentioned that you would look at people’s bios if they were interested in a critique. I know you’re super busy so if you don’t have time to give me feedback, I understand. But I would love to hear it.

In the spirit of fairness, here it is unchanged:

Eric Kan is an actor and comedian living in Los Angeles.

His acting work has been featured in the New York Times and The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

He regularly performs comedy in Los Angeles at The Comedy Store and The Icehouse. His stand up comedy work has been profiled on NPR.

Eric is a first generation Asian American. He grew up all over the country before finally settling in Georgia for high school. He attended The University of Georgia on scholarship and made the Dean’s List. While participating in drama class, he fell in love with acting and abandoned his plans for medical school. He quickly finished his studies and graduated with a degree in Exercise Physiology.

He has appeared in many TV series including ER, Gilmore Girls, and Days of Our Lives. He has had the privilege of working with Shawn Ryan, John Ridley, Donal Logue, Alexis Bledel, and David Arquette to name a few.

Some of his influences include Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, John Cusack, Robert Downey Jr., Judd Apatow, Wong Kar-wai, Alexander Payne, and Dave Chappelle.

In his free time, Eric enjoys playing tennis, watching indie films, and doing volunteer work for 826LA and Fulfillment Fund Mentoring Program.

IMDb profile

Actor reel

Aw, Eric, you’re so awesome. It makes me sad that you rushed to pull your bio off IMDb after reading my column two weeks ago. Don’t panic! Your bio is actually pretty good, and even if it weren’t, you have to be okay with having “whatever” out there, sometimes. It was good enough for you to ever put up in the first place. Now you’ll continue to massage it and bring it up to a better level. No reason to be ashamed of what you had out there, ever! Bio writing is hard. Heck, that’s why I’m spending so much time on it, here.

Now, as for the content of the bio, it’s not awful! I’d hyphenate “stand-up” (as in “stand-up comedy”) because it’s an adjectival phrase modifying the noun (comedy) and therefore needs a hyphen. I really like your mentions of the publications in which your work has been covered and of course the shout-out to NPR. I think, however, when you mention several publications in which you’ve been profiled, even better would be including a quote from one of them. Did anyone say something really fantastic or on-brand about you and your work?

The last play I did before leaving acting was in the summer of 2000 at the American Renegade Theatre Company and while LA Weekly didn’t love the show, they sure loved me! I got the best four-word review ever: “Bonnie Gillespie is excellent.” No ellipsis, no “but” or “however,” just four awesome words in a row. You’d better believe that sucker was in my bio, on my website, even in the footer of my resumé. See if you can mine some gold like that from your press.

Not entirely sure why you mention that you got a degree in exercise physiology (use lower case, here) when the point of the paragraph is to talk about how you went on to a career that had nothing to do with your schooling. I’d either end with “he fell in love with acting, finished his degree in exercise physiology, but abandoned his plans for medical school, much to his family’s delight” (or something cheeky there, that shows a bit of your humor), or just leave that out altogether.

Of course, you saw from my first column on bio writing that I’m not a fan of including a laundry list of other actors or even directors, writers, celebs, etc., who inspire you or with whom you’ve worked. Your bio needs to be about you and you can maybe mention a really badass person or two, but to list a ton is to make us think the most interesting thing about you is the names you can drop. We need to know better: That you on your own are interesting!

Otherwise, just fine, Eric! Don’t be so hard on yourself. And, despite a tough game this weekend, GO DAWGS!

Third email with bio:

Hey Bonnie!

Saw your post on Twitter, and if you’re still looking for potential submissions for your bio critique piece, I’d love to know what you think about mine for my website.

Well hello there.

(That was in a very manly, sexy voice.)

I’m Patrick. ^__^

I love entertaining people. There are few things better than getting people to laugh and enjoy themselves and the world around them.

I hail from the mighty land of Las Vegas, where I was born and raised. I would eventually make my way north thru the desert, and graduate with a BFA in Theatre from the University of Nevada, Reno. My quest would then lead me here to the City of Angels, where I’ve become a SAG actor, working my up the acting ladder.

I rolled a natural 20 in nerd, if you couldn’t tell. (Bonus points if you understood that.)

Ever since I can remember, I’ve dreamt of having adventures and saving the world. Or at least making it a better place, y’know? How, you say? By pursuing what I love: entertaining, making people happy, and doing all sorts of good things someday when I’m that eccentric rich guy. Pursuing film and television allows me to do all of these things.

Whatever happens, I plan on bringing as many smiles to as many faces as I can.

I’ll leave you with two quotes. I like to think that they represent what I’m all about:

“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” -Thomas Paine

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it.” -Thomas Jefferson

So, in summary: Do what you love. Do it well. Spread the joy. Enjoy life.

Yeah cheesy stuff!

And that’s the cliff note me. ^__^

Thanks for any criticisms and advice! πŸ™‚

Sincerely,

Patrick Donahue

Cool, Patrick. I definitely get a sense of your personality from this nontraditional bio. I’d love to see less of the cliché (“born and raised” and “City of Angels”) and more of the funny (“I rolled a natural 20 in nerd” and “That was in a very manly, sexy voice”), but that’s just my personal taste.

I’d also love a hint that the “natural 20” joke is coming. You say, “if you couldn’t tell,” and well, I got no indication before reading that line that you were a nerd, so just a tip of the hat earlier will make that joke make a little more sense.

You use the word “pursuing” twice in the span of two sentences, so you may want to tweak one of those. I like your mission, I like your perspective, I like your “life quotes.” Really, I think your bio could be even more fun as an FAQ, which I love to see on actors’ websites, because it gives y’all a chance to be funny, answer the questions no one ever asks but you wish they would, and it doesn’t conflict with the more traditional bio, should you need both.

Finally, “Cliff’s Notes” is the title, if you want to be accurate in your sign-off. But because of things like your use of “thru” instead of “through” and the cute little smiley-face type things in the text, I’m less militant about that, simply because it goes with your style choice. It’s on-brand, as I like to say.

Fourth email with bio:

Hi Bonnie,

Hope you’re well! Thought I’d send you my bio in case you want to critique it for your column.

Anna Lane, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, began entertaining at the tender age of six by telling jokes to a captive audience of stuffed animals. Tormented by her classmates for looking like a toothpick, Anna found solace in being the class clown.

Anna attended the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where she survived numerous traumatic college experiences, including a roommate who turned tricks in their dorm room. After graduating a year early with honors, Anna moved to Los Angeles where she booked a commercial that never aired, lost a part in a movie to someone with “name recognition”, and finally found happiness making people laugh as a stand-up comic. Anna has since become a staple on the comedy scene. She performs her sarcastic, unexpected, and downright hilarious comedy act in venues throughout the United States and has been seen on TV as well as in films.

Upon discovering it was possible to turn her jokes, sarcasm and unique life experiences into story form, Anna embarked on a journey into the world of writing. She has completed several television scripts, written and produced an original spec comedy pilot, and is a co-writer and co-producer of the web series Fetal Positions.

When Anna is not writing or performing, she can be found spending time with her husband, who graciously laughs when she writes jokes about him.

Take care,

Anna

Really fantastic, Anna. You know I’m gonna bust on you about the “tender age of six” thing, because it’s really just so dang cliché and you’re a writer so I know you can come up with something original that accomplishes the same mental image.

I’d also lose “prestigious” before Tisch, because everyone knows how prestigious Tisch is, and if they don’t, your telling them isn’t going to make them get it, anyway. Love the comedy all through this big paragraph and the only change I’d make other than omitting the “prestigious” word is to move “and has been seen on TV as well as in films” to the paragraph after, where it seems to be a better end to the subject matter of pilots and webseries work.

You’re not consistent with the use of the serial comma (and I prefer to use it than to omit it), because in the section that starts “Anna moved to Los Angeles” and ends “making people laugh,” you use the serial comma. But in the first sentence of the third paragraph, you do not. So pick your style and stick with it, rather than bobbing back and forth. (This is a super nit-picky note from the former middle school teacher in me.)

Seriously fantastic and totally filled with personality. Not too long and only a few tweaks away from being a slam-dunk. Well done!

Fifth email with bio:

Hi Bonnie,

I thought I’d shoot my bio to you, in case you wanted to critique it for a future column. I did a lot of editing to it after reading this week’s column. My question is: It hardly seems bio-worthy to stay you moved to LA to become an actor. In fact, it actually seems more interesting if you’re one of the rare breed that is actually a SoCal native. But is it worth mentioning which area of the country you’re from? (In my case, the Midwest.) Would it be on brand to do so?

Anyway, here it is:

Derek Houck recently earned his SAG eligibility starring as Napoleon in the web series Napoleon Bon Appétit. Other film and television credits include United States of Tara, Polly Staffle Films’ Super Undead Doctor Roach, and WebSerials.com’s Cataclysmo and the Time Boys and its sequel Cataclysmo and the Battle for Earth. Theater credits include Something Not Real, Climb the Smallest Mountain, and UG: The Caveman Musical (LA premiere).

Your friendly neighborhood office geek, Derek Houck was raised on chocolate, video games, and Kevin Costner films. He studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and currently trains at the Stephen Book Acting Workshop.

Derek Houck

Really great, Derek. And a wonderful question about whether it’s even worth mentioning that you moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. Indeed, if you’re a recent transplant, that can be somewhat interesting (heck, I’ve been here forever and I still say I’m from Atlanta, because it means something to me), but whether it’s on-brand I guess depends on the brand! To say you’re from the Midwest certainly is interesting, but to me — since I know you — what’s even more interesting is how all over the place you’ve lived. That’s actually a bigger contributor to your “brand,” if you ask me. But this is going to vary, person to person, of course.

In the bio itself, I’d take out the word “Other” as the start of the second sentence. Since your first line is about a webseries, to say “Other film and television…” is a hard left turn. Just start with the word film and be done with it. If any of your theatre credits are at cool theatres, you should mention those venues. Great nod for the LA premiere, there. Very nice touch!

Of course, I’m crazy about the line that begins: “Your friendly neighborhood office geek”. That’s just all kinds of awesome! Also very cool to share where your training comes from and continues. All good stuff, and brief! Well done!

So, folks, are you feeling more confident about your bio writing, going forward? Again, I know you’re not asked for a bio every day, but just like every part of your actor marketing plan, a well-written bio will serve you well and will be the kind of thing you find it a pleasure to hand over. Isn’t that refreshing? When you know something rocks so hard that you can’t wait for others to receive it? Love that! You should too. So, be sure to get your bio proofread one last time (yes, again) and let your awesomeosity shine through!

Thank you to all the fine actors who sent over bios for the critiquing! Sorry I couldn’t get to all of you, but I hope the examples I did choose shined a bit of a light on some very common issues that are super easy to fix. I also hope you enjoyed learning more about the super cool readers of The Actors Voice. I know I did!


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/001258.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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