Okay, you beautiful people. You may have noticed that I teased this last week, and then opened up the opportunity to BonBlast mailing list members. Not surprisingly, I got a ton of submissions from you fine folks to help us round out the year doing another series of critiques. I’ll be doing these in the order they came in, so you don’t need to re-submit if you already shot your goodies my way and received my reply of thanks. Hold tight and let’s charge in to see about these super on-the-ball mailing list member column readers. 🙂

First, a note to everyone whose work is featured thus far: I’m really loving how well-labeled everything is! When you’re emailing around your goods, your file name is your name, not “super retouched HS 2012.jpg” or “latest resume.pdf.” That’s awesome! 🙂 Now, of course, I’ll caution about sending Word docs (or docs created by other word processing programs) because your recipients may not have your fonts, your margin settings, or even that same word processing software at all, meaning opening your file is a no-go! Save your resumé as “your name.pdf” (use the “print to PDF” function), email that PDF around (or post it at your website), and then you can be sure what you’re putting out there is exactly what we see.

Next, a caution on all of this. There is a *reason* I do not do inbox coaching (and believe me, I could, if I wanted to, just based on demand). I never want someone to come to me for “vacuum” item help and then say something like, “this is a Bonnie approved headshot,” when I can only say that, “yes, it’s a good shot, but I can’t be sure that it looks like you or helps you with your branding.” My coaching is way more comprehensive and deeper than what I’m doing here. I’ve chosen these items to critique because they provide great teaching moments. 🙂 The goal is that THOSE bits stay out there in front of folks who can learn from them. Thank you, all, for sharing your tools in service of helping others learn (y’know, while you happen to get a free tune-up, of course).

With that caveat in place, let’s dive in and see what’s blowing up my inbox! 🙂

Janna Morrison reached out and then pledged to send a follow-up email with some context about who she is. I pledged not to read that follow-up email ’til after an initial review of her materials. Ooh… this could be very interesting. Come back next week to see for yourself how I did! 🙂

Hello, Bonnie!

Clearly need to define &/or “reinvent” myself… so where better to start than with my pix & resumé.

Really interested in your first impression… without knowing anything else except for what you see. That said, I would be happy to share more about ME with you… so I can move forward with a new, improved plan & generate interest!

Look forward to reading all the comments and tips about everybody’s marketing materials… an absolutely great way to end one year & launch the next. Thank you for offering year-end critiques!

Janna Morrison

Here’s Janna’s headshot.

Okay, Janna. This is a good headshot. It’s clear and well-cropped. I worry about the chin-down thing (I always do — it’s such a photographer gimmick and it really can be “casting repellant” because we know “chin down” is code for “I’m older and heavier than what you see right here”) and I wonder if you might be more straightforward than I’m seeing with this pose. Let’s see if the resumé credits sustain that.

Here’s Janna’s resumé.

Yeah, as I suspected, just looking at some of your credits, I’m betting you’re sassy and straightforward and even ballsy, which makes me think this headshot is a little soft and safe. I’m betting you could probably be more fierce and casual in your shot and do yourself a favor, in terms of branding.

Your resumé looks great. You have tons of wonderful theatre credits. I’d go a little more specific with skills (“background in piano” is a little vague, and your level of dance training would be good to include), but obviously, you’re a theatre actor who books regularly in a minor market, so the only other tweak might be to narrow down the credits and list them as “selected” to get us even more focused on where you’re headed, rather than showing us everything you’ve done.

Next up, Adam Kern! 🙂

Hi Bon!

Thank you so much for doing this!

I’ve attached my resumé, but if you have time, I’d love for you to look at the website as well. I know it’s Flash (which is a recent change), but it does have a smart phone version. The site is at www.adam-kern.com.

Thank you, and happy holidays!!!

Okay, as always, great stuff, Adam. Thank you.

Let’s start with your website. I love that there’s a download of your resumé available throughout the site, as well as a contact box on all pages. Very nice. I would prefer that the downloadable resumé be a PDF, of course, but the resumé looks fantastic.

The online version has some jagged tab stops (use a table rather than spacing, to fix that). You have great, consolidated on-camera credits, and there’s loads of good branding happening here in your theatre section. Oh, and that’s some fab use of some key reviews in a different font toward the bottom of the page. Nice!

I worry that your splash page has a headshot that takes me totally out of my brand-understanding with you. Don’t get me wrong! The shaved head is a great look, but it makes me think you can’t pull off the “gentle giant” stuff that’s peppered throughout your site, otherwise. I’d sit with that to be sure there are bookings happening, there, because otherwise you’re diluting your existing brand.

The word “calendar “seems to be misleading in your website’s header, since there’s not an “upcoming events” calendar, rather a recent history list (oh, and you’ve left off the last E in the “world premiere” item, currently there, so fix that typo for sure). I was concerned about the Flash situation, but the site actually performed as designed (even with Flash Block turned on, in Firefox) with the exception of the demos page, which I assume should load-in thumbnail versions of the vids. Maybe you could have an alt image option? Just a thought! Over all, really good stuff!

Next up, Nova Bennett!


First off, you are so, so kind and SO generous to do this. Every time I think I can’t possibly get more from your columns or emails, you do or say something else that blows me away, and the latest BonBlast was no exception.

Much as greedy little me would love to send you a little of everything, you’ll no doubt be inundated with requests, even if you’re only offering this to members of the mailing list! So, since my new headshots haven’t arrived yet (soon, soon, I must learn patience) and since my bio is in dire need of a rewrite (you can see the placeholder version on the site below, if you like!), I offer up the next best thing: a resumé!

Admittedly, my resumé is slim. I do as much as possible with what I have and continue to actively look for credits where I can find them. I’ve also just started collaborating with someone on a webseries, so I should be able to add more information to it soon, but even as small as it is right now…everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Keep up the awesome, Bon, and enjoy every inch of your Christmas. You deserve it.

Nova Bennett

Love your resumé, Nova. Thank you (and thank you for the kind words). It’s a great starter resumé and you’ve made smart use of the space by including a mini me headshot, combining the on-camera credits, using proper billing, and so on. I’d like to see locations (venues, or at least the cities in which these things took place) for the theatre and improv work, unless it’s at one of those shady places you’re looking to minimize the damage of, by omitting that detail. If you’re currently training, put “ongoing” or “currently” in parentheses after the name of the coach or studio.

I’m excited to see your next version, and your next! You’re off to a great start and I’m especially thrilled to hear about your webseries collaboration! And, again, so glad you’re enjoying the BonBlasts and my columns.

Next, let’s look at Samantha Walker‘s headshot, resumé, and demo reel (no detail-filled email, beyond a follow-up that Samantha is visiting LA right now). Your reel: Well, it’s too long. It’s too true to the story rather than a showcase of YOUR work. Go through it with an eye toward NOT how the story actually panned out in the project but instead toward helping buyers GET you. Take out the long pauses in some scenes, minimize some of the other actors’ dialogue, and make it more “all about you.” And much, much shorter.

After watching your reel, I like the headshot you sent, but it’s skewing you very young for some of the roles you’ve included on your reel. I know you’re in LA right now and I don’t know whether your plans include working here on a regular basis, but if so, you’ll need to get your tools more narrowly focused in terms of age range and the exact type of roles you play (on the latter point, I think you’re on track with these tools, although your blouse is a little more upscale than you “feel” in your clips, luckily your hairstyle softens the look in just the right way). As my partner Keith loves to say, “In Texas, everything can be bigger — including your bullseye.” So, of course, you can have a broader target right now.

Your resumé, while right on and well done, academically, feels very generic and non-specific, which — especially if you’re planning to pursue work in LA — will get you lost in a sea of young, Caucasian, blonde females. Let’s get specific. Meanwhile, I love that you’ve included the URL to your Actors Access profile. Fantastic use of that resumé space!

I don’t know that you need to include the date of your photo on your resumé (unless it’s something your Texas representation requires, of course). Everything looks great in terms of format and billing, it’s just feeling “safe.” Something as simple as a “personality item” included among your skills could help us get a sense of you. Are you kooky? Are you competitive as all hell? Are you the one who tells the worst jokes ever? Even if all it becomes is a jumping off point for a convo in the session room, it could make a difference! Try something out and I look forward to seeing you in LA!

Next up, Derek Houck.

Hi Bonnie,

I would love for you to critique my website on The Actors Voice: https://derekhouck.com.

I redesigned my website a while ago to focus on emphasizing the “nerdy, comic book geek” brand that I get sent out for, and to make it more visually engaging. The new design allows me to highlight big news items right on the home page, as well as give people quick access to my reel, resumé, and ways to contact me. I was even able to incorporate my logline into the design.

Most importantly, it’s a website I actually enjoy updating, as I get to whip up a new slide image every time something awesome happens.

Derek Houck

All right! Go, Derek! I love the theme of “nerdy, comic book geek” throughout the site. Fantastic branding and I see what you mean about the excitement you’ll feel in keeping this baby updated. Outstanding!

On the main page, the slides are moving a wee bit too fast for me for the amount of text you’re including. I get that you’re just teasing a story you want visitors to go explore, elsewhere, so maybe even less of the text would do, if you’re not willing to slow down the sides. Also, you definitely need to update the slide that says: “Look for it Spring 2012.” Once the date has passed, pull it out of the headline version of the story, even though it’s pulling to a page within the archives.

Yours is a powerful, brief bio. You feature a great “about” box and bank of share buttons and subscription options, along with the ever-present news box. This is really great and all on-brand. I started to care that you don’t give us a way to contact YOU, directly on the contact page, but then with all those connect buttons, I figure we gotcha.

Love love love the thumbnails in the vid gallery. Love your use of links in your resumé page (I mean, why wouldn’t you? It’s the web for cryin’ out loud). I crave a PDF download version, of course (not that I think it’s something people use a lot, but better to offer it than not, I believe). I so adore the power of your TV credit, underscored by leaving it on its own. When the one credit is that good, you give it its own area on the resumé. Yes!

Next up, let’s chill with Jen Ponton.

Hey Bon, my dear!

Would you be open to critiquing my bio? I tried to get just the right swing of all-around flavor and professional life. Much love and big hugs to you!

“Actress Jen Ponton is a charming, effervescent character dumpling, starring as Franny in the indie comedy FRANNY. This tomato of a gal from the sticks of New Jersey is a Muppet enthusiast, Jamba Juice junkie, horror fanatic, and body love activist! As an only child outcast who lived next to a cemetery, she grew up with a rich imagination, loads of creativity and a killer sense of humor. Previous to FRANNY, Jen played supporting roles in the indie features KING KELLY, JACK & DIANE, and GIRLRILLAZ. On television, she’s the recurring character Grinder on Adult Swim’s THE HEART, SHE HOLLER, and has co-starred on BOARDWALK EMPIRE and LAW & ORDER: SVU. You may also recognize her from the Emmy-nominated episode of 30 ROCK “Reaganing” opposite Kelsey Grammer. Jen still resides in New Jersey with her husband and their bunny rabbit, Moo.”

Okay! First off, there’s a lot of good in here. But this bio suffers from “too much of a good thing” in a few places. I’m gonna ask you to lose some of the goods, trusting you can always bring the best bits back in future incarnations of this bio, or use them elsewhere (in cover letters, programs for plays, separate pages on your website, etc.).

I’d lose the word “actress” because it’s assumed anyone reading your bio knows your profession (and, if not — like if this is a bio in an alumni newsletter or something — it’s clear just a few more words in). Love the use of “character dumpling” and wouldn’t change it at all. The “tomato of a gal” is delicious, but it happens so soon after “dumpling” that I worry I’ll be groaning through a food-laced bio. Maybe save it for later or remove it altogether (though I really love the phrase).

The outcast/cemetery bit is clunky at best. It makes me wonder if you were such an outcast that they made you sleep in the bone-yard or what! I’d say the cemetery line could go, since it doesn’t feel “on brand,” even though it’s a great story for a meeting or couch moment on the late night talkshows. Losing “killer” as the descriptor to the sense of humor would then make sense, too.

Lose those indie features in which you had supporting roles unless they got major play at festivals. Now that you’ve had the title role in something so badass, the rest is just filler in a bio (keep it on the resumé, of course). For Boardwalk Empire and L&O: SVU, I’d trade out “has co-starred on” for something really descriptive: “brazenly studied women’s empowerment on Boardwalk Empire” and something similar for L&O: SVU, which I can’t write for you because I don’t recall that work, like I do the other. 😉

Finally, “you may also recognize her” changes the focus of the bio onto the reader and it’s very late in the bio to do that. Consider a tweak to: “She is often recognized for her work opposite Kelsey Grammer in the Emmy-nominated ‘Reaganing’ episode of 30 Rock.” Boom.

Love that you name the rabbit but not the hubs. What you name your bunny tells me a lot about you (and about your husband, who is adorable to go along with this… or maybe it was his idea? Either way. Awesome).

Finally, let’s jam with Erin Thorn.

Hi Bonnie,

Thank you so much for doing this!

Of course, I would love to have all of the things critiqued. 🙂 But, my newest venture is a website, and I’d love your thoughts on that. It also contains most everything else I’d send you: headshots, resumé, and reel, although I know you probably don’t have time to peruse all of that. I will attach my new headshots and resumé and a link to my reel, in case you have a surfeit of websites to look at and might want to pick something else of mine to critique instead.

In any case, this service is AMAZING (as are all of your services) and SO MUCH APPRECIATED!! Even if it’s not specifically my stuff, I’ll really look forward to this new round of critiques!! 🙂

I hope I get a chance to take one of your classes some day soon!

All the best,



How much do I love that you are the vocalist in a Chicago-based jug band? So much! That’s the type of personality item I’m talking about including in the Special Skills area of a resumé and you’ve nailed it. What a great talking point! There’s a middle column tab stop issue in your sketch/improv section but that’d be cured by sending a PDF rather than a Word doc. Also, I don’t know about Corn Productions, but an iO Harold Team is something I would think should lead off your sketch/improv list (because you always wanna go in order of badassery; chronology doesn’t matter).

I adore your headshots, but I’d crop in for a thumbnail version, since these are off-center to the extreme. Again, fine for full-size, but even for the lead photo on your website, a crop of even a little bit will still keep the presentational style without overdoing it.

On the main page of your website, I’d love a headline or something that makes it clear, quickly, what each of the news items you’ve shared will be about. Great looking bio (love the hyphens joke). Nice use of handwriting font on the site, and thanks for the PDF option for the resumé. You do have a bit of a tab stop issue in the HTML version of your resumé, so look into using a table rather than spacing in your web editor.

Bonus points for a contact page with a form to reach out to you directly *and* for a blog you actually keep updated quite frequently. Right on! You are doing great, here, and I love the social share buttons not being overpowering, but being available. Awesome!

Your reel is more of a “coming attractions” type thing, with the music bed and a bit of filler, but y’know what? I don’t hate it. It’s short. I get you. And the acting work that *IS* there is pretty dang good, and that’s enough to help me GET you (which is what you want). I like that you sent me the link to the reel at YouTube, and would suggest that you offer that YouTube link on your website, for anyone who is at your site but who’d like to save your reel to their favorites or schedule it for watching later.

Guys, overall, really great stuff and I’m so excited, knowing that my inbox is still bursting with submissions from my beautiful mailing list members! THANKS, Y’ALL! We’ll be rolling out more critiques over the next couple of weeks, then sharing a year-end wrap-up that ties back to a bit of homework I gave y’all a few months ago. Woo! Excited and proud of you fine folks. Keep the good stuff flowin’!

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/001596.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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