How to write an acting resume?
February 23, 2011 7:05 PM   Subscribe

How to write an acting resume? Or rather, how to make my bare-bones resume not look so embarassingly empty and bare? And a sorta ethical question.... and much anxiety...

I am really interested in doing acting for commercials and voice-overs (as well as print modeling but that's probably a question for another day!) and have basically no experience. I attend a large university in NYC that has several musical theater and acting programs but I am NOT an acting major nor have I taken any acting classes at this school. My school is holding a a free masterclass on the Method and Stanislavski System and although I have no interest in acting for theater, I think it would be really good acting training to put on my currently non-existent acting resume as well as a pretty interesting experience. I'm also currently broke so I don't have hundreds of dollars right now to take expensive classes (although I would like to and plan to save up for them once I get a j-o-b.) so free sounds fabulous to me.

I emailed the people in charge to ask if I could attend if the class is open to theater students only and they said 'Send your acting resume. It is open to all who have or are working on completing a Bachelor’s degree who also have acting and theater experience'. Uh-oh. That brought two things to mind: 1) What acting and theater experience?! Is it even fair for me to try to get in on this class when I'm really not as serious about it as other students may be? If I am even selected, then won't I be taking a spot from someone who deserves it? 2) I don't have an acting resume!

Should I even bother to apply and potentially take a spot from someone else? If I decide to apply, how do I construct a convincing resume when all I have to put on it is my name, contact info, and an acting for TV/film class that I took 5-10 years ago? Or is that enough?? (Even if I am not selected to take this class, I will still need to write a resume eventually so might as well get started now). I've found samples online but still have questions. Is it really acceptable to write things like 'None yet', 'Same... none yet' under headings like the example does? Or to even just write 'none'? This site suggests writing a little about myself and acting goals but for online resumes only. Do you think that that would be acceptable for this program? I figure that'll be a good place to explain my lack of experience and let them know that I should have a spot?

I'm also a little worried that if (yeah, big IF) I get accepted to attend this masterclass that I'll be confused at some things going on and/or get odd stares and at the worst, rude questions from other students about why I'm there since I'm not a theater student (the students are a close-knit group, so they'll know).

tl;dr: Useful hints on constructing an acting resume out of thin air? Should I bother to apply to this class at all? Hints on dealing with awkwardness of not belonging?

Sorry this is so long and thanks in advance! :)
posted by lovelygirl to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would actually worry about getting headshots first. You can get hired almost purely based on looks and your personality, not experience. Start doing extra work if you live in NYC.
I am not an actor (though I know a lot of them).
posted by elpea at 7:10 PM on February 23, 2011


It is open to all who have or are working on completing a Bachelor’s degree who also have acting and theater experience

Perhaps I am missing something here, but from the sounds of it ("Uh-oh.... What acting and theater experience?!") this means that the class isn't, in fact, open to you -- because you lack the actual experience that is the requirement to attend. No?

I feel like you're trying to jump ahead several steps just because this master class is free and you have a feeling you would like to do commercials and voice overs (both of which can be just as competitive, in terms of auditions, as any other acting job -- not saying that to be discouraging, but just FYI). Start from the beginning: take an acting class for beginners. If you have to wait awhile till you can afford it, then... you have to wait awhile till you can afford it. Learn how to go on an audition, so that you can actually get some experience. See if you can get some work as an extra in the meantime. Then you can actually start building a resume out of something other than thin air. But this feels a little bit of a case of putting the cart before the horse.
posted by scody at 7:51 PM on February 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's perfectly fine to list just your classes at this time. However, I'm not sure that Method/Stanislavski is going to be the right thing for you if you have little acting experience under your belt. Both types of training are really intense and take a real commitment to the role, so even though it's free, it might be better to find some community theater productions or extra work to get you more into the game before you try the more advanced training techniques.
posted by xingcat at 7:55 PM on February 23, 2011


elpea, I thought that extra work should not be put on a resume...? Or do you just mean to get general experience and network? Yeah, I definitely have been meaning to sign up for Central Casting for the longest time and will drag myself there on Tuesday! :)

scody, Yup, the word 'free' makes me happy! But I also think its pretty interesting... it's not something I'd normally do and it would be a fun way to spend the afternoon. I did take an acting class for film/TV but that was several years ago... I'll try looking for low-cost classes.

Thanks for the info thus far! Keep it comin'! ;)
posted by lovelygirl at 7:58 PM on February 23, 2011


You don't actually want to take this class. The acting technique they are teaching is not very good for commercial or voice over work -- it stresses realism over presentation (voice and body work). I've been trained in Stanislavski - it's a great technique for deepening the emotional connection to a role -- but sometimes at the expense of presentation polish (realism over looking/sounding good). It's also not a beginner technique -- I had three years of training before I got serious Stanislavski stuff. The class is explicitly for people with this experience, and who will be able to work at an advanced level.

If you want to act in Ibsen, take this class -- after you have done other acting training. If you want to do the commercial, voice over or print modelling work, get a portfolio together and start looking for an agency that will represent you.
posted by jb at 8:18 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Listen, a working actor's resume is not a place to explain your lack of experience. If you don't have it, you don't list it. You do not put casual phrases like "None Yet . . . Just Starting in Hollywood" under categories in which you have no experience; you simply do not list those categories. And I say this having worked with child actors with thin resumes (admittedly, in Los Angeles).

Having said all this, don't feel awkward. You've got to overcome this and give what you clearly love to do a shot. Everyone's afraid, it's what you do with the fear that matters. You think the cool kids aren't shitting bricks? Call this person back and tell them you don't have much of a resume but are still really interested in taking the class. Don't be afraid to show enthusiasm. This is hands-down the best way to get people to respond to you. If you get stared down by this "tight-knit community," so the fuck what. Try to make friends with some, and fuck the haters. I know some extremely successful VO artists and trust me when I say they aren't the "popular" kids - whatever the hell that means.

Whether this class is right for you, I dunno. 95% of masterclasses are a joke if you want my honest opinion. But you should definitely continue to pursue free opportunities like this with enthusiasm. And connect, connect, connect. Don't be shy about needing things.
posted by phaedon at 8:55 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


it's not something I'd normally do and it would be a fun way to spend the afternoon

This doesn't sound like a very good reason to try to take the class. I also agree with others who've said that Stanislavsky is really not where you want to start your acting training if you really have no experience with performance whatsoever.

Doing this workshop would be a huge waste of your time, and if it involves an element of participation rather than just listening to a lecture, it's also likely to be a waste of everyone else's time, too.

If you don't have any acting experience and think it's something you'd like to try, why not look around your school for casting notices for school productions? When I went to a college with active theatre and film programs, there was always someone looking to do a staged reading or make a student film. Even as a freshman who wasn't yet eligible to audition for most of the official school productions, I went on multiple auditions a week and got tons of experience. If you do that, you will soon have plenty of acting experience to list on your resume.

This is outside the purview of your question, but I think it's a bit premature to decide that you specifically want to do commercials and voice-over work. You can't really decide what specific kind of acting you want to do until you've actually tried acting.
posted by Sara C. at 11:27 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


lovelygirl: "I'm also a little worried that if (yeah, big IF) I get accepted to attend this masterclass that I'll be confused at some things going on and/or get odd stares and at the worst, rude questions from other students about why I'm there since I'm not a theater student (the students are a close-knit group, so they'll know)."

Theatre students are a close-knit group because they're the ones who stuck it out. While their friends and fellow aspiring actors fell off over the years because they weren't good enough and/or wanted a job that earned a respectable living salary, they're still slogging it out, paying top tuition dollars to pursue their dream, knowing that most of them will still wind up not succeeding at it. They're close-knit because of their shared experience, because they didn't take shortcuts.

If I were a full-time acting student and if (and, let's be honest, it's a giant if) a spot in a Master Class was given to someone who was taking it as a matter of curiosity instead of one of my fellow travelers, then yes, I'd be giving you more than an odd stare.
posted by mkultra at 7:02 AM on February 24, 2011


If I were a full-time acting student and if (and, let's be honest, it's a giant if) a spot in a Master Class was given to someone who was taking it as a matter of curiosity instead of one of my fellow travelers, then yes, I'd be giving you more than an odd stare.

Let's be honest here, you are using this opportunity to discourage someone you don't even know from doing something out of the ordinary, and without any particular insight into anything. I think your take on what full-time acting students are thinking is pretty useless.

It should be added that master classes these days are far more common than their name would lead you to believe, and are often a platform for so-called "experts" working in the field to promote their services, products, or a vendor, as well as of course their ideas, to young people in the field.

Nowhere in this post has it been said that seating is limited for this event; this idea that you will be receiving presumptuous stares from strangers has been produced out of thin air. Why would anyone allow you to attend this class with little or no credits only to make you feel really uncomfortable and suggest to you that you are taking opportunities away from deserving actors - whomever the hell they are. Unbelievable. This type of wait-your-turn bullshit is propagated by losers. End of story.
posted by phaedon at 9:22 AM on February 24, 2011


After reading the responses here and thinking it over, I realize that this class is not for me and I will not apply. Since I don't really have background training in Method or Stanislavski, I will likely find the class confusing plus this not the sort of training I need if I want to do commercial and voiceover work (thanks jb!). I figured that it might be the sort of class that would provide a great foundation and be useful in any acting scenario but that seems to not be the case, judging from everyones responses here.

I would still love to get more feedback on the issue of creating a resume though, seeing as I will have to make one eventually! (yes phaedon, I was really surprised that those silly things like 'none yet' were listed as examples. Thanks for clarifying my doubts that those are unprofessional!) Thanks for the feedback all!
posted by lovelygirl at 9:24 AM on February 24, 2011


phaedon: "Let's be honest here, you are using this opportunity to discourage someone you don't even know from doing something out of the ordinary, and without any particular insight into anything. I think your take on what full-time acting students are thinking is pretty useless. "

What makes you think I have no insight into this?

phaedon: "It should be added that master classes these days are far more common than their name would lead you to believe, and are often a platform for so-called "experts" working in the field to promote their services, products, or a vendor, as well as of course their ideas, to young people in the field.

Nowhere in this post has it been said that seating is limited for this event; this idea that you will be receiving presumptuous stares from strangers has been produced out of thin air.
"

Do you even know what a master class in acting is?
posted by mkultra at 9:33 AM on February 24, 2011


Take a beginning acting class at your school and apply for roles on Mandy.com. A lot of student filmmakers cast through that website, and it's a good way to get experience for your resume and clips for your reel. (Of course, once a project is over, you might have to chase down the director for a copy. Don't be afraid to be pushy.)

Don't worry about your resume looking sparse right now. Everyone has to start somewhere. Central Casting isn't worried about your experience. They just want faces and bodies. Since you don't have experience right now, go crazy with your "Special Skills" section. Every sport and instrument you play, language you speak, dance you know, etc. should be listed. Do you do any accents? Impersonations? Write them down. Sutton Foster used to list her dinosaur impersonation. If anything, it's something to talk about during your audition.
posted by zerbinetta at 11:38 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


i just want to confirm a lot of the comments and suggestions other people have already made upthread. creating and maintaining an actor's resume is a fairly mechanical process. there's not much room to "look convincing" as there would say in a normal professional resume. if you're just getting started and concerned by all the white space, yes, you may want to employ a creative way to fill it up, by itemizing your classroom experience and by listing a long skillset. by listing categories with headings like film, television, commercials and writing underneath them "None." (not a huge fan of this, but hey. i guess it eliminates the confusion of looking at a blank piece of paper.)

just dont get too silly. you want to try to remain respectful. also, you dont list extra work on an acting resume.

as to what scody said, if you're looking at VO and commercial/print work because its easier, well. i'll give you benefit of the doubt that you're not thinking this.. but its not. of course there is a style, a look, a sound that might make you very successful in these "secondary" categories. but these are definitely very competitive aspects of the business and the downturn in the economy hasn't made it any easier for young actors who are competing with established names in fields they didn't have to 10-15 years ago.

get into it. take classes. kalmenson is reputable here in los angeles, maybe you can call them and let them know you're in NY and looking for something comparable.

representation is also essential. and of which there are a variety - agents will typically focus on one of the three categories - theatrical, commercial, or voiceover - while managers will represent you across the board. you won't be considered or represented without headshots (if not two or three), or in the case of VO, a reel (if not two or three). VO classes are a great place to make a reel and get input on it. im obviously talking about two things at once here, but once you get the ball rolling on your acting career you can even submit yourself on projects via actors access. at your age credits are not a critical factor but as you get older having credits does matter. so get to work.
posted by phaedon at 11:51 AM on February 24, 2011


I won't contradict the advice in this thread specific to acting training, but I will address this point: "won't I be taking a spot from someone who deserves it?" It's not your job to say whether you "deserve" the spot, it's theirs. If this is something you want, and you represent yourself honestly, you should have no concerns whatsoever about deserving the opportunity. That's why there's an application process.

They've made their selection guideline clear: "It is open to all who have or are working on completing a Bachelor’s degree who also have acting and theater experience." Plus, it's a free class. I'd say the bar is pretty low. If you have absolutely no acting experience (high school plays? acting classes?), then yeah, you can select yourself out. But if you're passionate about the subject and have modest examples, you can be assertive in a resumé without being dishonest. Consider the extreme: apply with an empty resumé and a cover letter. What's the worst that'll happen? You won't get in? You won't get in if you don't apply, too.

I once applied for a free-by-invitation one-day conference on founding a software company. I had no solid ideas for products or business models, but it was something I wanted. I put a half-baked idea on my application, stated it assertively, and I got an invitation. The conference was a great experience, and I don't feel I wasted anybody's time or space. Everyone there had "half-baked" ideas and were wishy-washy about taking a risk on starting their own company. We all deserved to be there.

I've denied myself too many opportunities with the "someone deserves this more than me" logic, and I regret every one.
posted by dan_of_brainlog at 1:28 PM on February 24, 2011


Seconding zerbinetta (and myself, upthread) that student films and productions are the way to go to fill out your resume. Having made a lot of (embarrassing) student films in my day, I will say that oftentimes they are mainly casting a type, an interesting face, etc. The worst that could happen would be that you would have a lot of lines to learn.

Theatre, too, even though you say you aren't interested, is a good place to get experience. For one thing, plays are much more likely than films to have a large cast including actors with bit parts. For another thing, there are skills as a performer that you can really only learn on stage in front of an audience. When you eventually go on professional auditions for commercials or whatnot, a lot of your fellow auditioners will have theatre experience and thus the tools that come with that.

One thing that background work will do for you is to put you in touch with fellow actors. A lot of actors work regularly as background, and usually you're not the only extra on board for the day. Since most of what extras do is sit around and wait, you will have tons of time to bond and gossip with the other background actors. You'll start to hear where people take classes, where to look for casting notices, how to start dealing with headshots and maybe an agent. Even if none of that stuff ever pans out for you, you will eventually start to feel like one of the gang, rather than all this insecurity about "people who really deserve to be here".
posted by Sara C. at 1:30 PM on February 24, 2011


« Older What's the asking price for a ...   |  How can we contain our gerbil ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.