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Hi I'm Emily Maguire

I'm a UK career coach and business coach for individuals in the creative and entertainment industries and passionate about helping people achieve their career goals. I'm also a top voice on LinkedIn for the Film Industry and a podcast producer and host.

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Emily Maguire UK Career Coach and Business Coach for the arts, creative and entertainment industry

How to Navigate the Acting Industry: Essential Career Advice and Guidance for Actors

Updated: 7 days ago

As a career coach and talent manager for the entertainment industry, I'm often asked for industry-related advice on how to be an actor. In this article, you will find some career guidance tips on creating a great actor CV, a cover letter, some guidance on self-taping and some tips on keeping busy between acting jobs.

 Career Advice and Guidance for Actors

Table of Contents


1: How to Create the Perfect Actor CV

Actor CVs differ from work CVS, and it's important to understand each requires a different structure and details. For example, you will include a photo on your actor CV but never on a work one.

Hard copy PDF CVs are still useful and are ideal to attach to emails when introducing yourself to producers and casting directors or when seeking a new agent. Ideally, your resumes want to be one page. Think of it as an industry flashcard to quickly show why you are the ideal candidate for the role or their agency.

Don't include everything; this is where some performers make the mistake. Less is more with a resume. Pick out your most impressive film, television or theatre credits and display them. These are the ones that will get you through the casting door, and you can discuss the rest once you are through.

If you're just starting in the industry, including work while training is okay. We all have to start somewhere, and showing a clear progression is what counts most with a CV. Once you start gaining professional credits, you can slowly start to remove any in-training ones.

Top tip: If you specialise in more than one area, have multiple resumes. For example, one is for voiceover and motion capture, and the other is for television and film.

2. Actor Cover Letter Tips

  • Research the person/company you are contacting before you contact them. This shows your enthusiasm and keenness to work with them.

  • Answer the question: Why should they cast or represent you? If you've researched, this one will be easy to answer.

  • Next, List all your career highlights on a separate piece of paper and pick 3-4 of them that suit the agent, production company or acting role you are applying for.

  • Make a list of all your USPs (Unique Selling Points). Then, using your research, include the most appropriate ones in your cover letters.

  • Keep the length around 3-4 medium-length paragraphs at the maximum.

  • Refer back to any key credits or roles on your resume.

  • Ensure to include a hyperlink to your Spotlight page and reels.

Anything else?

  • Use the 3 C's of Communication: Be Clear, Concise and Complete.

  • Make sure to include an acting headshot as a separate file and ensure to reduce the file size.

  • Label your CV and headshots with your full name and year.

Girl taking a selfie on her mobile phone

3. How to Find an Agent for Acting

One way to find an agent is to attend networking events and industry gatherings to connect with industry professionals. This can allow you to showcase your talent and make a positive impression on potential agents.

Another way to find a reputable acting agent is to conduct research online and compile a list of reputable agencies representing actors in your area. Or, use the Spotlight contacts directory and open books facility. Once you have a list of potential agents, you should review their websites to learn more about their services, clients, and submission requirements. It's also a good idea to reach out to other actors in your network for recommendations and referrals, as they may be able to provide valuable insights and advice.

When you're ready to submit your materials to a prospective agent, make sure to follow their submission guidelines closely. This may include sending your headshots, CVs, and showreel or voice demo reel.

Remember that finding the right agent can be a competitive and time-consuming process, so be prepared to persevere and keep putting yourself out there until you find the right fit.

4: Self-Tape Guidelines

Don't worry about becoming the next Kubrick overnight. Filming your self-tape with a professional camera will naturally create a more professional-looking film, but it isn't essential. When self-taping, ensure the quality of any camera you use is clear and not grainy or blurry, and your video will instantly be more professional.

Ensure that any space you use has good natural lighting. If not, you could consider investing in a softbox light from somewhere like Amazon.

Test the quality of your audio, as well. The casting director will need to see and hear your performance, and it might be challenging to make out your lines if the audio is crackly.

Most casting directors will not want to hear empty space between your lines, so record with a reader, checking their lines can be heard clearly yet quietly. If you can't find a reader, there are companies online like Weaudition that provide self-tape readers for a nominal fee.

Don't be tempted to use filters or overlays. Directors and casting managers want to see you, and camera effects can make it harder for them to tell if you're right for the part.

Ensure you follow any requirements provided, or you could risk your self-tape immediately going on the rejection pile. Instructions may give specific requirements for formatting the video, including file size, type and preferred file-sharing method.

Lastly, always ensure to label your file as requested by the casting director or production company.

5: Having a Backup Plan

No matter what industry you are in, it is always essential to have a backup plan. If you were not an actor, what would you do instead?

When you consider that 90% of actors can be out of work at any one time, having a side gig financially support you between acting jobs seems like a pretty good idea, doesn't it?!

It doesn't mean you're stepping away from acting and giving it up, far from it. But by creating other opportunities, we take the pressure of getting the next acting job and instead enjoy the process.

Also, who knows where your new activities may lead or the new connections you could make? Sometimes, the best part of life's journey is the road we never saw coming.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your unused skills?

  • What transferable skills do you have that could be utilised in another career field?

  • What resources are available to you?

  • How could you use some of these resources and skills to enhance your life?

  • What ambitions remain unfulfilled?

  • Do you have a story you want to tell?

  • Could you pass on your skills and train other up-and-coming actors?

6: How to Handle Receiving Criticism

When done correctly, criticism should be constructive, clear, and direct and help the individual grow rather than be about putting them down. Criticism should always be constructive; otherwise, how can change occur?

But if someone criticises you, stay confident and calm. Ask why they have given negative feedback and ask them to elaborate. Tell them how it makes you feel; we all need to keep our self-awareness in check. The giver may surprise you, so be grateful for pointing out how they need to communicate differently and be more constructive with their feedback.

By confidently and proactively questioning people, you help yourself and them to become better communicators.

Buddhists believe in cause and effect, and the actual word Buddha means ‘one who has become enlightened'.

7: Life’s Lessons and Authentic Self

Consider keeping a mindfulness life lesson-learned journal. When things don't work out the way you hoped they would. Try not to look at them as unfavourable; instead, look at what you can learn from those events, take those lessons, and grow.

When an audition doesn't go well, it can turn into self-blame and negative self-talk that you aren't good enough. Instead, consider what you can learn from it and apply it to future auditions or seek our further training to hone your audition skills.

Whatever you do in life, have faith in who you are, and always be authentic. When you network, audition, and meet new people, go into that room and have the courage to be your true self. This self-confidence will fuel you with positive energy and create positive interactions in the world around you.

Pay attention to the lessons life is teaching you. Every experience holds within it an opportunity to further your development.

If you'd like more help, support and guidance, why not book a discovery call to explore and learn more about how I can help you achieve your actor career goals? You can also follow me on LinkedIn, where I share and repost industry-related news and jobs and have a fortnightly newsletter called The Creative Life.

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