Updated: Nov 10
As a Career Coach and Talent Manager for the entertainment industry, I'm often asked for industry-related advice. 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.
1: How to Create the Perfect Actor CV
Actor CVs are different 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 for voiceover and motion capture and one 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 done your research, 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.
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.
Enure that you label your CV and headshots with your full name and year.
3: 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 your performance and hear it, 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. 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.
4: 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?
5: 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 our self-awareness to be kept in check. The giver may surprise you and 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'.
6: 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 and instead, look at what you can learn, from those events and 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.
No matter what 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.
Remember to always let your true self shine
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