What you need to WIN: Acting Resumes, Cover Letters, and Headshots.

A lot of things are out of your control as a commercial actor, but here are some things you can do on your end to make yourself as bookable a possible—a couple you might not have thought of, and a couple reinforcement reminders.

1. Have evidence. If you have a special skill (juggling, skateboarding, BMX biking), make sure your agent knows about this skill and that he or she has a video clip of you performing this skill. Sometimes we have last minute requests for talent with very specific skills, and don’t necessarily cast for it in a studio. We instead collect video clips and send them to the client for them to review. You are much more likely to be considered if you have pre-recorded video of yourself showing that you are a master skateboarder or juggler, than if you have to scramble to get yourself on tape last minute. Even if we do cast in-studio, having your extra video is bonus material for the client to have that ultimately can help work in your favor. 

2. Follow casting on social media.  If you don’t have an agent yet and are looking for opportunities to get in the room, following casting can be your intro. Lots of casting directors also post quick tips and pointers on the daily, which can be helpful for you as well. 

3. Make sure your headshots look like you. Your headshot should look like you, plain and simple. Heavy makeup is not recommended, especially for the L.A. market, and you should have a good one that shows your smile (with teeth!)—especially for commercials. If you dye your hair from blonde to red, your headshot needs to reflect that change. Whatever headshot you have up on casting sites should look like the you we see when you walk into the audition room. 

4. Always be growing your training résumé. Again.. confident actor is an appealing one, and I think confidence is best supported by a strong training background. Whether it be scene study classes, cold read workshops, comedy intensives, improv or commercial auditioning workshops, do the work necessary to build your confidence as an actor. Studying and growing as an actor will make auditioning more gratifying, because you’ll know how to best approach the copy. Even if there is a no copy, you’ll be more comfortable and confident in front of the camera knowing you have a strong presence.

If you want to really stand out as an actor (and I think you do), you will have to make your resume stand out for you.

Your resume, cover letter, and headshot are really the first impressions you’ll ever make. They act as your agent–good ones get you auditions, bad ones don’t…

So, how does one go about standing out from the rest of the crowd? Well, first of all, you have to think like a marketer. What makes YOU interesting and unique as an actor? This is you USP (Unique Selling Point). Your resume and cover letter act as your USP…

In order to make your resume and cover letters really effective, you must follow a few simple guidelines:

For your resume, divide the page into two parts–one part for your actual resume, one part for testimonials (yes, testimonials!). Testimonials should be from former directors, playwrights, etc. and they shouldn’t be hard to get. Just ask! (but be sure to get their permission to use their testimonial on your resume) Include the name and position of the person underneath each testimonial quote.

If you are just starting out, include EVERYTHING acting-related on your resume–list every acting job you’ve ever had–no matter how small or big the part (yes, even the non-speaking parts!). Remember, you are trying to fill out your resume–list as much as you can. As time goes by, pick off the less glamorous acting parts and replace them with the true gems that highlight your best work.

Include a small thumbnail headshot of yourself on your resume. This will ensure that if your headshot and resume ever do get separated, your photo will be forever intact ON your resume.

Actors have little time to spend on marketing themselves–let alone anything else non-acting related. BGRated does do marketing and if you are interested in this you can check it out here. If you are the do it yourself type, you should have two form letters ready to go at all times–one for theater, one for film/television. Keep it short and sweet. Your letter should include a brief introduction, your purpose for writing in, your recent endeavors, and a friendly closing. For example, my cover letter states: I’m writing you today because I am very interested in auditioning for your play (or ‘film’ or ‘project’–depending on what you’re submitting for) . I know your time is valuable, so I’ll make this short: I would really appreciate it if you could take a moment to review my headshot and resume and let me know if you’d like to meet with me. Again, your letter should include your most recent or current work (try to include pictures within the body of the letter), what classes you’re taking, etc. Then wrap it up with something short and sweet like: Thank you for your time and consideration. I’d love to meet with you. I can be reached at XXX-XXX-XXXX. I hope to hear from you soon. And then, sign your name to it.

When sending a headshot and resume via email, use the same cover letter used in regular mailings–simply cut and paste it into the text portion of your email (remember, you’re trying to save time, so make it easy on yourself!). Don’t forget to attach your headshot–and make sure to size the headshot appropriately.

Headshots should look like how you look right now. If your headshot doesn’t look like how you look now, get a new one…

You don’t have to spend a big chunk of change on a reputable, big deal, bells-and-whistles photographer to get a nice headshot. Just look around and find someone who has a pretty good portfolio and low prices. I got my headshot done by a photographer who was just starting out. I got a great deal on my headshots and she used my images in her portfolio. A win-win situation!

Get an 8″ x 10″, black and white headshot (which is standard).

I recommend keeping it simple–your clothing, jewelry, etc. You want YOU (not your clothing and accouterments) to stand out.

That wraps up our section on resumes, cover letters, and headshots. I hope this section has inspired you to make your HS/resume kit brilliant!


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