You want to make your casting director happy? You want to improve your chances of getting called in for the perfect part? Then you have to make your casting director happy. And there are a few ways to do that.
As an actor (or actress), you have three main tools that are at your disposal to spread your name in the industry. Those three tools are your actor’s resume, your headshot, and your acting reel. Traditionally, your resume, along with your headshot, are your calling cards and the first thing that a casting director will usually see about you. Their one and only purpose is to give a quick breakdown of your experience, past work, and your physical stats. If the casting director likes everything so far, they’ll look at your acting reel and from there, call you in for a casting call if your acting reel shows promise.
Even if you have little to no experience, don’t stress yourself out over it. Everybody has an empty resume when first starting out and that’s to be expected. We all started somewhere and with dedication and determination, you will soon have an acting resume that you can be proud to hand to any casting director. However, knowing what to include on your resume is the real challenge. While it’s a requirement to list any applicable parts that you’ve played in, I would also consider including some of the following items to impress and capture your director’s attention:
People tend to do this all the time and they always get caught red-handed. If I had to pick between person #1 that has tons of professional experience but doesn’t fit the part and person #2 that has no professional experience but fits the part perfectly, it’s a no-brainer that person #2 will be cast. You can have the best damn resume on the East Coast but if you don’t fit the part, you’re not going to get hired regardless. Knowing this, it’s better to just be upfront with whatever level of experience you have, and do your best to outshine your competition with your talent.
As a headshot photographer, I’m going to give you this one with no chaser. Update your headshot every time your appearance changes. You should arrive at your casting call looking like your headshot does. Trust me, there is no way to piss off a casting director faster than sending headshots that look like ABC but you walk in the door looking like XYZ. If you’ve gained or lost weight, changed your hairstyle, or have aged a few years, then make sure your headshot reflects this.
Yes, it can be expensive. Yes, it can be another time-consuming thing on a long list of things you have to do that are already time-consuming but it is a requirement of the job. A photographer has their camera, a doctor has their stethoscope, and a mechanic has their wrench. And you, my dear thespian… you have your headshots.
Include your physical description on your resume (and headshot). Acting is a very visual medium and including your physical description on your resume makes it easier for casting directors to immediately know if you fit a particular project or not. At a minimum, your height, weight, hair color, and eye color should be placed prominently on your resume. And just like your contact information, your physical description (and headshot) must be kept updated to reflect any physical changes.
Include relevant experience that applies to the part you’re applying for. Whether it’s a theater, TV, or movie role, make sure to include experiences that are applicable to that particular part. If you don’t have much experience with a particular genre, then include whatever you can – and see tip #1. At the same time, start collabing with others to get experience in those areas you lack, no matter how small the part is. You will be surprised how many times I have worked with an actor/actress with no budget, one-on-one, shooting several, short 1 to 2 minutes scenes to build up their reel (and mine). While it’s not something I make a habit of doing, I’ve been there and know what it’s like to need a reel and not have nothing available due to funds.
Although the ability to act is a very important part of being an actor, there are several secondary skills that are also important such as additional voice training and combat training. Make sure to list anything special that you are proficient in, such as speaking with a German accent for example, as well as a short sentence or two about each. You can also include skills not directly related to acting, such as the ability to ride a motorcycle if that will help you secure the part. As always, don’t lie and don’t have a huge list either.
This should go without saying but don’t forget to include your contact information on your resume (and your headshot for that matter). You’ll be surprised how many times I come across a resume and headshot and simply have no way whatsoever to contact the individual. Unless you’re sending your kit to a psychic, please make sure to include your contact information. By the way, if you are sending your kit to a psychic, is it really necessary? Wouldn’t a psychic know you were going to send it therefore making the actual act of sending it irrelevant?
Update your contact information whenever it changes. Make sure you include a permanent working phone number and an professional email address. You might get a call months later for an unrelated audition and you want that person to be able to contact you. If you change your number like you change clothes, utilize a service like Google Voice and forward your Google number to whatever number you currently use. Don’t forget to make sure your email address sounds professional too. TwerkinSkittlesBooty69@whatever.com might have sounded good when you were a teenager, but it definitely attracts the wrong type of attention in the (grownup) professional world.
Know Your Type:
You have to know what type of role you can play. You might be typecast and can only play one type of role effectively such as a cop or housewife. Or maybe you’re flexible and can successfully play any role that is thrown at you. Whatever you can play best, you need to know it and that’s the part you need to cast for the most. You can still cast for other genres, but your specific type is where you should expend the bulk of your energy.
On a side note, many actors fear being typecast in their acting career but this can be a very valuable way to boost your career. If you look at actors like Danny Trejo (Mean Badass with Tattoos), Samuel L. Jackson (Cool Badass), Angelina Jolie (Sexy Badass), and Morgan Freeman (Wise Old Man – Narrator), you’ll see that being typecast has been very successful for them and has managed to put them at the very top when it comes to name recognition and income potential.
A while back, I wrote a short blog post on actor types. For more information, check out: Know Your Role… Your Casting Director Does!!