The Milwaukee Generals are coming up.  Don’t let your resume get in the way of your audition!

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Attaching your Resume to your Headshot

Your resume is your first impression.  Oftentimes it precedes you into the room…and it can make us hate you before we even see your face.  Here are some hateful things you can avoid.  Please note that I say all of this with a little love in my heart because these mistakes are almost always made by people who are just getting into the business.  How would they know?  Well they should have asked someone, but in case they couldn’t find someone or received bad advice, here goes.

The Bigger than the Headshot Resume

You’ve got an 8×10 headshot and you’ve printed your resume on an 8 1/2x 11 piece of paper and stuck it on the back.  Why did you not trim it down to size?  It’s now awkward and hard to file.  Take the time and make sure it’s neatly trimmed.  I know it’s a pain in the ass and I curse the fact that our headshots aren’t just 8 1/2×11, but that’s just the way it is.  Not trimming your resume just makes me think that you’re unprofessional, or were rushed, or are a slob, or are all of these things.  None of these things help you.

The Paper Clip Resume

You’ve used a paperclip to attach your resume to your headshot.  Invest in a stapler.  Your paper clip gets caught up in all sorts of things and has the opportunity to become dislodged ensuring that I’ll never see it or you again.

The “I’m Saving the World One Staple at a Time” Resume

You’ve stapled your resume to your headshot (congrats on graduating from the paper clip), but you’ve only used one.  Your resume is now flapping in the wind which is quite annoying.  Secure the damn thing!  And not with two staples either; break the bank and put a staple in all four corners.

The Bigger than the Headshot Resume which is Paper Clipped or One Stapled to your Resume AND is also Backwards

You’re a special kind of hateful.  You’ve made it nearly impossible to read your resume, thus defeating your audition.  I want to turn your headshot over and read your resume…quickly!  I don’t want to take extra steps to do so.  Special bonus if it’s also upside down.

The “I’m so Talented that I couldn’t Fit All of My Credits onto One Piece of Paper” Resume

Are you really that talented?  Is everything on your resume so important that you can’t possibly get it on one piece of paper, therefore you extend your resume to two or even three pieces of paper?  I’ve got two words for you: snip, snip.  There are actors in this town that have done hundreds of shows.  The idea isn’t to share every one of them, it’s to share representative roles.  Give me a wide variety of roles from the best theatre companies and/or the best directors.  Show me that you can sing and move and play Shakespeare.  If you’ve got that many roles get rid of your academic credits or the credits from the store-front theatre in Nebraska that only lasted a season that no one ever heard of.  And I’ve got nothing against Nebraska.  It could have been Arkansas.

The Proper Size Resume with the Wrong Size Head Shot Resume

Look, I get it.  Headshots are expensive and every few years the industry is telling us they want something different.  Matte, glossy, borders, no borders, black and white, color… Yup, it sucks, but that’s what you’ve signed on for.  I just received a resume with a headshot the size of a high school year book photo.  You know, the kind you get in the Gold package so that you have enough to mail out to all of your friends and family.  It was the size of a business card AND it wasn’t attached.  We had to ask the monitor to give us a little extra time so that we could pass them around separately from the resume.  What are we going to do with that?

And this is just attaching your resume to your headshot.  There are all sorts of other land mines to overcome in your audition, don’t let your resume be the thing that sinks you before you even open your mouth.

The Body of a Resume

So let’s look at fictional actor, Chris Fettle.  Chris is just starting out in his career, so it’s no surprise that there’s not much on it.

Chris Fettle Resume 1

Nothing much wrong here, but there could be improvement.  I don’t care that he doesn’t have much on his resume, but I do care that he’s not put down his directors.  And get rid of Actor.  We’ll just assume that.  We’ll see how Chris advances.

Chris Fettle 2

 

Here he is several years later and he has done a nice job in that I’ve got his name and he’s laid his theatre experience out cleanly.  I don’t think it’s a terribly good idea to put your address on there.  Once these resumes leave your hand you don’t know what’s going to become of them.  The most unscrupulous type of auditors (and I’ve never known this to be the case in Milwaukee) sell your information.  Don’t give them the ability to do so.  We’ve got the vitals, which is good, but it could be done in a more appealing manner.

On to the shows themselves.  Nice mix of shows.  There are a few classical plays on there and a couple of musicals.  He’s also worked at most of these places more than once which presupposes that they liked him enough to hire him back.  He’s got his college credits on there, which is just fine.  Assuming he advances his way in the field, he’ll eventually start working those out of the rotation.

The big thing I’m missing here are the Directors.  Who directed these shows?  That’s important information and must be included on the resume.

So let’s clean up Chris’ resume.

Chris Fettle 3

 

We’ve got rid of the address, the resume’s a little cleaner, and I’ve got the information I need.  Assuming I’m interested and I know a few of these people he’s worked with, I’m going to start making some calls.  So make sure you’ve actually worked at the theatres on your resume and make sure you’ve actually played the parts as opposed to simply understudying them.

This is Chris early in his professional career.  Let’s examine the possibility of where Chris might end up a few years from now.

Chris Fettle 4

 

Ack!  These are the resumes that absolutely drive me nutty.  What’s happened to our little hero?  Methinks things haven’t turned out so well.  In an effort to make himself seem really successful he’s bound and determined to fill every inch of space on his resume.  To do so, he’s decreased the size of his font making it even less likely I’ll be able to find the info I’m seeking.  He’s also left me no room to take notes.  What I can tell is that he’s only working at theatres and with directors once.  This leads me to believe that while he may be a good or voracious auditioner, things don’t work out so well in the actual productions.

Actor?  Really?  Again?  He cleaned this up for a bit, but now he’s back.  Let’s just assume I know you’re an actor.  Why else would you be here?

It may be helpful to others, but I’m only looking at you for theatre experience, I don’t care about your film credits especially if I’ve never heard of them and you’re playing extras.  That doesn’t tell me a thing.

Don’t tell me your age range.  Why would you do such a thing?  Let me decide what age range you can play.  All you’ve done is limited yourself and made the inference that I’m too stupid to figure it out for myself.

This is just me, but I don’t care if you’ve won an award.  What good does that do me?  It’s unlikely that I’ve seen the show in question and smacks of…something.

So to sum up

The Bottom of Your Resume

 

This is where most people put their Education and Training and their Special Skills.  Let’s deal with Special Skills first:

Special Skills

 

Special Skills should be…well, special.  Now look, I don’t think many people are going to win or lose jobs by what they put in this section, but sometimes we’re looking for a unique talent.  This section is also more likely to help you in a one-on-one audition where the auditor might have a little more time to spend with you than in a large group audition.

That having been said, putting quite ordinary things here makes me question your sense.  Let’s take a look at actual skills listed on people’s resumes:

Dancing (various)

Now I’ll get to dialects a little later, but I think with dancing you should be very specific about what types and how long you’ve trained.  Listing your teachers here is also a good idea.  And while this is a special skill, it might be more appropriate to list this under Education and Training.

Special Skills: Running, Quick Study

Running?  How does this help you on the stage unless you’re doing it the entire play.

Quick Study?  I hope so, but unless there’s a bunch of people putting “Slow Study” on their resumes, I’m not sure how much it’s helping you.

Driving Stickshift or Valid Driver’s License

This may be helpful in Film work, but I’m not sure how it applies to theatre.

Stage Combat

Just Stage Combat.  Not who taught you or what kind of Stage Combat you’ve had.  Did you throw a pie once?  Get hit by a spit take?  Get hit by a pillow?  I don’t know what this means and the fact that you didn’t go into more detail leads me to believe that you’ve had no real training.  This also might be better listed under Education and Training.

Flexibility

Um, okay.

Very Basic Juggling

Well then it’s not really a Special Skill, is it?  Every actor I know can juggle.  Unless you’re great and can juggle a knife, a bowling bowl and a shark at the same time, I’m not impressed.  Actually, if you can do that, call me immediately.

Craft Services

This would be interesting if I was looking at you for a commercial gig, but then I wouldn’t be auditioning you as an actor.

Computer Literate

This is not an IT position.

Motorcycle Repair

What do I do with that?

Lighting design

Great, but I’m looking at you as an actor.  Apply for a tech position at the appropriate time.

Can work without glasses

I certainly hope so, but this person auditioned without glasses.  Now I’m wondering if it was a lucky fluke that he didn’t bump into something.

Fashion Sensibilities:

Ah, hah, hah!

Comedic Training

What?

Water Skiing:

Being a water skier myself, I know just how unlikely this is to help you on stage.

And again, some of these things might be useful for a film audition, but then save them for that resume.

So what should go in this section?  I’ll try to list the things that I find useful or at the very least interesting.  And some that just make me smile.

Dance Training:

As I said this is a perfect thing to list here, but again, be specific.  What type of dance, where you took it and how many years you trained.  If you’ve trained all over the place no need to go into every class you ever took, just give us a representative idea.

Dialects:

I assume that any actor worth his salt can handle dialects.  Where we get into trouble here is when people make a long list of the dialects they’re proficient at.  Here’s one example:

Dialects- Irish, English (North Country, Upper Class), American (Standard, Southern, NY, Boston), Spanish, Arabic (Israeli, Palestinian, Persian).

It’s not that I doubt this person, but she might have better served by writing Dialects on request, or proficient in Dialects.

Do you play an instrument?  Many instruments?  Do let us know.

Are you fluent in a foreign language?  That might get you a job right there.  Sign language is also a useful skill to list.

Certified Actor Combatant:

Yup, let us know that and what you’re certified in: Unarmed, Quarterstaff, Broadsword, Rapier and Dagger.  Taking a weekend course or being involved in a single play hardly qualifies here.  Be honest about your skill level.  Also, if you’ve been the Fight Captain for a play, let us know.  It might not get you extra work, but if you’re cast it might get you a little extra pay.

Martial arts Training:

Always good to know.

Here is a list of things that I find interesting in a good way.  If the right part requires one of these skills, listing it might just get you the job:

Professional Circus Clown

Fire Breathing

Fire Juggling (bonus if it’s with fire sharks)

Unicycling

Bullwhip Cracking

Trick Roping

Aerial Circus Arts (trapeze, lyra, cradle, cloud swing)

And finally, here’s a list of things that really don’t have much to do with anything, but make me giggle and just might open up a conversation which allows you to reveal some personality and make a connection with the auditor:

Dolphin Sounds

Baby Crying

Happy Baby Sounds

Barking

Christopher Walken Impression (everyone loves a good Christopher Walken)

Excellent Whistler

Can walk and Dance conjoined to another

Chewbacca Impression

And the single best special skill I’ve ever seen listed; Mock.  You’ll have to get John Maclay to tell you about that.

Now if you list one of these things as a special skill, you’d best be able to produce.  Don’t put down Walken unless you can nail him.

Education and Training

 

This is a good place to name drop while getting some pertinent information across, but use this space wisely.  Some people will list every class they’ve ever taken and when all is said and done, this section covers half their resume.  Keep it short and sweet and relevant.  This section belongs at the bottom of your resume along with Special Skills.

Do you have a BA, BFA or MFA?  That’s relevant.  Did you take a weekend class with Anne Bogart?  Not so much.  There are very few things you can learn in a weekend that are going to qualify you to be proficient in anything.  Were you an intern at the Milwaukee Rep?  Put it down.  Studied theatre abroad for a year?  Mark it.  In the Company Class at First Stage?  Bingo.

And do include the teacher’s names.  Theatre is a small world and it’s likely that we’ve worked with some of these people in the past.  Now this is more likely to help you in a more intimate situation than the Milwaukee Generals; a situation where you have time to sit down and talk to the auditor.  And if they are thinking of hiring you they will call some of these people, so don’t lie.  An hour long intro to stage combat is not the same thing as being a Certified Actor/Combatant.  Just be honest here as elsewhere on your resume.

Obviously as you gain more experience you can begin working out your earliest experience.  The big things that matter here are Acting, Voice (and by this I also mean Singing), Dance, and Stage Combat.  Acting for the Camera is great to have, but again, save that for your commercial resume.  It won’t hurt to include your experience with Improv, Clowning and Mime work, and Textual Analysis, but I assume you’ve gotten some or all of that with any extended program.  Just make sure this section doesn’t start becoming the focus of your resume.

Now here are things that won’t help you, and they are things I’ve come across on actual resumes:

Acting: High School Drama Classes, College Level Theatre Classes:

What do I make of this?  I don’t know who taught these classes or what they consisted of.

Numerous Drama Courses through school:

See above.

Voice and Speech: Several classes.  My career involves my voice.

Oh really?  Several classes?  How does that help me?  And I certainly hope your career involves your voice, but how does that info make me want to cast you?

Shakespeare & Company Weekend Intensive:

I’ve covered that sort of thing.

Be honest.  No one will hold it against you if you’re just starting out in this business and don’t have much to fill in here, but you’ll end up looking silly if you include a bunch of things just to make it look like you’ve done more.  Keep this part of your resume as clean and clear as the rest and you’ll be just fine.

Fletcher

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