What Belongs on an Actor’s Résumé

Photo Source: Jesse Balgley

Photo Source: Jesse Balgley

Your résumé is simply a document which shows your credits, training, and special skills in a professional manner. If you don’t have a lot of recognizable credits, there are still ways to enhance the overall presentation. For example, if you acted in indie films which played at festivals or won awards, you can denote that on your résumé with an asterisk and a note at the bottom. If you’ve just done student films, list the name of the director rather than the name of the university, unless it’s a prestigious film school, such as AFI or NYU. Highlight your training and make sure the résumé demonstrates that you have studied with reputable teachers. Use the special skills section to list abilities that could add to a production, such as firing a pistol, gymnastics, and foreign language skills. Have fun with the special skills section! Add an offbeat special skill such as “dropping electronic equipment” or “catches every Seinfeld reference no matter how obscure.” Often that can be an organic and fun talking point during an audition. In our Career Coaching Program, we help actors launch their careers and construct résumés for maximum impact. 

This article was originally posted on Backstage


Tips for Determining Your ‘Brand’

Photo Source: Jesse Balgley

Photo Source: Jesse Balgley

The best way to determine your brand is through a combination of soul-searching and market research. Do this the old-fashioned way by looking in the mirror with a pen and paper handy and make a list of words and phrases that come to mind. These could be traditionally descriptive adjectives such as impish, weaselly, ordinary-looking, trustworthy, squidgy, or random phrases like “Get off my lawn,” or “I’ll cut you.” 

From your list, start building a greater sense of what you have to consistently offer the industry. Use your pen and paper for this part of the exercise, finishing the sentence, “I’m the ____ who ____.” For instance,this could be “I’m the sweet-faced guy who gets kicked around.” “I’m the ivy-league lawbreaker who eats Vicodin for breakfast.” Often your brand is connected to your acting “sweet spot” and it’s worth exploring them both—here’s my article on the subject: “How To Find Your Acting Sweet Spot.” 

The final step in determining your own personal brand revolves around reaching out to your closest friends and asking them for adjectives and phrases that describe you. Most importantly, give your friends permission to not be complimentary. In my career coaching program, I help actors discover their acting “singularity”—the exclusive combination of attitudes and behaviors that make them an original.

This article was originally posted on Backstage

Tips for Creating Your Demo Reel

First, stop making your reel an obstacle to success! Don’t use the excuse of “I’m working on my reel" as means of delaying your career any further. Yes, you must absolutely have professional, high-quality video footage of your work in order to compete at the highest level of this industry, but this does not mean you need to create a traditional reel. Alternative types of demo reels are often way more effective in helping you get the audition or launch your career. To see how to create a winning demo reel and for examples of non-traditional reels that can supercharge career, read my article, "4 Tips for a Winning Reel.” 

This article was originally posted on Backstage

6 Ways To Make Your Career Go Viral

Actors hear all the time how much harder it is to be an actor in this day and age. There’s a ton of competition and the industry is basically overcrowded. This simply means more people and fewer jobs to go around. The good news is that social media is something that exists today that young actors of the 90s simply didn’t have access to, because it didn’t exist. While social media can be dizzying and overwhelming, it can also allow you to push your career and your brand forward in ways that previous generations were never able to. 

The key is to find your singularity—the thing you do better than anyone else—and to consistently promote that specific flavor and fingerprint of you across all media platforms from blogs to newsletters to videos—any and all content you create. Remember, creating content equals freedom. Rather than seeing content creation as a form of drudgery and another obligation, view it as something that frees you from waiting for the phone to ring and allows you to engage your audience and funnel them into your special world. It empowers you to stop asking for permission to have a career! 

1. Be consistent with your brand online.

  • On all social media platforms, your content lives on. Screen it carefully as you would an outside observer and be careful to ensure that your content is reflective of the public version of you. Seldom should your content be about “how we got drunk on Saturday night,” as that’s your personal life and generally boring. It’s also quite derivative as so many young people already have that story to tell.  
  • Choose a “mission statement,” or value proposition, for you (your business) and try it out for a few months. If it doesn’t work, you can change it. For example, your mission statement could be “to regale the world with tales of my misadventures in dating.”
  • Keep it clear: When presenting yourself to the public, you should be the girl/guy who thinks/does/wants. For example, I’m the coach who has the highest percentage of clients who book in the industry, and I empower actors to get themselves in the room and book the damn role. You might be the girl who wants love but can’t get it, the dirty bearded man-baby who does fart jokes, the conniving socialite alpha girl who takes delicious pleasure in destroying her competition, etc.

2. Not all content is good content.

  • Use this opportunity to really introduce yourself as a performer. Internet content lives on, so really think about the message you’re sending. Subpar content (derivative, offensive but not meaningfully so, porn, etc.) can be a detriment to your career rather than a boost forward. 
  • No snobbery: Some people do still make a name for themselves with fart jokes and dancing with their puppies in tutus, so don’t feel like your content has to be super high-brow. However, it does have to look good and it does have to be original. 

3. Engaging your audience.

  • Social media is the proverbial “water cooler” of our era. At work, the water cooler is for chatting, updates, gossip—basically an exchange of info. Use social media the same way. You need to have dialogue with people on social media, which can allow you to build a following.
  • Building a following through sincere dialogue can help enormously in the game of gaining online support for your endeavors. People want to feel invested in you personally as well as your career. 

4. Be in the know.

  • I don’t care if you quote Nietzsche in your spare time and if the walls of your apartment are painted black and if the only people who ever really understood you are a bunch of deadbeat poets. It is no longer okay for you not to know what Vine is or to not be on Instagram. You have to be on social media and go aggressive if you want to work in show business. 
  • Use Hootsuite to schedule your tweets/statuses for free. These updates should not be perfect. They don’t really matter, so dare to fail on these and test your boundaries. Your “voice” will come.  

5. Roll with the punches.

In life and in show business, there’s a strong expectation that you need to roll with the punches. Social media requires you to roll with the punches to an even greater degree, but all on your terms! This is the time to grow that thick skin and to accept that you’re never going to be perfect. 

  • Depend on failure and make mistakes. You’re not always going to say or do the best thing on social media. That’s OK, no one expects you to, and few people are actually doing it themselves.
  • Depend on trolls and haters. This can be the hardest issue for actors to grapple with, and can certainly take some adjustment, but the reality is, if everyone likes you, you’re doing something wrong. As Andy Warhol once said, “Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.”
  • Even so, make sure you don’t become a hater. You’re too smart and have too much value to join their ranks.

6. Final thoughts. 

  • Start slow. Add one thing to your social media list per month and keep growing.
  • Know that this is the new normal of show business and it will never stop.
  • Know that as you grow, you will have bigger challenges as you have bigger successes.
  • In the end, this is work; but you chose this job. Always remember why you wanted to do this job, and give yourself three reasons to love what you’re doing. It’s too easy to get bogged down in the mire of “business,” so if you need to add a dash of color and spice to the mix, do it. Choose fun stamps, listen to music in between phone calls. Make a silly Vine that has nothing to do with “your singularity.” 

This article was originally posted on Backstage


4 Ways To Make Your Career Last

We’ve all heard the expression, “It’s a marathon and not a sprint,” when it comes to a career in acting. This is an absolute and utter truth that I completely believe in, as do my clients who consistently work and have careers. 

But what does the marathon-style career actually look like on a day to day basis? What are the realities of living your life this way? In my opinion, most of the actors I work with don’t know. Taking a long look at the marathon-focused career trajectory in acting can not only make all of your efforts more effective, but also give you greater peace.  

The Long Game

The marathon-approach to acting refers to active engagement in the long game. Like a con artist committed to defrauding his victim over a period of years withalengthy long con, the long game refers to conducting your career in a way that shows you’re not attached to instant results. You realize that the industry relationships which are actually going to move your career forward are the ones which take time to develop—a lot of time. 

One of my clients has been friends with a casting associate of a major network show for years. This is someone she met and bonded with via industry events. They’ve only now just begun hanging out outside of the work environment. This is the type of relationship that you want to have and nurture, but it also doesn’t happen overnight. Tenacity is a major aspect of the long game. It’s not enough to meet an industry professional once—the real value and work is found in building that relationship over time. 

Booking the Room vs. Booking the Role

Another major pillar of the long game is the commitment to booking the room during every audition. Actors who understand the long game, also understand their powerlessness in booking the job. Actors who are well-acquainted with the business of acting are the ones who understand that they could give an audition that is the best damn thing a casting office has ever seen in their lives and stillnot book the role. These actors understand that this particular part, which they have read for so astoundingly, and which should be renamed after them, might actually end up going to a friend of one of the producers, the girlfriend of one of the writers, an actor with a bigger name, or a redhead (just because). 

With the long game in mind, these actors don’t sweat it. They know that by giving the best audition they’re capable of, they’ve already won. They might not book the role, but they sure as hell will book the room. And they’re right. Casting always remembers actors who give phenomenal performances like that, and those are the actors they bring back, year after year, for part after part. 

Acting as Much as You Can

For those of you not familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s famous thesis in his book “Outliers,” he essentially concludes from years of research that in order to achieve mastery within a given field, one needs to devote 10,000 hours to one’s profession. How many actors in L.A. are really on that trajectory? How many actors in L.A. are acting every day—even if it’s just rehearsing a scene with a friend—and how many are just bitching about not getting enough auditions? 

Part of the long game is a devotion to becoming a better actor every day. One way to achieve this is by being in a small acting class where you experience an acting breakthrough every session…not every four weeks! Every student at my studio experiences an undeniable acting breakthrough every class—this is the only way to ensure steady and rapid growth.

Stop Waiting for Breadcrumbs or Handouts!

One of my celebrity clients who has spent the last 23 years establishing a distinguished career of over 110 film and TV credits recently made the brave yet strategic move to abruptly put the brakes on her career. She turned down a leading role in a feature film and asked her representation to immediately stop sending her out on auditions. She needed space from the feeling that she was just getting thrown breadcrumbs by schlepping from one audition to the next and waiting for guest star/co-star handouts from others. She was starved for projects she could “sink her teeth into.” 

This uniquely gifted artist was finally able to breathe and take a step out of a box she felt had limited her ability to do projects that really mattered to her. She gained a new perspective on her life and career. Within weeks of creating this space, she started booking the roles and projects that meant something to her: the lead in an Off-Broadway hit play and a new pilot. This highlights, that even within the long game, you still have the power to guide and sculpt your career in the direction you want it to go. Ultimately, saying no to projects you don’t want can be a scary but empowering choice within the scope of the long game. 

Jeremy Renner

Jeremy Renner has been acting since 1995. Most people never even heard of him until 2008 when he starred in “The Hurt Locker”…when he was 37. During those 13 years, Renner acted in small parts in film and on TV, slowly building up his résumé. He even started a side career flipping houses—a hobby which would provide him with more financial stability—so that he could continue to act. Renner is a great example of how vital it is to be fully dedicated to the long game, as a deep love of acting combined with other hobbies and talents can give one the staying power that creates a real career.

This article was originally posted on Backstage