As we discussed in a previous column, your photos are the most important tool for someone who is starting out in the entertainment industry, or marketing yourself for any sort of career where looks and charisma are a requirement.
As a newcomer in this endeavor, you will be trying to get started by getting smaller but important jobs in modeling or smaller roles in commercials, film or television. For these types of parts or roles, 75-80% of getting the part in lower budget films, smaller non-major network television productions, or local/regional commercials, according to several experienced casting directors, is your look.
I say smaller but important jobs, because if you perform well, it will lead to bigger and more challenging roles. Important because having success doing the smaller parts will give you the confidence to do the bigger and more challenging parts. Your second most important tool to have at your disposal is a good RESUME and COMP CARD.
Your resume is a sheet of paper that has certain vital contact information, such as your name, height, weight, hair and eye color, dress size, age range, the name and phone number of your agent, your union affiliation if you are a member of the screen actors guild (SAG) American Federation of Television and Radios Artists (AFTRA), your experience performing in commercials, live theatre, film, television parts, your training (acting coaches), your educational background, and finally your marketable skills.
Your resume should be attached to the back of your head shot that you will submit at an audition or to be given to producers who you meet as you network yourself. Let's go over what should be on them in greater detail.
Name & Contact Info:
Your name should be at the top in big bold letters. If you are an actor or commercial actor that is a member of SAG or AFTRA, that should also be in bold letters just under your name.
Right under that should be the phone number and name of your agent. (If you have a manager, their name and phone number should be listed, but since we are assuming that most of you are beginners, we will assume you don't have a manager yet) Your age range comes next.
If you are 40, don't list your age range as 18-25 unless you look VERY young. If you are 30, your age range might be listed as 25-29. Please be realistic and truthful. On the left side of the page below the information already listed will be your height and weight, and right across that page on the right side should list your hair and eye color.
Below that information will be a 3 column listing of the film work that you have done. The first column with the name of the film, the middle column should show the part or role you played and whether it was a starring role, a lead role, or a supporting role, and the third column, on the right will list the production company that produced it, or the director's name if they are well known.
After the film listing, should be the television work you have done. Next will be any theatre experience you have Below the theatre will be a brief listing of your commercials. Many times people will say that they have done many commercials, with references available upon request, so that a potential casting director can call your agent for that information.
Your training in acting and commercials should be next on your resume, and on the bottom should be your special skills lists. This might include any languages you speak, any different dialects you can imitate, sports you are good at, and any hobbies that you excel at.
Some advice about your resume. It is always best to be truthful. For example, in your special skills listing, don't put down that you are an expert equestrian, and when you are requested to ride a horse, you get on the horse the wrong way.
If you are brand new to this but you have only been an extra in a film, you really should not list that on your resume, because it will deceive the casting director. If you have no experience, you can just mention that you have only been an extra and are a quick learner.
I will give you an incident that occurred when I was a casting director for a film in the mid 1990s. I received a resume of a guy who auditioned for us. We had received his resume in the mail before he came to audition. He listed on his resume that he had appeared in films that were directed by 5 different Oscar winning directors. We were excited to meet him.
Well, he showed up, and his photo looked very touched up, and he had ZERO charisma. It turns out that he had been just an extra in ALL of his listed films and you would never have known he was ever in any of them. You will have an extremely short career if you do what this person did.
You are wasting not only your time, but the time of the casting director. We had to audition approximately 400-500 people for that film for 11 different roles. Believe me, I did not have a moment to waste, and as the saying goes, time is money.
What Not To Say:
Lets talk briefly about what NOT to put on your resume. I strongly recommend that you do not put your phone number (either home, cell or office) on your resume. If you have an agent, let him or her do their job. If you do not have an agent yet, then get a voicemail and list that, or your e-mail address.
Please make sure that you check your e-mail and/or your voicemail at least every few hours. If you are working on a job out of town, or if you are on vacation, you should have a message that you are out of town and are not available at that time, and mention when you will return.
If you don't have experience working in film, tv, commercials, or theatre, please don't put down that you were a tree in a play you did in third grade. When listing the films, tv shows, or theatre performances that you made, list them in order of importance.
To be listed, your part should be a speaking part, either a starring role, a lead role, or a supporting role. The more well known projects should be listed first. You don't need to list more than 5 performances in each category, so make sure to list the most important roles first. I said it before, but I will say it again...
If you are not truthful, it is just as bad as submitting photos where you spent $3000 airbrushing your photo. It does not accurately present you, and you are deceiving the casting directors.
Your comp card, also known as a Zed card is also a useful tool to use in marketing yourself and networking. Comp cards generally showcase your looks, charisma (photographically) and have contact information so that producers and casting directors know how to get in touch with you.
Comp cards vary in size, but are usually 7-8 inches long by 5-5 1/2 inches wide. Most of the time they are 2 pages (front and back) but if you want to spend more money, they can be 4 pages (2 pages front and back). Most of them are in full color, though black and whites are a less expensive option.
This information is a guide because you can custom design your own comp card. Most people put a beautiful color head shot on the front of the card, with your name printed in bold letters. I would suggest using a nice style of font, rather than just block letters.
The back of the card will generally have 3 or 4 photos. If the photos are horizontal, you would have 2 rows of 2 photos. If you want to use 3 photos, I would put them with the cards vertically with one row of three photos. The back should also list in small print, your height, weight, hair and eye color, dress size and a contact phone number (preferably your agent's number).
The photos on the back should showcase you in several different looks. For example, one could be you in a bikini, another wearing a business type of attire, a sporty photo, and finally you looking glamorous. By doing this, you are conveying the information that you have versatility in the way you can present yourself.
For you to be successful, as a model or as an actor, you can't be one dimensional, or you will be typecast, and severely limit your potential to work. Just as with your resume, I would advise you not to ever put your phone numbers on your comp card.
I would only list your agent's number, and/or an e-mail address. If you have an agent, let them do their job. If you don't, just list your voicemail and your e-mail address. As I said before, make sure that you make yourself look professional by checking your e-mail and voicemail at least every few hours, or as often as possible.
Sometimes you will get a part because you were more professional in your dealings, or you might have just been at the right place at the right time.
If people are trying to reach you and you are unavailable, you will have less chances of booking a print job, commercial or theatrical role. Comp cards are not necessary for people who are actors. Some actors have them, but your head shot and resume are the only thing needed for finding acting work. Comp cards are more important for models.
Next Month: I'll see you next month when we will discuss the Audition process--what happens at an audition, and how to handle auditioning.