Acting Resumes: How To Jazz Up Your Television Credits

1Actors often ask me about the best way to note certain credits on their acting resumes, meaning what type of role it should be called, so I want to give you a few notes here.

Believe it or not, after reviewing and redoing thousands of acting resumes, I can tell you that there’s a 90% chance that your resume is not selling you as well as it could.  Even experienced actors who have worked in TV for years are playing down their credits and not making them look as good as they could.  I know dozens of ways to improve the way your credits and training are listed on your resume, and if you’re working, you need it to sell you in the best way possible.

Given that this is a blog post, I’m just going to cover one topic here, and that has to do with the billing, or the way the role is listed on your resume.  And I’ll cover tips for whether you have just a few credits or you’re someone who is very experienced.

The term “billing”  refers to how the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) credits you when you play a given role in a SAG film or TV project.  For TV, the main billing types are Series Regular, Guest Star, and Co-Star.  You also can get what’s called an Under-5.  There are also other billings like “Special Guest Star” and so on.

When it comes to your resume, you should use whatever your actual credit was per SAG, if you even know. Sometimes actors don’t really know what their billing was, they just know they had two lines on CSI or something to that effect. So for one, if it’s a SAG job, you need to find out what your billing was.  After you’ve worked for a while, you’ll start to understand why billing is so important.

On the other hand, you may not always know what your billing was, and if it were not a SAG job, then you may not even have any official billing, so you have to come up with something.  Whatever you do, you should make it sound as good as you can as long as you are still comfortable with it.  You don’t want to lie about something and then go into a meeting all pent-up and worried that someone might call you on your lie.  So just make it sound only as good as you are comfortable with.  Think of it like politics and “spinning” the truth.  You bring the focus to the good part not the bad part.

For example, say you have a line or two, and you want to make it sound as good as possible.  SAG likes you to use “Under-5,” meaning under 5 lines.  But instead, you could use something like “Guest Role.”  It just sounds better.

One of the tips that actors who have been working in television roles for quite a while miss out on is when they play a Recurring Role (not “Reoccuring,” by the way) on a TV series.  For example, let’s say you work 2 days one week, none the next, one the next, and so on, the idea being that you are Recurring but you don’t know exactly when.  You can jazz that credit up by putting (1 year) or (2 Years) beside the name of the credit.  This shows that you were on it for a while, not just for 2 appearances.  When you put Recurring with no note of years, you miss out on showing your experience if you worked on it for 6 months or a year.

If you are someone who is newer and doing extra work, you may wonder how to note that. It’s fine to put a few extra jobs on your resume while building your “real” credits.  In that case, if you were one of the extras clearly seen in the movie or TV show, then you might put “Featured” for your role if you don’t want to list it as extra work.

As to whether you should put extra work on it, if you haven’t done much other work, then go on and pick out a few of your extra jobs that you were singled out for and list it as Featured.  But don’t try to make it look like you were a Guest Star or something big.  Just put “Featured” and nothing bigger.  If an agent you’re meeting with gets mad that you put extra work on your resume and listed it as Featured, just tell them that you heard “somewhere” that that was how you were supposed to list it but that you are happy to take it off if they want you to.

This way, it gets you in the door, but you play just a tiny bit naïve about it to get away with it. When you get to a point where you have four or five speaking credits in the Television category, remove all of your extra work entirely.   Until then, be ready to tell a good story about each of your credits when they ask.

So that’s a quick tip for jazzing up your TV credits.  Film credits is a whole other story.

Keep in mind that if you have done a few plays, independent films, short films, student films, hosting, and so on that there are probably quite a few tweaks that will help your resume show you in the best light possible.

If you think you might need a Resume Make-Over, go to Smart Girls Productions and they’ll redo it for you for a reasonable price.  They also do “Day Job” resumes and Day Job Cover Letters should you be in the market for a new “day” job.  Also, check back here for an upcoming ebook that will reveal to you dozens of hot tips like this one to make your resume show you off the best way possible, as well as have lots of sample resumes.