It’s a common fear among developing actors, that a fleshed-out resume is what stands between them and a job. And it’s definitely a catch-22 – to get a job, it seems you need experience, but no one will give you that experience unless you can already show it on your resume.
This is true not only for actors, but anyone struggling to obtain an entry level. I faced the same issue, when I first came out to Hollywood to find a job. It sucks. It’s total bullshit, and it’s not fair.
It also seems like the most ridiculous way to assess someone for a part – you’re there to play a character, it’s not like other jobs where you need five years previous experience or something. What matters, is that you understand this particular character well, and you can rock it. Why should your resume even factor into this decision?
And I mean – we all get it, when they say they want to go with a ‘name.’ They want someone they know will guarantee them money, and you’re not a guarantee. But when it happens on the smaller level, where you know they’re not going to pick a ‘name,’ but they go with someone with just a little better credits than you – it frankly, feels like discrimination. Or nepotism. Or something, I’m not sure what word – it’s just unfair towards newer faces, who need a chance.
Having been on the other side of it, I can’t deny that I look at someone’s resume, and it is a factor in my decision-making process. But it doesn’t carry as much weight as you think.
If someone is far and away the best person for the role, I couldn’t give a shit what’s on their resume. I don’t care if it’s a lead in a movie, someone to carry an entire television series, or if it’s only two friggin words. If someone is a clear choice for the role, they’re gonna get hired.
However – that doesn’t happen as often as you think. You actors – you’re great at what you do. There’s a lot of talent in this town, and there are a lot of people who work very hard at their craft.
So I have this role to cast, and I may have a bunch of choices I like. How do I narrow things down?
Let’s say within these choices, I have two that are somewhat similar. They may not look similar, or they may not seem the same on the surface, but perhaps they have similar takes on the character. Or maybe I’m down to just the last two choices for the role. Now – I like both of them, but only one person is going to get the job.
I can’t decide. I like them both – I like the actors as people, I want them both to get the job, and they both bring something fresh to the character. I can’t just flip a coin – I need to make an informed decision. So I go to the resume.
When I’m looking at the resume, here’s what I’m seeing – you studied in Chicago, and just moved here three months ago. I’m not going to hold it against you that you haven’t booked anything yet. Or maybe you have a bunch of credits, and they’re all the same casting director. I’m glad you have a solid relationship. Or perhaps all your credits are on TV shows that have similar acting styles – that shows me you do well with a particular demographic.
What a lot of credits really tells me – it tells me you’re a dependable employee. And that’s important to me. Keep in mind – I like you, but I also like my team. My director, my producer, the crew that’s going to spend twelve hours a day with you on set. If you have a lot of credits, I can trust that you are professional, hard-working and respectful, and that’s just as important to me as your acting ability. Or, it tells me you are very marketable with a certain audience. That’s important to my producers as well – at the end of the day, we want our project to be seen. And if you have an audience that responds well to you – that’s a plus.
But having a lot of credits doesn’t get you a job. It just gives you an edge, in those tight situations where it’s a hard decision. And for those of you without credits – don’t fear! If you’re auditioning for a gritty, naturalistic drama and all your credits are Nickelodeon and Disney, I might go with no credits over a lot of credits. Or – sometimes having no credits gets me excited because I get to discover someone, to introduce a new face. You’re an unknown commodity, and I want to be a part of your journey to success! I get excited by those opportunities just as much as you do, and so does my team. When it’s right.
I won’t lie that a full resume is a good thing to have. But don’t let it discourage you, if you don’t have anything, or if all your credits on your resume don’t reflect the work you really want to do. At the end of the day – if you’re the best person for the role, nothing your resume says is going to matter. Anything on there (or not on there!) can be argued as a pro or a con. So keep honing your craft. Prove to everyone that you’re an outstanding and complex actor, who is also a good person and good employee, and the jobs will come.