Win Me with Words: Submissions, Part 2

OMG. Midsummer auditions went so well!!! Vanessa and I have been running on manic, adrenaline-fueled, kid-at-Christmas energy for the past two days. It was so exciting to meet some new, talented people, and to introduce our director Janie to a bunch of our delightful actor-friends. But today, let’s finish talking about submissions.

When last we met, I shared my riveting thoughts on headshots, and why I like some better than others. The other two parts of your submission allow us to meet you in words. Thus, in a few small ways, you can clue us in about your intelligence, your wit, your organization. Seize those opportunities. Take a few more minutes

to read about a company, look at its website, and make sure you’re representing yourself as someone that company, specifically, will want to have in its show.

Resume. For me, at least, the resume is absolutely most important. First and foremost, we’re looking for your relevant experience. For Midsummer, we want to see Shakespeare credits, preferably not educational theatre (high school or college). That’s if you’re a complete stranger. If you have one Shakespeare credit ever, and I know you/saw you in that show, and you’re brilliant, I’m calling you in. But when sifting through virtual piles of strangers’ resumes, those credits will help you stand out.

HOWEVER, your credits have to be legible. If it’s really hard to read your resume, it takes all the concentration I can summon to wade through the treacherous waters of bad formatting and attempt to rescue you from the “no” pile. I am so turned off by badly laid-out resumes that I’d still be reluctant to call you in, even if you’ve played Laertes, Cassio, Claudio and Romeo, all in the past year. Permit me to ascend my soapbox for a moment:

Please, please, please, find someone who knows how to properly put together an acting resume, buy them lunch, and have them teach you. I was lucky enough to have taken an elective at NYU that helped me with this. Take that kind of class if you can. If not, read articles, look on the internet for examples of really nice actor resumes, ask your most organized friends. As I explained in my last post, even my teensy tiny, brand new production project had to sift through 100+ submissions. Vanessa and I will try to look at a badly-formatted resume, but bigger companies probably won’t bother. Don’t do yourself the disservice. Don’t deprive casting directors the opportunity to experience your brilliant talent because they can’t read your resume.

Descend soapbox.

Things I Like To See on Resumes:

  • Vitals. Your Name, website, phone number, email address, eye color, hair color, height (please don’t leave this off! I can’t tell how tall anyone is from a headshot.), vocal range (if you’re a singer), union status (if you have it – otherwise I assume you’re non-union), representation (if applicable).
  • Your credits. The show, role, and company. I’d say director’s name is optional, but if you’ve worked with a Broadway director, list that.
  • Relevant Education/Training. After your credits, please.
  • Special Skills. Dialects, stage combat, circus tricks, foreign languages, a driver’s license, etc. So many things can be special skills, I could write pages upon pages about just this. But yeah, a miscellaneous, not-otherwise-listed thing that makes you special, that makes you stand out. Use your judgement, though. Keep it polite. And be prepared to have someone call you on a special skill in an audition. I do a solid Russian accent, and I can switch at the drop of a hat: that’s on my special skills. My Australian dialect is shaky at best, and it takes 100% of my utmost concentration: I leave that one off.

Things I Don’t Like to See on Resumes:

  • Your weight. Unless your focus is film and tv, I have heard. Some may disagree with me, but I find that stupid number on a scale to be extremely deceptive. I weigh more than I look like I do, and I omit it, because it might give a casting director a really skewed idea of my actual appearance.
  • Your age. The only part of your age that is anybody’s business is whether you are over 18 (sometimes 21, depending on the production). Other than that, you are “the same age as the character”. Don’t let someone bully you into telling them your age, but try to handle any inquiries politely. Sometimes people forget how inappropriate it is to ask.
  • Your address. Vanessa and I are the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, but sadly, there are some creepy, horrible people out there. Don’t include your home address, especially when attached to the prettiest picture ever taken of you. Be safe.
  • Production credits that don’t relate to acting. If you tell me you can stage manage, hang lights, etc., I am going to want to put you on my production crew, not cast you in my play. Good lord, it’s hard to find good stage managers. Leave it off.
  • Work experience that has nothing to do with theatre. If your day job is at a law firm, at a reception desk, at a Starbucks, anything and everything non-acting related should stay off your acting resume. You might (might) be able to skew some of it into special skills, but be careful that anything and everything on that page paints you as a serious actor.
  • More than one page. I recently learned that British/European resumes are formatted very differently, but if you are clearly American, and it spills over, I will be a Sad Panda. It should fit on the back of your headshot. If you are British, you get a pass for now, because I don’t understand.
  • Do try to (mostly) fill that one page, but if you have enough regional credits to start removing your Educational Theatre credits, the regional credits get more points.

By the by, if I’m friendly with a director or teacher listed on your resume, and I’m thinking of calling you in, I will absolutely ask them about you. Sometimes I’ll even recognize the name of a play you were in, or a company you’ve worked with, and realize you probably know an actor friend of mine. It’s a deceptively small world. I’ll elaborate in a future post about being Great to Work With, but yeah, don’t be a jerk to anybody.

Cover Letter. There are some people who don’t read them/care, but I do, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Customize the cover letter to the recipients. If you can guess from the audition notice who’ll be reading your email, write, “To Melissa and Vanessa” or “To Janie”, instead of “To Whom It May Concern”. But more importantly, in this concise 1-2 paragraph (maximum) email, tell me why you want to do this play with my company.  If you are passionate about the play we’re doing, tell us briefly why. One actress who submitted to us referenced my bio from The Fools & Kings Project’s website, worked it charmingly into her cover letter, and that actress had an audition slot. I actually don’t remember her resume at all, but we were really excited to meet her, because she’s attentive, professional, and does her research. And if your resume doesn’t show much Shakespeare, please indicate in your cover letter any experience/training having to do with Shakespeare that might not have made it to your resume, for some reason. Your cover letter really can put you over the top.

If you write only “headshot and resume attached”, or if you write NOTHING in the body of the email, I’m immediately turned off, because it makes me think you don’t care, or haven’t read the actual casting notice and are blindly submitting to everything on the Internet.

Even with all of this information, even if you’re doing everything right when you submit, there will be times you won’t get called in. Some CD will deem you too blonde. (me?), too short (definitely me), or just sort of arbitrarily “not right” (me, too often). Still, as in auditions, as in everything: give it your best effort, every time. Every. Single. Time. Hard work does pay off. Someone will notice.

Now, after we’ve painstakingly reviewing every submission and seeing a bunch of truly excellent auditions, Vanessa, Janie, and I are thrilled that The Fools & Kings Project’s first production will be positively bursting with talent. Hopefully we’ll see you next time.

This is the first time I’ve attempted to post from the app on my phone. Please excuse a few inevitable typos.

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