To be or not to be… As an actor, you don’t need anyone to tell you that the line between landing a job and being rejected can come down to the smallest of details. Whether you like it or not, your CV plays a leading role in landing parts throughout your career as an actor.
Top actors know that their CV needs regular tweaking, whether they’re looking to land a specific role, or simply keeping their CV sample in circulation among agents and directors. That means that as well as being the vehicle that brings words to life, today you are also a writer. A CV writer, that is.
To make your next CV refresh as smooth as possible, this writing guide will cover all of the main points to consider. This CV guide, along with the corresponding CV example will cover the following topics:
- What does a professional actor do?
- How to write an actor CV (tips and tricks)
- The best format for an actor CV
- Advice on each section of your CV (summary, work history, education, skills)
- Professional CV layout and design hints.
If in the end you’re left wanting some CV samples as inspiration, our library of CV examples covering dozens of professions should fit the bill.
What does an actor do?
As an actor, you’re the professional who brings a vision to life. Your job could range from commercial work to theatre, to film. Your expressive tendencies and professional manner mean you’re as comfortable being in the spotlight as you are in a supporting role.
You could see yourself working in a variety of environments. It will depend on the nature of the job or project you’ve taken on and its theme. In fact, there are few jobs that have the potential to be quite as varied. Many skills can come in handy for an actor, but one thing is consistent: adaptability must be your middle name!
How much do actors earn?
The nature of acting work including peaks and troughs can make it difficult to work out an average income.
According to Backstage magazine, 97% of UK Equity members — a performer’s union — reported earning under £43,000 in 2021.
However, most performers undertake other types of work in the interim between acting jobs.
How to write an actor CV
The very first step in writing your actor CV is understanding what sections to include. Your CV should contain the following elements:
- The CV header
- The CV summary (aka profile or personal statement)
- The employment history section
- The CV skills section
- The education section
The content of each section should be adapted depending on where you are sending your CV. You should always have the reader in mind, and look to make it clear that you are the right actor for this particular opportunity.
Choosing the best CV format for an actor
Ever heard the saying you’re only as good as your last job? While not totally true, as an actor there’s a lot of focus on your most recent work. For that reason, the reverse chronological CV format is the best one for your actor CV.
This CV format will pin your previous experience as the focal point of your CV. That gives you plenty of room to list your most impressive spots, roles, and projects. You can take some further tips on structuring your CV from some of our other creative arts CV examples. Check out our model CV sample, or our makeup artist CV sample for further ideas.
Few casting directors have the time to search for your name and contact details. Unfortunately, your CV is more likely to end up in the waste paper basket. Make sure your CV header is clearly legible at the top of the page. Your CV header should include your name and contact details — or those of your agent if you have one — as well as your playing age and physical appearance.
CV summary example: take the spotlight
A CV summary — otherwise known as a profile — sits just underneath your CV header. It is the first adaptable part of your CV that you should adjust according to what you’re applying for. It needs to hook the reader in just a few short sentences. Here you can mention some of your most notable accomplishments so far.
The summary is all about showing off whatever it is that makes you even more of an attractive candidate to the casting director or agent who is reading your CV. When you are choosing how best to fill this short space, consider your most prolific appearances as an actor. If you have been nominated for or won any awards, this could also be mentioned at the top.
You can leave out words such as “I have” or “I am”. Simply write your 2-3 short statements in the past or present tense and get across those impressive facts in as short a space as possible. If you have a special skill that sets you apart, this is the place to let it shine, too. Look at our CV sample content below for some artistic inspiration.
Which actors make the most money?
The variety of earnings for an actor varies widely. According to Backstage, the compensation a performer can expect for different job types in the UK is generally ranked as follows. However, even within these categories, experiences for an actor can widely vary:
- TV commercials — in terms of a one-off payment, these gigs come out on top.
- Movies, TV and film — union guidelines suggest a daily rate of around £350, as well as an engagement fee.
- Theatre — top UK rates could be around £712 for eight performances per week.
- Student films - This sector, along with fringe, tends to be un-unionised and you will generally be working for expenses.
- Variety — think street performers, like clowns and contortionists and buskers.
Passionate, adaptable stage and screen actor, known for work in several high-grossing productions.
Employment history sample: your playbook
Your previous jobs should make up the main bulk of your acting CV. The main points that each entry should include are the name of the production, the role you played, the date, and the location. It is also useful to note who directed the piece as a bullet point underneath.
When it comes to other bullet points to add underneath the subheading, you will also want to make it clear in the subheading or underneath whether the production was for theatre, film, television, commercial, voice-over, or other.
Feel free to add any other bullet points with details which will help the casting director to understand this project’s relevance in relation to the role you’re applying for. Perhaps you received critical acclaim, or demonstrated skills necessary for this role. Mention it!
Of course, as your experience grows you may start to be able to leave only the most impressive and relevant credits you have to your name. However, if you are just starting out, then you may not have this luxury. Our CV example content below should get you started on the right track!
Self-Employed Actor, London
- Act in a number of different stage and screen productions.
- Create compelling characters to elicit desired audience reaction.
- Collaborate with fellow actors to improvise and enrich scenes.
- Incorporate feedback and guidance from directors and show runners.
- Demonstrate willingness to shoot multiple takes to achieve optimal results.
- Perform voice overs for animated movies and television series.
- Evaluate scripts and attend auditions for a range of roles.
- Serve as understudy to famous lead actors in popular plays.
CV skills example: a three-dimensional character
While your past experience is the first thing a casting director is likely to look at, your skills could make or break your chances. So much of acting is down to things outside of your control like your appearance and age. However, a little extra homework on the skills section is something that could result in some payoff.
If you have been given a brief, remember to read through this and highlight any skills that you think might be useful or adjacent to what has explicitly been noted by the casting director. For instance, if you’re hoping to audition for a spaghetti western, then don’t forget to note down your awesome horse-riding skills!
Stick to the rules, or bend the truth?
According to casting director Ilene Starger, contrary to acting folklore lying about your skills on your actor CV is a big no-no. In fact, she goes as far as to say that “if you can’t do something with excellence, don’t put it on your résumé.”
Nobody wants to find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation because they’ve exaggerated their skill set. Plus, you’re unlikely to make great contacts in the industry if you’ve wasted the production’s time and money.
- Stanislavski's Acting Method
- Stage Combat
- Excellent Collaboration Skills
- Voice Trained
- Voice Acting
- Character Development
- Feature Films
- Stage Productions
Actor CV education example
While it’s not the most important thing, a casting director would still like to know if you’ve had any training as an actor. If you’ve completed a drama school or similar training course then you may opt to leave off previous, less impressive courses you’ve attended.
Other impressive accolades such as awards or nominations can be put in their own section. However, it doesn’t make you any less of a talented actor if this doesn’t apply to you yet!
CV layout and design: first impressions
A casting director doesn’t want to spend their time trying to decipher what an actor has written. Each section needs to be properly formatted and clear.
As an actor, a simple and sweet CV layout tends to be best received. Casting directors and agents may be looking at hundreds of CVs, and while you want to stand out, it’s better to do that for your excellent clearly organised document as opposed to assaulting their eyes. Stick with a simple colour scheme and design.
Feeling like your own design skills aren’t up to the task? Enter Resume.io, stage left. You can always consider letting us help you out with our adaptable CV templates.
Key takeaways for an actor CV
Now all that’s left to do is to get out there and implement these tips. Break a leg!
- Keep a clear header to avoid your CV being tossed out.
- Remember to note whether a previous production was for the stage, screen, or other.
- Sell your specialist skills — but don’t exaggerate!
- Keep your chosen actor CV example simple and legible in design.