After posting a casting call not long ago, I discovered that many beginning actors may not know the best way to go about submitting themselves for roles in films, commercials, plays, etc. As an actor, one might assume that everyone with a passion for acting would stay up to date on proper etiquette in submitting headshots and resumes to prospective “employers”, but it seems that's a wrong assumption. So, I'm here to help.
The term "employers” is used loosely because acting gigs are not always paying gigs. Whether you are being paid for your acting abilities or not, you should always take every opportunity seriously and professionally. (Click here to read more about when to work and act for free)
When you submit a photo, it shouldn't be more than 5 years old. The more recent the photo, the better. Especially if you drastically change your looks by cutting or coloring your hair. If the only headshot you have is of your blonde hair and you've recently dyed it black, then maybe it's time for a new headshot! The casting department won't be too happy if you come in to an audition looking different than in your headshot. The same goes for when you show up to an audition and you're 10 years older than your picture. Keep it all up-to-date.
#2 Don't submit a picture of your picture.
If you are serious about your path as an actor, then you should always have a high quality photograph to send in for submission at any given time, no matter what device you are using. You should always keep the original photo saved on your computer in a special “Acting” file so you can easily locate it. It's a good idea to email the high-res photo to yourself as an attachment, and save or flag that email. It's also a wise idea to save that photo to your mobile device or even Google Drive. This way, you should always have access to your high-resolution headshot for sharing. Remember, be sure to save the first original photo as “LastName, FirstName Headshot.jpg” before emailing it to yourself or anyone else.
#3 Don't submit a picture of your resume.
You should always have a digital copy (.pdf) of your resume ready to send via email. You really don't want to scramble to find one off the floorboard of your car and snap a picture with your phone to send away. Trust me, it doesn't look good. Type up your resume, save it as a .pdf on your computer in your “Acting” file, email it to yourself (along with your headshot), and save it to your mobile device and/or Google Drive. Again, this way you should have access to your resume no matter what device you're using.
#4 Don't send your resume as an Excel (.xls), Word (.doc), or Power Point (.ppt) document.
Pay attention to what types of files are requested and required for submissions. As a rule of thumb, you should always send your resume as a PDF (.pdf.) document because they are more likely to open on any computer, or device, whereas many computers cannot open up files types like Microsoft Word and the like. Also, by saving your resume as a PDF, you are preserving the layout and alignment of all your text (aka, it will look the same no matter who opens it). However, if submissions call for a Word document, then send it as a .doc, but if they ask for a PDF, definitely do not send an Excel document.
#5 Don't submit selfies or casual photos of you.
A headshot is a headshot. No casting director cares to see that you caught a big fish, got to drive a fancy car, or partying with your friends. The framing of the photo and what's in the photo are very important. It's difficult to make out your features in a picture taken from a distance. Pictures of yourself that capture your personality through your eyes and subtle facial expressions are what they want to see; not your personality in actions. Although in some productions like reality shows, they may ask for those types of photos, in which case, send them all.
#6 Don't list your “experience” as “skills” on your resume.
It is important to include both your experience and your skills on your resume. However, the two are very different things. The films, shows, commercials, or plays you acted in are considered your experiences. Things such as singing, dancing, sports and musical instruments are considered skills. Be sure to clearly list your actual experiences toward the top of your resume, as they are the most important part, followed by a concise list of your best skills.
#7 Don't call unless specified.
Your submission should consume as little of the casting directors time as possible. Avoid calling the production office or casting director's office unless your given a number and asked to. It's also not the best idea to submit yourself and then ask for them to call you. Why would they want to call you? They have what they need and don't need to spend time on the phone. If you do this and also send in multiple submissions multiple times, it can be very annoying and will make your chances even worse. Your reputation is on the line when you submit yourself.
#8 Don't submit multiple times.
Submitting yourself twice may not work in your favor. If you haven't heard back on your submission within a week, then maybe consider submitting yourself again, but definitely don't do it twice within a few days. It could come across as annoying, desperate or unorganized.
#9 Don't provide unnecessary personal details, like full body measurements or complexion, unless asked.
By providing a high-quality, well-lit headshot along with a resume that includes your height and weight, casting directors should be able to tell enough about your looks to call in you in for an audition if you fit the part. There is no need to provide additional information such as your skin complexion, body measurements or shoe size unless that info is specifically asked for in the casting call. Most of the time, they will get your measurements themselves after you book the role, or they will ask in a follow up. There is no need to send JIC (Just In Case).
#10 Don't list your “Objective” at the top of your resume.
For an acting career, it is not necessary to include a two sentence reason of what you plan to do or want to do in the acting industry. Actually, I don't even think people put it on standard work resumes anymore.
#11 Don't send a collage of pictures.
Individual, high-res photos are best, but keep it to a limit of 5 different pictures. If you feel the need to send a collage, be sure it looks professional and is a large size (a full page), but always include a full size individual photo with it. These photo collages should have different & specific reasons for being used together. Collages specifically focused on grouping pictures, such as genres like comedy or drama, and style of photos like close-ups or full body photos, together makes sense.
#12 Don't embed or place full-size photos into your resume document.
You can add in your headshot as a small thumbnail in a corner of your resume, but no one should have to scroll down to the bottom of your resume to find your pictures. Chances are your headshot will be missed this way and your whole submission tossed aside. Just make it obvious for all recipients by sending your headshot and resume as separate attachments.
#13 Don't ever give up.
If acting is what you want, then you should never get discouraged and never stop practicing. If you would like to find out why it's important to keep practicing, read this article here.
*UPDATE* It's also not a good idea to forward submissions from other casting calls and leaving something irrelevant in the body like "I sometimes do that in the bathroom", and where casting directors can see your "cover letter" to three other film or theatre submissions. It's not hard to send separate emails to different submissions.
#1 Do provide links to your demo reel or any video samples of your work.
The casting department shouldn't have to ask for it twice if you have it. Having a Demo Reel is ideal, but sending them any decent quality video with your acting in it helps a lot. It's best to upload your video somewhere (YouTube, Vimeo, etc) and share that link in your submission. Avoid attaching your videos to the email because chances are, the file size will be too large to send via email. Also avoid using zip files because many will delete them without opening out of fear of computer viruses. Don't share videos via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram because not everyone can view them, and that's really for your personal life, not professional.
No one should have to search for your stuff, so send direct links to each video you want to share (not your entire YouTube Channel or profile). Feel free to provide your Channel or Profile link as an extra bonus, but only after you've already linked to your specific videos. Overall, I suggest having a Demo Reel edited together from all the videos you do have. You may want to ask for help or look up best practices for acting demo reels before making one. Or better yet, hire a professional editor to cut one together for you! (Click here for Demo Reel Tips)
#2 Do include your name in the filename of all photos & resume.
Good examples: “LastName FirstName Headshot.jpg” or “Headshot – FirstName LastName.jpg” This helps keeps things organized for everyone and looks much more professional. Number them if there are multiples. Do not leave the file named as the original name generated, i.e., “Image1094bfdg4k7.jpg” or “Image01.jpg”
#3 Do have a well lit headshot.
A good quality headshot in general is very important. There are photographers who can help you and there are articles all over the web about what people look for in a headshot. Ideally, it's a picture of your head (mid chest and up), and majority of the time it's with a plain and simple background. It should never have effects or filters added to it, but instead should have major blemishes slightly cleaned up. Again, avoid having an unrealistic headshot or a photo that doesn't look like you. Also, keep in mind that selfies, candid photos, or pictures with others in it are not ideal to use for casting submissions (unless they are asking for that type of photo).
Here's a fairly popular video on the subject:
#4 Do make sure all of your contact information and/or your agent's contact information is included and up-to-date on your resume.
If you are submitting yourself, then why do they need your agent's information? You want them to contact you directly, don't you? If you submit yourself and all they have is your agent's info, they may not feel comfortable reaching out. Your agent may frown upon not including his or her info, but if you do all the work and book it yourself, what are you paying them for? Either have your agent's contact info plus your contact info, or have two separate resumes – one with only your contact info and one with only theirs, and send those out accordingly. For more quality assurance, pick the former.
#5 Do specify what role you are submitting for.
Let them know which specific role or roles you are interested in auditioning for. Don't feel obligated to stick to just one role, but let them know which role(s) you think you would do best at, and are most comfortable with. Whatever you do, don't just send your picture and resume without specifying which character you are submitting.
#6 Do include your height, weight, hair and eye color on your resume.
Your coat, glove, hat size, and those types of measurements are unimportant, but these other four details are important and useful for casting.
#7 Do consider putting something in the body of your email.
It's always more professional to include something in the body of the email. Even if it's quick, small talk or flattery, I'm certain they want to hear something from you. It also helps to capture a bit more of your personality, but if you leave a blank space then it's up to their imagination, and that may not always go over how you hope. Consider this your “first impression”.
#8 Do send your resume as a PDF.
Unless they ask for something else specifically, this is the standard format. Learn more about how to write a killer resume here.
#9 Do send your high quality headshots and photos as .JPGs or .PDFs.
While .JPGS are definitely preferred, .PDF images would also be acceptable.
#10 Do send your pictures separately from your resume.
Not as a different e-mail, but as a separate attachment.
#11 Do include the city or area where you currently live.
You don't have to include your exact address, but the city or general area in which you live. For example, people casting will likely need to know if you're a local or not. This helps to determine what you may or may not be available for and whether they need to add talent travel expenses to their budget.
#12 Do provide a website link if you have one.
Make sure it looks professional, appropriate, and not over crowded with ads.
#13 Do proofread everything before you send it.
Biggest pet peeve. It's hard to be taken as a serious professional if you can't spell or complete sentences correctly.
Please take this list to become more appealing and engaging actors. You shouldn't let yourself be tossed to the side during casting just because of bad form.
Here are links and videos with more helpful tips in various areas of acting.