One of the harsh realities of working as a professional actress is the need to constantly audition. While some productions offer open auditions, the quality of projects you can audition for will improve if you have an agent. Having an agent won't get you cast, but a good agent will get you auditions, and once you're in front of the casting director the ball's in your court. Getting an agent to represent you is your first hurdle.
Your head shot and resume are the acting world's equivalent to a business card. You'll use them virtually every time you go to an audition. Head shots are 8-by-10 inches. Theatrical head shots are typically in black and white, while film and television casting directors tend to prefer color. Your resume should be trimmed down to match the 8-by-10 size, and is commonly stapled to the back of your head shot, or you can have your resume printed on the back of your head shot.
Every talent agency is a bit different and will have its own list of prerequisites before it will sign you onto its roster. Some require professional experience, others do not. Some only accept new talent applications based on a referral from other rostered talent, while others encourage new talent submissions. Most require at least a clear photograph that shows your face and body, although this might not need to be a professional head shot. An agent might request your resume. You might not need one to get an agent, but you will surely need a resume after you sign with a talent agency.
Your acting resume is your calling card. It is designed to let the casting director, TV production executive or a prospective agent know who you are and what you have done. While there is some room for individuality, there are certain industry standards that you should observe if you don't want to be tagged an amateur. Save your creativity for the stage. Your name and contact information go at the top, followed by any union affiliation you might have, such as SAG/AFTRA. Next comes your experience. Start with the medium you are most interested in pursuing. For example if you are a stage actress, list your theatrical experience first. If you want to pursue film and television, put that experience first. Education and training goes below your experience, followed by any special skills you might have, such as proficiency in a foreign language, military special ops training or the ability to juggle. Use only the cream of your experiences and keep your resume to one page.
Your best bet for getting an agent is to do good work on a consistent basis. That means regularly auditioning, attending quality workshops, staying abreast of the industry by reading the trades and acting every chance you get in a variety of roles to expand your repertoire. Ask for referrals from your fellow actors, and if you are invited to meet with an agent, follow their instructions regarding what marketing materials to bring with you.
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.