People outside of key entertainment industry markets often have misconceptions about how to write an entertainment-related resume—and misconceptions about the industry itself. The perception outside of "Hollywood" is that the entertainment industry is glamorous and high paying. While this is true when it comes to a handful of top executives and performers, for the most part, it is an industry driven more by passion for the creative arts than by working conditions or pay. Where this relates to resumes, understanding the protocols of the industry is paramount. And just like any other field, those in a position to hire are looking for your understanding of the challenges, needs and environment of the industry, specific job and work environments and how you add value. A potential employer is going to be more interested in what you can bring to his business, office or show than in what you want. Furthermore, "seeking a challenging job with growth potential" is not only a boring, overused statement to add to your resume, but again, it's about you and what you want, not about what you can offer others. They're also not wowed by flashy, over-the-top, glitzy presentations. Gimmicks don't work. They've seen them all and are not going to be impressed.
There are three basic areas of the entertainment industry that apply to all segments, including motion pictures, television, music, theater, media, etc.: (1) the business end, (2) the creative/performance end and (3) the production end, although this is somewhat simplistic inasmuch as film and TV production alone covers the development, pre-production, production, post production, distribution and exhibition facets of "production."
Resumes for core business-related functions, such as Accounting and Administrative Support, are basically the same as they are for any other industry with the addition of specific industry-related procedures. And as to the formatting and development, they are like any other business resumes, with the inclusion of industry-specific verbiage. At this point, it should be noted that the overwhelming majority of people in the industry must enter at an entry-level position and work their way up.
Where resumes are vastly different is in some areas of production and of course, performance. Production and performance resumes are highly structured and formulaic, not highly creative. In general (although there are exceptions), they are columnar in format, and provide succinct information about past credits. Screeners are looking for what you've done, what you've worked on, who you've worked with, training (as appropriate) and special skills (as appropriate).
You'll have to know what needs to be on your resume. If you're just getting started, you'll have to identify your goal, how you've actually gained "experience" and what your "skills" are. In performance and some production areas, one might be represented by an agent, and if this is the case for you, your agent might prepare your resume or tell you how it should be structured.
Other differences on entertainment industry resumes are:
• For acting: Personal information must be included: height, weight, eye color, hair color; sometimes appropriate age ranges for parts. Format the resume so it can be cut down to 8 x 10 inches, because it'll be stapled to the back of a headshot. Dancers and models also will affix their resumes to photos.
• Make sure that guild memberships are noted prominently, e.g., SAG, AFTRA, Musicians Union, WGA, DGA, etc. This matters!
• For actors, musicians and production personnel with agents, you'll probably be asked to leave space for the agent's label. Where the label goes is the agent's preference.
• Resumes for performers and (some) production professionals are usually one page, and as new credits are added, older, less significant credits are taken off (although this is not a hard and fast rule). Personal information is not included on production or music resumes.
• If your expertise is a creative one, such as cinematography, costume design, art direction, production design, etc., your resume will be credit-based. Depending on the specific situation and your reputation, you might include summary at the top of the first page.
• Understand what's required for the specific position you're applying for and demonstrate your ability to excel in those areas. For example, a concert tour manager may have to be able to handle finances, coordinate travel, seek rehearsal venues, source and negotiate with vendors for merchandise, act as liaison with the media, even ensure the sobriety of roadies and performers!
• Common themes that run through just about every entertainment industry position is the ability to work in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment, interact with diverse temperaments, the ability to respond to ever-changing environments and a willingness to consistently go beyond the requirements of the job!
Once you as an artist or production crew member are established, you may no longer need a resume at all. Resumes for established professionals are typing jobs and don't require creative writing. All that matters are your most recent credits: what you've worked on and with whom (directors, producers, studios, production companies, etc., depending on your specific profession).
For an entry-level resume, you'll have to be able to identify when you've used the appropriate skills that are needed to succeed and what relevant experience you have, even if it's only been in school films or plays.
Here are some questions, the answers to which will help you to create your resume and cover letter:
• Are you a member of a guild or union? Which one?
• Do you have any special training?
• What are some of your special skills or talents? (actors)
• What technical abilities do you have; what equipment do you work on (audio, photography, etc.)?
• What are your credits to date? (film, television, commercials.)
• What differentiates your work?
• Have you received any award nominations?
• Have you received any awards?
• Where have you performed? What role did you play?
• Can you demonstrate that you can perform/work effectively in a very fast-paced environment with critical deadlines?
• Are you well organized?
• Do you have good "people" skills?
• Can you work with diverse temperaments?
• Are you good at following directions?
• Are you energetic and willing to work long hours (for low pay!)?
• Are you an avid movie fan? Do you see a lot of new releases? Have you seen a lot of classics (which helps you to be knowledgeable about the industry)?
• Are you a good problem solver? What are some examples of when you had to "think on your feet" and solve problems quickly and effectively?
• Are you flexible in adapting to an ever-changing environment?
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