Most actors list some “special skills” on their resumes, but have you ever stopped to think about how this information actually helps casting know if they should call you in? Do your special skills tell us anything useful? I can promise you that these things have influenced my castings many times in the past.

I have needed all kinds of special skills from actors, so having it on the resume was helpful in order to be called in to read for those parts. Perhaps we need strong swimmers or someone with a martial arts background. Maybe we need someone with proficiency in a language or accent. The character could be a dancer, a surfer or anything else that would require us to see you in action. Having the required skill saves a ton of money for production because we don’t need to hire a double for you every time you are on a horse or surfboard.

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Sometimes we need a character with a specific accent or language. I shot a Korean short a few years back and they wanted characters that could speak fluent Korean. This allowed the director to infuse each scene with a mix of English and Korean dialogue that would seem natural for someone who lives in America but was born in Korea.

If you do put your skills on your resume, please make sure it is something you can do with ease. Don’t put surfing on the resume unless you can do it on set tomorrow and look good doing it. If you used to ride horses as a kid and you put it on your resume, you should hit the stables a couple of times a year to keep it fresh. I had an actor tell us they were good on a horse who then got to set and fell off the horse, almost breaking his leg. That is a great way to burn bridges with everyone involved with the project because you misrepresented your skill level to get a job that should have gone to someone else.

I want to see things like swimming, skiing, surfing, horseback riding and things you might actually have to perform on camera. Your cooking skills will never help me cast you. I don’t need things like typing, computer proficiency, taste in books or anything like those. This is an acting resume and not a profile for an online dating site.

Also, everyone says they are great with animals and kids so leave this off your resume. Your resume should show me things that you can back up. You can tell us how many years you rode horses or ran hurdles. Be specific. Stand out. If you won awards for your gymnastics, tell us on the resume. I don’t need every award ever, but just a clarification of the level you competed at and when you did it. And, again, keep those skills sharp.

If you put it on your resume then it is fair game in the room. When you say you can juggle on your resume be prepared for us to hand you three tennis balls and ask to see you juggle them. When I noticed “magician” on an actor’s resume I asked him for a demonstration and he immediately pulled a coin out of his pocket and showed us some nice sleight of hand. On another occasion, an actress claimed on her resume to be able to do a Paul Lynde impression so I could not resist the temptation to ask her for a sample. She didn’t miss a beat as she launched into one of the best impressions I have ever heard.

When listing things under “special skills” on your acting resume, you should consider if they are actually something that helps us cast you. If not, leave it off. And if you cannot think of anything you would list under “special skills” it might be time to get some! The horse stables are open every day and so is the beach. Develop some skills so that you can add them to your resume. Every audition could be the one that changes your life.


Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 24 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for top directors such as Tobe Hooper, Mark Jones and Luke Greenfield and many others. Domestically, he as cast films in Los Angeles as well as in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

 

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