Once you have a good grasp of acting techniques, it's time to build your acting portfolio. This will help you step into the actual practice of acting as work. If theatre is your goal, you'll want a few monologues in your back pocket and of course a solid headshot and resume. If film/tv is your goal, you'll need a reel and a resume. Regardless of medium, your portfolio will showcase your talent and serve as a powerful tool during the audition process. We haven't gotten to the audition process itself yet so hold tight. These are things you'll most likely need to get the audition in the first place. We also aren't at the step where you are submitting to agents or managers. At this step, we are creating the portfolio that will help you build materials and prove to casting/reps that you know what you're doing. Here are the basics needed to get started:
These will be your first impression when applying for auditions. There is a difference between film/tv, commercial, and theatre headshots. There is also a difference between a great photo of you and a headshot. A headshot should be telling a story about you or the kind of characters you can play. At this stage of your career, assuming you're at the very beginning, your headshots don't need to be $1000 with the best photographer in town. Honor your budget and aim as closely in the right direction as you can.
All of the pictures below have a similar vibe. Ignore the fact that these photos are taken over 10 years and that mega pixels have really leveled up. Each picture hammers down a little more on the specificity of my type. We'll get back to types in another post but go with me on this. In these headshots we're showing that my type is young professional. The headshots are giving federal agent, Senate aid, junior partner at a law firm. This is a good thing. It's clear and concise. You can clearly see me and my eyes. In your headshots your eyes should be captivating, like you have a secret. If you have a friend with a good camera that can take a headshot for you, go for it. Your first won't be your best so don't let perfection hold you hostage. At this point we just want the people casting you to know what you look like.
Create a professional acting resume that highlights your training, experience, and special skills. Include any acting roles, even if they are in local theater or student films. As you are starting out, the local theatre and student films will be a great opportunity to perform. It will also help you have a better understanding about your desire to act. Do you still want to do it? Was it actually about being famous after all? Were the conditions meh but the people were cool and you had a blast? Check in with yourself and be honest. Local theatre and student films are often the productions that will give you a shot even if you have ZERO credits on your resume. What do I put on my resume if I haven't done anything yet? Great question! You put your training. This is another reason it comes in handy. You didn't just spend time training for funsies, it also provides credibility.
When looking for student films or local low budget film/tv project check out actorsaccess.com. Here is my Actor's Access profile as an example of what they look like. It is national to North America and there are often projects for other countries as well. Theatre projects are also posted there but in general theatre auditions will require a more localized search that Google should be able to help with. Search things like "community theatre auditions" and options should show up.
PRO TIP: The terms are different for each medium. Film roles are titled "LEAD" "SUPPORTING LEAD" or "SUPPORTING". TV is "Co-Star" "Guest Star" or "Series Regular". With theatre you actually put the characters name. This is a great time to mention DO NOT PUT WORK AS BACKGROUND ON YOUR ACTING RESUME.
Below you'll find my resume. If you don't want to download it, it's also here. It likely isn't the most current but the structure is more or less accurate.
Put together an acting reel that showcases your best work. It should be a compilation of clips that demonstrate your range and abilities as an actor. For theatre this could be as simple as recording a few contrasting monologues or scenes on your phone in a well lit, quiet environment. Edit them into both individual clips and into one longer video. Update the clips as your get better over time. It is most likely that a theatre audition, that isn't in person, will have you submit a video audition (self-tape) with the sides (excerpt of the script) they have available for your respective character.
For film/tv this is where student films will come in handy. They'll provide not only on set experience but also footage of your acting. Side note: Be careful with student films and really any films for that matter. Don't do things that you aren't comfortable with. Don't go places that don't feel safe. Make sure a bathroom and at the very least water is being provided. Make sure your footage is part of the deal. You are still a person and working for free to build up your resume doesn't mean people can treat you like shit. Back to reels: also know that scenes filmed on a phone can work on your online acting profile until you get that first short film footage. As you get better and the quality of projects get better start to cycle out old things for the new. Here is my reel as an example of what they can look like.
Be patient with yourself as you build up your portfolio. You will always be building it. At some point, you'll no longer need a resume/headshot because you'll be so famous everyone will know your work. Until then, people with 20 year careers are constantly updating headshots, resumes, and reels to reflect their progress. Remember that this a marathon and not a sprint. It will take time and you will continue to learn as you go. Give yourself grace.