Writing an Actor Biography

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One of the hardest things to do when self-promoting is writing a biography, be it for a job application, a personal statement, or for a website. Most people I know find it hard to sell themselves, to brag, to boast without sounding arrogant, but this really is a skill which an actor needs to master. The Industry wants an actor who is able to walk into a casting confidently, who is able to sell themselves truthfully and with confidence. The simple truth is that, until the day comes that you can hire a publicist to do the work for you, this job lies firmly on your shoulders.
Your bio should be direct to the point, providing interesting tidbits of information about your career, your achievements as an actor, and you as an ordinary person.
At Actor Hub we believe the ‘About Page’ or ‘Biog’, is a necessity for your website and your audience. It is a page which can also be very useful for the search engines to find you. Anybody could find you by ‘googling’ character names, production names, directors, theatres, if this page is written well. When we receive your self written biography, we can help tweak it and edit it, so that it reads well, sells you confidently, and is optimised for the search engines.
A biography is different from your CV or resume because it gives the reader a flavour of who you are as a person. Make your biog the kind of article that people will care about and want to read. Make it interesting, fun, informative, and creative.
The difference between a bio and a resume is that the bio tells a story about you, whereas a resume gives a summary of your complete work history. Between the two, a bio is less formal and easier to read than a resume.
Personally, I prefer biogs written in the third person. Or maybe that should read ‘Jamie prefers biogs written in the third person’. It is actually an industry standard and it doesn’t sound as grand and elitist as you might think it will. It will sound professional and will give you a voice to sell yourself extra hard without sounding too ‘cocksure’. Writing your biog in the first person can make you sound boastful and like you are ‘blowing your own trumpet’. Use your full name the first time, and after that it’s up to you, refer to yourself by your first name, or your full name, whichever reads right for the sentence or paragraph.
What to write
  • Write a short paragraph introducing you, your skills, you casting bracket, your accent, your niche, where people may have seen you. It is important that this first paragraph tells the reader what they need to know. If they only read this paragraph, would they have an idea of who you are and what you can do.
  • Write about your early days. What got you hooked on acting? What early experiences made you follow the path you are currently on? Who are your inspirations?
  • Write about your training. Where did you train? Who trained alongside you? Who trained you? What productions did you enjoy most from your training days?
  • Choose 3 or 4 theatre productions and write a little about each. Who directed it? What did you play? What venues did you perform at? Any funny stories or interesting anecdotes about the production?
  • Choose some of your TV and film credits and do the same as you have with your theatre productions.
  • Don’t try and cover your whole career in your site biography, just cover the highlights, pick and choose. One trick could be to use the phrase ‘to name a few’ or ‘among others'; this way you are naming some examples but letting the reader know it is not a complete list. This can also be a good trick for ‘beefing up’ a weaker area in your experience!
  • Tell the reader a little about who you are as a person. By doing this, you help the reader like you as a person, and see you as an individual. Don’t tell them all your dark secrets. and don’t think we are asking you to pour out details you’re not comfortable with disclosing. Pets, interesting hobbies, odd jobs and funny anecdotes always fit well in this area.
A good length for your biog on a website or in a letter would be between 400 and 1000 words; any more and the reader might give up, any less and you will be underselling yourself. When writing for the web it is worth remembering to break your writing into short paragraphs. Notice on this website that all our paragraphs are short. This is because it’s much easier to read computer text when it’s broken into short paragraphs.
Your professional bio is like a little advertisement for you, so make it reflect the real you. Write in your natural voice as much as possible, and include some facts that shows who you are as a person.
Your biography should give the reader a flavour of who you are, let them inside, and see a bit of the real you, the face behind the headshot, the stories behind the cv.
Any information you add can come in useful. If you can dance the tango pop that in your biog, if you played the trumpet in the school orchestra write it down, and you speak basic Japanese, in it goes. Perhaps a casting director might be looking for a trumpet playing, tango dancing, Japanese speaking actor and they might just head to google ….. stranger things have happened!
Questions to help with Writing an Actor Biog
If you are having trouble putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Answer the following questions and they might awaken your thoughts, memories, and creativity. Once you have answered them, leave them for 24 hours and then come back and read what you wrote, use that as the basis of your biog, during the 24 hours your subconscious might have awoken some other thoughts and ideas and memories.
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Any early memories of what got you hooked on acting?
  • Where and when did you train?
  • Skills – what ‘special skills’ do you bring to your acting work (singing, musical instruments, dance, circus skills, etc)
  • What is your current ‘casting bracket/niche’?
  • Theatre Experience – memorable productions/roles?
  • Any funny or interesting anecdotes about your theatre performances?
  • Any workshops or courses recently attended?
  • Television/Filming Experience – memorable productions/roles?
  • Any funny or interesting anecdotes about your TV or filming work?
  • Recent Work – what’s new or on the horizon?
  • The future – what dream roles do you have in your sites?
See what you can come up with, you will be surprised with how much you can write. After redrafting your biog a couple of times, you should end up with an acurate, clear and interesting piece about yourself.