Not so special skills or what not to add to your acting CV

Some talents don't need to be added to your acting resume
When any actor is creating or updating their CV, the bit which fills us all with dread is the skills section.
Some actors fill this section with every little piece of information they can think of, no matter how trivial. Their special skills in their CV reads like War & Peace. Yes, sometimes a certain special skill can help you land a job, but often a director or producer is first and foremost interested in your look, and your acting talent. Other talents come in a close second.
Not So ‘Special’ Skills
Here is a list of some of the skills which a well known casting director received on some of the CVs of unrepresented actors which came to their office:
  • ‘Walking’
  • ‘Piano Clowning’
  • ‘Related to Jimmy Stewart’
  • ‘Tetris’
  • ‘Amazing With Children’
  • ‘Baby-sitting’
  • ‘Tiny Tot Gymnastics’
  • ‘Furniture Refinishing’
  • ‘Enjoys restoring cars’
  • ‘Makes incredible smothered burritos’
Only put actual special skills which can be performed on stage and screen in this part of your CV. It doesn’t need to be beefed up with things you can only half do, or things you have tried ages ago but are now rusty with. A casting director could ask you to demonstrate your specialist skill if they specifically get you in for a role demanding that trait, and you wouldn’t want to be caught out. In my experience casting directors are often more interested in you as an actor, your look and talent, than if you can play the ukulele whilst unicycling. They would much rather you were honest in what you can specialise in, than a being ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’.
Catherine Zeta Jones got her first big break when she landed the role of Marianne in The Darling Buds Of May. The actual part required an actress that could ride horses, she didn’t have horse riding on her special skills, but the casting people still saw her, she told them she was ‘comfortable’ on horses, but wouldn’t be able to do any of the gymkhana scenes or jumps, she got the part. Michelle Rodriguez was cast in The Fast and The Furious, a movie which revolves around cars and driving. Michelle didn’t drive, she didn’t have driving on her CV, but the casting people loved her look, spirit, and talent. She got the role, and the producers hired a driving instructor who taught her to drive. She didn’t need the skill to get the role.
Listing every thing you have ever tried your hand at can make you seem like a jack of all trades and a master of none
Closer to home, I have been cast twice in roles which required me to play a driver …. I don’t drive, it doesn’t say ‘driving license’ on my special skills, but the producers liked my look and cast me anyway. When I played a kerb crawler, I was taught how to slowly drive and stop an automatic car, when I played a London cabbie I was put in a cab on a trailer.
Be careful what you put on your CV, I once had to do close-up magic for an acting role, I was able to learn all manner of card tricks and coin tricks to a high standard. I subsequently popped magic down as a skill on my Spotlight CV. A good few years later I was called in for a lovely part in a theatre show with a great company. When I met the director she told me that my magic skills had attracted her, and would I be able to do X, Y, and Z magic tricks. They were way out of my comfort zone, and it was ages since I had practised what I could do. I managed to show her a couple of coin tricks and assured her I could probably learn the bigger tricks but they were not things I could already do. I could see in her eyes she felt a little cheated. I didn’t get the job, and I have never been seen by her since. I think my ‘deception’ or ‘bulsh*tting’ on my CV had put her off for life!
Annex Manager: Now tell me Mr. Simpson, what special skills could you teach a class on?

Homer Simpson: Uh…… I can tell the difference between butter and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.

Annex Manager: No you can’t! No one can!
The Simpsons
Acting is a business, and people can see through the waffle and rubbish. Be honest about what you can do, really think about what would be useful and only put that on your CV. Actor’s that fill up their CVs with every little skill, every little offering, are often seen as needy, over-compensating, insecure and pretty clueless.
What can you do, and what would be useful? Answer those questions, pop them in your skills, and know that 9 out of 10 times your acting talent is what the director will be looking for. If they really want a tango dancer who can juggle they will probably just hire a tango dancer who can juggle. If they want an actor who can learn to tango and juggle, then it’s the acting they are interested in, so have faith in yourself and your talent and if you are right they will have faith in you too