Careers Clinic: Should I lie on my CV to get castings?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I finished my acting foundation course at the beginning of the summer. I’d like to do more training eventually but for the moment I need to focus on getting a day job, and hopefully putting some of what I have learned on the course into action by applying for castings.

In the meantime, I have joined a local actors’ meet up. I showed one of the older, more experienced actors my existing CV, which he says is very sparse.

His suggestion was that I take a few of the parts I played at college and make them look more like professional roles. He also says I should add some more skills and accents to increase my casting chances.

The thing is, I’ve already put on all the skills I can actually do. His response to that was that, as an actor, I should be able to blag a few more skills.

According to him “everybody inflates their CV and if it gets you in the room it’s all worth it”. Do you think that’s true?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE I can’t be the only person wondering how ‘experienced’ this older actor actually is, given that he has just told you he makes up stuff on his CV.

As actors, once we have a role, we may well be called on to make the imaginary real, but on your CV and in the casting room I would stick with skills and experience you actually have.

The ‘plucky beginner pulling skills out of thin air’ makes entertaining viewing if we are sitting in the stalls or at home on the sofa. It is much less entertaining if you are a casting director who has booked out an audition room on the assumption that the person in front of you can do what they say they can.

Even on reality TV shows in which stars appear to walk in off the street, they have almost always had previous performing experience and often years of training, which the producers conveniently forget to mention in the final edit.

You will get much further in this business by listing only skills you can actually deliver on. The average lead time between submission and casting call is reducing rapidly, so a crash course is not usually an option when you have been blagging and then get called in.

If you are genuinely doing your best with an accent or skill, but aren’t yet up to the standard required, the casting director or producer may not give you the job, but they won’t necessarily blame you for having a go.

Making up skills or credits altogether is an entirely different situation – you are attempting deliberate deception rather than just being optimistic. This is foolhardy for two reasons.

Firstly, if you pretend to possess skills and experience you don’t actually have, it makes the skills you do have look much less impressive because of the bar you have set yourself.

Secondly, casting directors are likely to have a lot more experience and connections in the industry than you, so the chances of them spotting the con in the room or – more likely – before you get called in are high.

Contrary to the ‘everybody makes stuff up’ myth, nobody expects a young actor who has trained for a year to have a long list of credits. That in itself can raise alarm bells.

You are far better off listing the genuine credits you have, the skills you can do well, then making sure you have the most effective headshots and video evidence to back those attributes up.

If you put yourself forward for the castings that match your genuine strengths, you will eventually build up your CV with credits that are more useful than any that currently exist in your imagination.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne