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Actor Special Skills

December 2, 2013


photo credit: shutterstock

The special skills section of my resume has always been my favorite part. And not just because when I was a newbie professional actor right out of college, it was the only section with anything worth bragging about πŸ˜‰

No, I always loved the special skills section because it’s the only part of your resume where you get to really give a taste of who you are as a person. The roles you get cast in most frequently or the school you chose to attend don’t really give a full picture, you know?

I’ve always taken pride in trying to be an interesting and pretty well-rounded person, so I think the special skills section on my resume is particularly fun. It includes things like:

  • Ran 2013 NYC Marathon
  • African Drums
  • Dog Trainer and Handler
  • Beginning Fencing
  • And my personal favorite: Sarcasm.

It’s a great chance for casting directors and theaters to get to know you in just a short little paragraph list.

But beyond that, it’s an even better way to get you cast.

This past week, I got an email from my agent with a big audition for a new period network television miniseries that rhymes with “The Stick.” Not only was it for a big show, but it’s a period piece — my favorite! I was over the moon.

Casting in L.A. wanted me to record a tape of myself reading a short scene and…playing piano. For the audition, they were looking for someone to play this specific 1900’s song, and they needed the tape on 36 hours notice.

Finding someone who has a period look and can play piano well and who is willing to learn a whole song and go on tape in less than two days must have been a challenging task for them, so it’s no surprise that I got the audition with “plays piano” in my special skills and a very period look.

I’ve played piano since I was a small child, but have been very lax in practicing over the past couple of years. I was definitely more skilled as a 12-year-old. Embarrassing, I know. But I spent two days practicing that piece over and over and over until it was near-perfect. I rented a studio, had two friends help me tape, and sent that sucker in, breathing a sigh of relief.

Sure enough, two days later, my agent was asked for my sizes by the wardrobe department, and a major Hollywood director was watching my tape.Β The end of the story is less exciting. I almost booked the job, but didn’t quite land it. Oh well.

But the point of this post is — have cool special skills! Develop them! Brag about them! Keep them in tip-top shape!

I didn’t get that audition because I’m an incredible actress. I got that audition because of my specific look AND the fact that I can play piano. And I have a lot of other friends who have booked work because they do something specific like speak Portuguese or are awesome at ASL or are experts at dressing up like a silver man (**cough The Underdog Actor cough**).

This past week was a great reminder that it’s often who we are as people, not as actors, that books us work.

What are your special skills, and have they ever booked you acting work? What special skills have you been procrastinating taking up, and should they be on your New Year’s list? πŸ™‚

P.S. I’m still bummed that I didn’t book the job (because it would have been awesome for me!), but I feel extra motivated to get out there and book the next one!


9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2013 2:34 pm

    Great post! This made me look at Special Skills in whole new way.

    And while you may not have booked the role, congrats on getting the audition and being seen! I’m trying to do better to congratulate myself when something like this happens, rather than be upset over the outcome (which I find SO easy to do, when you come that close to booking). So I want to do the same for my peers.

    • December 2, 2013 2:38 pm

      Yes! Thank you for the reminder that just getting the audition and making it to the final cut is a big accomplishment. It’s so easy to forget!

  2. The Mothering Actor permalink
    December 2, 2013 5:53 pm

    Love this! Thx. I see a re-vamp of my special skills section in my near-future!

  3. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    December 2, 2013 11:16 pm

    I love the special skills πŸ™‚ Truly, they are the best part of a resume!

  4. December 3, 2013 1:26 am

    Playing the piano is an incredibly useful special skills but I wonder about the ones that are not industry related. For instance, I ran the marathon this year too (congrats by the way) but I fear that putting that on my resume may seem like inconsequential bragging rather than being useful like my tumbling.

    • December 3, 2013 8:26 am

      Congrats on your marathon finish, as well!

      Have to disagree that running (and other sports skills) are non-industry related — I’ve been called in before for being a long-distance runner. It’s often a required skill for print ads, commercials, and the occasional action-esque film.

      In my opinion, though, it’s also worth including just for the conversation starter. I can’t tell you how many times “dog trainer” has started a lively conversation in an audition room for a completely non-dog-related project. And that seems worth it to me, if only because it makes me a bit memorable.

      But it’s totally your call! Do what you feel comfortable with.

  5. December 13, 2013 4:14 am

    Firstly, congrats on the audition!

    That reminds me of a story in the book Mastering the Audition by Donna Sotto-Morettini. She was auditioning a girl and asked her about her other interests. The girl started talking about how much she loved baking, and was so enthusiastic and engaging that she got put through to the next round.

    Similar to Broke and Beautiful above, though, I wonder about how to discern which skills to put down. I agree with you that anything sporty is worth going on there, but what about things like ‘programming computers’ or ‘writing funding applications’ (my own special skill!) – one for a conversation starter, sure, but what about after that? Do you have any rules that you use for what you put in there?

    • December 13, 2013 12:25 pm

      I think you have to use your own judgement about what to include, but my rule is that anything that could *possibly* be useful on set or stage can be included. To me that would mean including something like “highly skilled with computers” (could be useful in a commercial), but leaving out something like grant writing, however awesome that skill might be πŸ™‚

      In my opinion, though, I would err on the side of inclusiveness. Good conversation starters regardless.


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