by Robyn Coburn
In my work I see a lot of résumés from aspiring filmmakers and recent graduates looking for production jobs. Most people make the same mistakes - but you don’t have to.
* Mistake #1: Tiny Contact Information.
Make sure that your phone number is large and clear. Even if you submit your résumé via e-mail, most of the time the production company will phone you to interview. Your number should be the same size as your name - and both should be a large, in an easy-to-read font. Don’t make the UPM have to search for your number.
Always include your full home address too - smaller and on a separate line.
* Mistake #2: Lack of clarity about your position.
Don’t have a one-size-fits-all résumé, and don’t try to be a jack-of-all-trades either. The rest of that saying is "master of none". UPM’s on real movies with real budgets, are looking for individuals to do specific jobs.
Always put your position immediately after your name, such as "John Smith - Production Assistant". Don’t have "position sought" taking up space on the page.
* Mistake #3: Describing the duties of production jobs.
People hiring you already know the duties of all the crew positions. Don’t describe them on your credits. Just list your job title on those projects.
Nor should you need a Special Skills list most of the time. Exceptions are if you apply for a job with a post-production house - they may appreciate a list of the equipment you know - or a studio office job - when the traditional office résumé rules apply.
* Mistake #4: Mixing up different kinds of projects.
Credits should be categorized by type of project - Feature films, TV series, MOW’s, Cable Movies, Cable series, Industrials & Commercials, Web series and so on. List Shorts and Student Films last. You will re-order the categories depending on what type of production will receive your résumé.
Other disordered priorities include putting your Education at the top of the page, and putting non-industry jobs before your credits.
* Mistake #5: Too much, too little, or the wrong information about your credits.
I‘ve seen people include the format of feature films, the length in minutes, recite the plot, and list the log line of the project. I’ve seen résumés that are just a list of project titles, with maybe one unknown producer added.
When I help someone reformat their résumé, the first thing I do is carefully research the credits they list and the people involved to make sure the credits are clear and in the right place.
The information should include the project’s title, year, production company and the producer’s and/or director’s names, along with your proper job title. If there is a known star in the movie include that name. The purpose is to clarify the budget level of the project.
If you worked in a particular department, rather than as a PA, you could include the Department Head’s position and name.
* Mistake #6: Keeping student and micro-budget projects on your résumé for too long.
I know we all have a lot of affection for our early work. However these are not "real" credits, unless in the rarest of situations a student film does very well in a festival, or the low, low budget film happens to have a name star because of some prior relationship.
Most of the time, drop those projects "off the bottom" of your résumé as you get more real credits to include. It is better to have a few real, higher budget credits - regardless of how lowly the position - than to be listed as the Producer of an unknown student short.
* Mistake #7: Too much info about your other experience.
People want to look impressive on their résumé, but listing too many non-industry jobs just highlights your lack of credits, and takes up too much space on the page. Plus people display so much information that they use tiny fonts. Don’t make a crowded page that is unattractive - and NEVER go over one page for your résumé.
Stick to recent jobs that show parallel or similar skills, and summarize your duties in only one line IF the job title is unclear or unusual. Use your cover letter to expand on why this job in some other industry makes you a good PA candidate.
In my Résumé and Cover Letter Review service, one thing I do is help you translate your skills and non-industry work experience into show biz relevant language. I also help you express your skills in terms of "Features and Benefits" - to the production. You can find more tips for starting your career in production and learn about my service on my website - WorkInProduction.com.