Ask Denise: Should Background Work Be on Your Child’s Résumé?

Q: Should my daughter put a featured background role for a TV show on her résumé or should all extra work be left off?  —@Amanda052, Backstage Community Forums

The purpose of a résumé is to provide casting directors and directors with your child’s range of experience and training as an actor through the roles they have played. And while extra work—also known as background work—is experience, it is not acting work. Industry professionals know that.

Extra work can give your child industry experience, but not legitimacy regarding skill. No one looks at a résumé and gets excited about extra work. A small part in a community theater production or a student film will hold more weight than a featured background credit because the role requires skill.

If your child has no experience other than some extra work, then list it. It can be a positive learning experience for actors who are just starting out, and it provides the chance to work on a set and see what goes on behind and in front of the camera.

However, extra work is not a launching pad to an acting career. While it gives the actor some knowledge of how production works, it’s not a replacement for working as an actor. Many well-known actors began by doing extra work, but that’s not how they ultimately achieved success.

Young actors just beginning in the industry may not have a lot of credits yet. When putting together their résumé, it’s perfectly acceptable to have school and camp experience, student films, and even extra or background work listed, as long as it’s not there only as padding. 

If all your child has done is extra work, feel free to list some of those credits initially. As they gain more experience and have more acting roles under their belt, the extra work should be replaced with the new credits on their résumé.