Ten good tips for a clearer CV

Putting together the members pages of this website has led to seeing well over a hundred CV’s from our department. It would be good share a few thoughts on what makes them tick… what stands out …and what doesn’t.
Particularly aimed at those who are not long established 1st AD’s, but rather those starting their careers in this very competitive game we play.

Your CV is something to give you the opportunity to firstly pay the bills, and secondly make your CV even better. There are instances when these two things get swapped around but we all need to live and unless we’re lucky … we all have to pay. So it needs to be tailored to getting the work that pays. So remember to separate the professional paid work from the rest.

These days a lot of AD’s and Set Runners are working in different grades. With an enormous variation in production size and type. To me the most common problem with CV’s is the mix of different jobs people put on them. They pile it all in there. I even saw one recently that had directing, lighting, gripping, production manager, 1st AD, 2nd AD, 3rd AD and Runner all on the same CV…. Hang on, and have a think; what do you want to do?
To have so much varied experience is great but it can be a trifle confusing to someone looking at your CV.
So….what should you put in it? And what should you leave out?

Firstly, take a look from the other side…change hats for a moment … or shoes. Think about it from the readers POV. They are looking for a specific grade, so start by offering a specific grade. You throw four balls at someone and they might not catch any of them. Throw one and they stand a better chance.

By all means put your experience down. But be careful, because a PM or 1st AD looking for a 3rd, 2nd AD or a Set Runner is not interested in what you have produced or directed. They are interested in what you have done in the grade he is searching to fill. Or at least, a substantial amount of time spent in the grade below.
Remember, if you have directed five shorts, worked as a 1st AD on six small productions and produced three films with mates it’s best to keep these a little less prominent if you are searching for a job as a 3rd AD in mainstream production. Why? Because a 1st AD searching for his team is going to be just a little weary of getting someone aboard who has apparently worked in a higher or equivalent grade to him. So give it a back seat. Mention it, yes. But keep it lower down the page.

Remember that your CV is a pitch. You are pitching yourself to those people looking for crew. They are looking for something specific. So make your CV direct them to something specific. And make it stand out. There will certainly be other CV’s sharing their desktop with yours.

First and foremost do take a look at your peers CV’s. Check out ‘Find an AD’ on the ADA website. And feel free to nick a few ideas of style and layout. Some folks are really good. Some really need to read on below.

So here’s my list of 10 good CV tips:

1. Keep it graphically crisp and clear. No fancy typeface. Black and White. One colour backgound for titles if you wish. Preferably one page. Never more than two. Spelling and grammatical mistakes are a definate no no. So check and double check.

2. Start with who you are. Make it clear what role you are looking for and how to contact you.

3. Add a few sentences telling a little about yourself. Any outstanding relevant skills. In sentences not paragraphs.Two lines at the most. Maybe add what you want to be doing a few years down the line. But keep it brief.

4. List jobs in reverse chronological order. Divided into type. E.G. TV/Drama, Feature films, Commercials. with the most recent at the top.
Mention in this order:

Dates(mo.& yr. only) –  Prod. title  –  Prod. company  –  PM/1st AD  –  Your role.

Identify dailies clearly. Keep each job to a maximum of three lines.
Do not add what your responsibilities were on each job. Those hiring you know this already.

5. Keep student/personal projects and other work separate under a sub-heading at the bottom.  eg ’Personal Projects’ or ‘Other Work’.

6. Finish with a brief list of relevant abilities and skills. Including languages / clean driving licence/ own transport / Safety Passport / First aid / Training courses completed etc etc.
Include details of further education. Not earlier education or hobbies.

7. Add a couple of contacts who can be easily approached for references. (Not Spielberg) Check with them first, then add their contact email and phone. Don’t put, “References available” ( Is a PM really going to call you to say, ‘I am considering you but give me your references’ ? Unlikely )

8. Label it clearly. I mean the file name. It should have your name, grade, CV and year on it.

9. Test it. Send it to someone you know, someone you can get an honest opinion from.

10. Keep it up to date. Nothing worse than an out of date CV

Be clear, confident and honest. It’s a small business. Remember you are selling yourself so make it smart yet friendly and dynamic. If you are moving up and down between grades then consider having more than one CV for different grades.

Hope this helps. Feedback, suggestions, additions or ridicule always welcome.

patrick@adauk.org