Three Common Resume Mistakes

After cleaning up a couple of hundred resumes, I’ve found some common resume mistakes pop up over and over. These are really easy to fix, and you don’t even need to hire me to correct them yourself.

Where are you?

Most resume templates have a line for your physical address. I have no idea why anyone would want this information; it’s not like they’re going to write you a letter.

Generally speaking, I don’t think you should include anything on your resume that doesn’t actively help you. Your address doesn’t help, and it could even hurt. Say they’re shooting in the Valley and you live in Long Beach. The coordinator might think, “Oh, well, she’s not going to want to make that commute,” and toss out your resume before even calling you. Remember, they’ll receive hundreds of resumes for every job posting; any rubric that helps cut down that number will be used.

The one exception I can think of is, if you’re working as a local hire. You want to make sure they know you’re a resident of the state that’s giving them a tax break.

You have one job

On a student film, everyone helps everyone do everything. You’ll probably have 17 titles by the end of the shoot. That’s fine, you’re just learning.

Even on a low budget, but still professional, shoot, you’ll end up with certain departments lumped together: grip & set lighting;1 make-up & hair; set dec & props. (Those last two pairs are at least in the same unions, 706 and 44 respectively.) Again, this makes sense– a smaller budget film can only afford a small crew, so some people have to pull double duty.

The mistake comes in claiming all of those titles on your resume. You look like a Jack/Jill of All Trades, Master of None. If you’re applying to be a grip, your resume should say grip, not grip/electrician/camera assistant/crafty/scripty/stand-in.

The difference between lying and fibbing

The last of the common resume mistakes relates to the one above. Sometimes independent producers get a little… title happy. “You worked on the movie three days? We’ll call you… associate producer. Sure, why not?” It’s their way of paying you without, you know, paying you.

This becomes an issue with highly technical jobs. For instance, maybe you helped the DP/camera operator2 a lot, carrying the tripod and lens cases, swapping batteries, maybe even slating. Sounds like you were a camera assistant. And since you were the only camera assistant, you must be the first camera assistant, right?

Wrong. In the UK, the 1st AC is called the “Focus Puller.” That’s because, on both sides of the pond, she’s the one who maintains the focus of the shot:

It’s an incredibly difficult and important job. If you screw it up, literally nothing else matters. Everyone else’s work has been entirely wasted. I’ve seen an AC fired when one single take of one single shot was soft in dailies.

I’m all for fudging your resume a little. You interned on a show? Eh, you can say you were a PA. But don’t try and claim to be a DIT3 if all you did was transfer SD cards to a harddrive and push the monitor cart around.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Sometimes referred to as “griptricians”.
  2. Another couple of jobs that frequently get conflated.
  3. Digital Imaging Technician.
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2 Responses

  1. I was actually just wondering about this last night. I’m actively looking for a job (trying to move from production company to a show) and my immediate supervisor knows I’m looking to move on (and is actually encouraging it–“don’t get stuck here”.)

    While I’m technically the office PA, I’ve been doing the job of production coordinator since my second month here (it’s now been a little over four months). But since that role doesn’t technically exist in the company, the higher-ups don’t want to promote me or even give me a raise.

    But I want to be able to show any potential employers that I rose quickly in the company and was given more responsibility, so is it an acceptable risk to list myself as production coordinator on my resume? Should I check with my supervisor first, or at least give her a heads-up?

    Additionally, would it be a hindrance to be listed as production coordinator at a production company when I’m applying for PA and assistant level positions on shows? To me, it makes sense considering working on a show would be a different ball game so I would have to earn my way there, but I wonder if there are logistical issues in essentially going backwards in title.

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