30 Acting Terms You Need to Know

Are you a beginning actor who wants to appear more knowledgeable around other actors? Or maybe you are a seasoned actor who simply wants to brush up on their industry jargon? Either way, you have come to the right place!

I’ve compiled a short list of 30 film industry terms that all actors need to know. If you read through this glossary and think I should add one or two, or you have a question about them, please let me know! The purpose of providing these terms are for the benefit of all.Acting Terms

Before the Audition

Agent: Your advocate as the actor. They can help to market you, set up auditions, and negotiate your pay rate.

Agency: This is what the agent works for and who you pay your commission to. (Ex. The agent Tom works for Talent Agency). There are normally multiple agents in an agency.

Headshot: An 8 x 10 picture of yourself from the chest up (see my headshot to the right) with your stage name printed clearly. This is given to agents, casting directors, and anyone in the industry who might use this to cast you in their next project.

Resume: A comprehensive list of your acting credits and experience on an 8 x 10 paper attached to the back of your headshot. Also included is your stage name, agency information, and physical stats.

Demo Reel: A kind of montage of some of your best on-camera work. This video is shown to potential agents, as well as casting directors. Many actors are booked directly from their headshot, resume, and/or demo reel.

Breakdown: A list of the types of characters needed to be cast for a project. Agents receive breakdowns and then submit you for an audition if you fit their descriptions. It can include gender, age, ethnicity, personality traits, small character background, and even accents preferred. [You can find tons of actor breakdowns and audition opportunities at Actors Access or Casting Networks].

Type: What kind of characters you can play (villain, princess, jock, etc). [Read about the difference between being typecast and branding here].

Age Range: Which ages you realistically can look like (16-20, 30-40, etc).

Actor Breakdowns Example
Actor Breakdowns

At the Audition

Casting Director: A person in charge of casting a project. They decide whether you get the chance to audition, then decide if you make the cut or not. They also act as the liaison between the agent/actor and the director/producer of the project.

Reader: A secondary person in the audition room meant to read the other parts of the dialogue opposite the actor.

Audition: A chance to prove you should get the role, typically in front of a casting director and a camera. You might perform sides, do a monologue, or just plain improvisation.

Callback: A follow-up audition for the casting director. In some cases, the director, producer, and/or writer are also present. You could have one or more callbacks before the final role has been chosen, but you should have your sides completely memorized for a callback.

Monologue: A chunk of text that one character is saying aloud (aka not dialogue). Casting directors might want to see you perform a one minute monologue to gauge your acting ability.

Dialogue: Part of a script that has more than one person speaking, typically in conversational form.

Script: The complete dialogue and direction for a certain film or television show.

Sides: A small portion of the script used when auditioning. It can range from one line to multiple pages of text.

Cold Read: Auditioning with sides that were just handed to you within the last 24 hours.

Mark: The place on the floor where you need to stand. In auditions, it will regularly be a T-shaped piece of tape on the ground to stand on. While filming, it might be seen with tape, but if it is not clearly “marked,” you just need to memorize exactly where to stand each time.

Slate: To state your name and agency, if applicable, before you begin your audition. This is said directly to the camera as an introduction to who you are as a person, not your character. Children under the age of 18 also state their age.

Cheat: To turn your body or face slightly towards the audience or camera for better visibility. You can spot this often in scenes with two people conversing because they will not be standing directly toward each other.

After the Audition

Call sheet for Squatty Potty Unicorn Gold
Call Sheet for Squatty Potty Commercial

Booking: You are “booked” when your agent tells you that you got the job.

Call Sheet: A document given to you before filming that shows when and where each cast and crew member needs to be on set for that day. [Read about my day on set of a Squatty Potty commercial here].

Principal: An actor whose face is shown clearly on screen and has lines to speak.

Extra: A background actor, not necessarily seen. (Ex. The other guests at a restaurant).

Craft Services: A table on set with snacks and drinks for everyone to partake of. It can also be catered.

Union: SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). American labor union that serves to represent artists. If you are booked on a union project, you might get paid more.

Non-Union: An actor or project that is not associated with an actor’s union.

Residuals: Being paid every time your project is broadcast.

Buy-Out: Being paid a flat fee rather than residuals.

Wrap: “That’s a wrap!” Signifying the end of the day’s work or the end of filming an entire project.

I will repeat myself, if you have any questions about the terms I’ve listed, please tell me! I would love to set up a Skype session with you to go into further detail!

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