In today’s modern digital age where information is at our finger tips, a showreel is probably the most powerful promotional/marketing tool an actor can have.A CV and Headshot on their own doesn’t cut it anymore. Why? Well it doesn’t really matter how talented or gifted an individual actor is, how much training they have had, or how much charisma or presence they have on screen, unless there is a means of physically demonstrating this to the right type of people – Agents, Casting Directors, Directors, Producers etc., then it will forever go unnoticed.From a casting point of view, getting your foot in the door is the priority. When a Casting Director puts a casting brief out into the world, they will be inundated with hundreds of submissions from Agents and Actors, and quite possibly recommendations from other Casting Directors/Producers and Directors – for each and every role. So realistically, assuming they don’t already know who you are, why should they consider you as a potential candidate based on a CV and Headshot alone.Casting Directors are limited on how many actors they can physically audition in a given time frame (maybe 20/30 in a day), so that initial influx of 100’s of potential candidates for each role has to get cut down somehow. Yes, you might get lucky and be plucked out of the bag because you have a specific look or skill that fits the role, but an actor needs more than blind luck to forge a career. They need talent and drive, coupled with the right promotional and marketing tools which can help eliminate relying on pure luck alone.
When a Casting Director is doing their prep work for setting up the audition process for whatever project they are working on, you can guarantee that 80/90% of the candidates who are actually successful in getting initial auditions have either: seen the Casting Director before; they have been personally recommended by other industry professionals; or the Casting Director has seen some form of showreel/body of work that convinced them to give that actor some of their precious time.Showreels are not only instrumental in getting you an audition for the next big project, they are also a major factor in getting you an agent, and/or keeping them. If you are lucky enough to have a good agent and you want to keep them, then the chances are your agent will be saying – “When will we get a showreel?”. Agents are in the business of investing time and effort on representing, managing and promoting actors. Remember, they don’t get paid unless they get their clients work. In order for them to get their clients work, they need the right tools. Agents aren’t going to go out and source or buy the tools for you, you have to give them the tools. If you don’t give them all of the tools they need, and can maximise the use of, then they are essentially trying to race a horse with three legs and they will quickly get tired of flogging the preverbal dead horse.So where do you start? If you have been lucky enough to secure some screen work then you can use existing material, if not then you should be considering creating a showreel from scratch.1. Using Existing Material.So you have done some student, no/low budget films, maybe had a couple of 1 day parts here and there – it is a start!Casting Directors, Agents etc, don’t want to watch epic 1 hour long showreels – they don’t have the time. A good showreel should probably be no longer than 3 minutes or so. It should aim to be interesting, quick to grab and hold the attention, and give the important information that needs to be conveyed to the person who is watching it.Don’t make the mistake of including long montages of shots where you are doing meaningless things (ie: making a coffee, walking down the street etc.). It should contain the best clips you have available of you acting and reacting. It should be edited down so that it demonstrates your acting and reacting ability. Less can be more, so don’t worry if when you time what material you actually have, and it only comes out at a minute long. 1 good minute will be worth more than 3 dull uninteresting minutes. You can always add to the showreel the more material you get.
If you can afford to pay a good editor to edit you material together, this can be money well spent. If not try to find some student editors who might be able to help.2. Showreels From ScratchSo you don’t have any real screen experience yet, but you still want/need a showreel. So why not get together with some other like minded actors and create one. Between you, devise or source some scenes that will best serve everyone’s efforts.If finance isn’t a major issue, you could go to a company that specialises in producing showreels for actors. Alternatively try and build some links with people who could help for free – newly qualified cameramen, editors, directors etc.After you film your scenes, the same rules apply as if you were creating your showreel from existing material. Keep it short, keep it interesting, keep it informative.Remember you have to put in the effort if you want to see the rewards, don’t rely on pure luck alone.