This guide is designed to give you an overview of the key factors to consider when creating your showreel.
Content kindly supplied by The Actor’s One Stop Shop
A showreel is probably the most powerful marketing tool you can have. Think about it, a friend may go on about how wonderful an actor is in this or that movie for months but it’s only when you see them move and speak that you can judge for yourself the strength of their performances.
From a casting perspective setting up auditions is hard work and you can only really see about twenty five actors in a day, with showreels you can see a hundred plus, and the fact that you’re seeing performances rather than just social chin wagging leads to a more meritorious system where people can be cast primarily for their talent.
Then there’s the agent angle. If you’re without an agent then you’ll want one and if you’re with an agent then you’ll want a better one. Either way they’ll need to see what they’re buying into and how can they represent you if they don’t know what you can do?
So now you’re sold. You want a showreel but it all seems very complicated. No it isn’t. Let’s start at the base line: Do you have material from past films? If yes then obviously you’d like that work to feature on your showreel or if not the way to go is to shoot something from scratch. Let’s take each case one at a time.
1. Edited From Existing Material Showreels
All that’s going to happen is that you’re going to sit down and review your work. Making notes of your best scenes and using your player’s counter to note where they start and end. You’ll only want at most 3 clips from any particular production and in total you really don’t need more than 14 clips from all of your productions.
Then you’re going into an editing suite and these clips are going to be loaded onto a computer and carved down to a pacy and interesting showreel lasting between 3 and 4 minutes. What could be easier?
As regards cost it’ll be by the hour, some facilities offer ‘all in’ prices but then say ‘up to x number of hours and then it’ll be by the hour’ so it’s the same thing really. If you can’t go above a certain price then tell the editor beforehand, if they’re experienced they should be able to keep to it – be aware though that if you’d like them to do that they’ll probably need to have quite a free reign on the showreel.
The next most common thing I hear said is that the actor’s material is very weak and they’re waiting for stuff. Again don’t worry, until you see just how powerful editing is in the hands of a good editor you won’t really appreciate what can be achieved. Low budget and student films are often very badly put together, re-cutting, editing to reduce other characters, adding music can all give even the most uninspiring scene unbelievable muscle. It’s a bit like what can be achieved on photos with air brushing and treating – spots, wrinkles all gone! Beautiful tan and alluring eyes guaranteed! Editing is just as powerful.
As regards as how many good scenes you need the answer is very simple, just one. If we hear you interacting with another character in just one scene then other scenes may not even need words, their presence is just to strengthen your body of experience or perhaps the quality of productions you’ve been in.
About that promised copy where you had a strong role that you’ve been waiting for for months? My advice is don’t. Get something together now. If you go to a professional outfit they should keep your showreel so that new credits can be easily added like you do to your CV – it makes an incredible difference once casters and agents can see your moving image so you don’t want to delay even a few months only discover the clip you’ve been waiting for is less than hoped.
But supposing you simply haven’t been on camera or it really is genuinely a bit below par? That’s where the might of ‘Shot-from-scratch’ comes in.
2. Shot From Scratch Showreels
Again it’s all very simple. Scenes are shot and edited exactly as if they actually did come out of films and then put together on a showreel, so it looks as if they came from produced films and the end result appears like an edited from existing material showreel.
If you go to a company that can supply you with suitable scripts to choose from, actors, a director and they’re prepared to produce the showreel then it should be all very easy, enjoyable even and moreover give you a real chance to expand your acting talent into the bargain. One of the key things is to avoid the temptation of directing yourself, characters are always more three dimensional and interesting under the guidance of a professional, experienced drama director, plus they’ll give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t as well as what’s feasible to shoot on your budget.
The scenes can be integrated with existing work, just used along with other shot scenes or indeed just used as a single scene by itself. One actor reported back a few months ago that he’d just been cast in a central role in a feature film based on a single simple scene.
Anyhow that should be enough to give you an overview of showreels and what they’re about. I could go on for hours; UK format, USA format, splash montages, attention spans, musical flows, lyrical interaction between credits, establishment of primary character, use of action material, gluing section techniques, use of model style shots, target markets and so on, and on, and on… Which you might expect from someone who can in all likelihood claim to have made more showreels than anyone on the planet! There’s a lot to it, but concentrate on the points and advice listed above and you’ll be well on your way to putting together the most powerful tool in your professional acting arsenal – your showreel. Good luck!