As an actor or aspiring actor, you know that there’s much more to your art than simply “looking the part.” Casting directors know it too, so they’ll want to see your showreel. And, if you’re hoping to get a good agent, they’ll be interested in your showreel too.
So what is a showreel, how should you put it together, and what does it take to make one? Your showreel shows you in action on-screen. It will consist of a few edited-together clips that demonstrate your range and capabilities as an actor.
How to Choose Your Footage
If you’ve already appeared in screen productions, your first step is to get permission to use your footage – just because you’re in it doesn’t mean you own the copyright! Choose scenes in which you are the focus of attention, and make sure that both video and sound quality are good.
Since you want to show industry players what you’re capable of, your acting showreel should include examples of you portraying various roles in different genres. Let drama rub shoulders with comedy, for example.
If you haven’t yet appeared in any professional productions or can’t find anything that showcases your abilities, you can consider making a unique clip of your own. If you have access to good equipment, you can film your own footage. You can also try to get roles in student productions – many actors get their showreel footage in this way.
Alternatively, there are companies that make showreels, but be very careful who you choose. Not all of them are very good. Be careful of recycled scripts. If multiple other actors are using the same scene on their showreels, casting directors start getting bored – and that’s just what you don’t want them to be. Consider writing your own script – it doesn’t have to be a full story, just an opportunity to demonstrate your acting talent.
How Long Should a Showreel Be?
Acting is a competitive line of work, and casting directors will view plenty of showreels almost every day. They don’t have time for long videos, so your entire showreel should be no longer than three minutes.
Here’s your challenge: show your stuff in three minutes or less. No wonder you have to be so selective about what to include! Your actors’ showreel really has to do more with less.
What Should Not Be on Your Showreel
Making every minute count means avoiding anything that isn’t going to help you land a part or get an audition call. Here are some extras and types of clips to avoid:
- Great production, but not much acting. It looks good, but it doesn’t say anything about you or your talent.
- Old work. You want your showreel to represent your latest work and your current abilities.
- Scenes in which it’s unclear which actor you are. You don’t have to have a leading role, but your clip is still about you.
- Anything with poor image or sound quality – it will make you look unprofessional.
- Background music unless it’s part of the scene. Keep the focus on you.
- Montages: they may seem cute, but they’ll be seen as time-wasters.
How to Make a Showreel: Editing
Once you have your footage, extract the clips that you think will work well on your showreel. It’s actually a good thing if you have a few more than you can use, since you can be extra picky about what to include.
Editing the reel is relatively simple once you’ve decided what to include. Remember, although you want to look professional, extra bells and whistles will only detract from your showreel’s impact.
You can kick off with a still showing your headshot and name, then segue into your clips, placing the one you think showcases your acting ability best. Then, add a contrasting clip. Two or at most three clips are all you need.
A little text at the bottom of the screen at the start of each clip can show what role you’re playing and which production you were in. Superimpose it on the video so that it doesn’t take up more of your precious time.
If you aren’t good at video editing, you might want to get some help with the editing process – including the extraction of your chosen clips. Be prepared so that you and your editor don’t have to hunt around to find the clips you want to include in your actors’ showreel.
Remember that showreels are usually viewed online. Platforms like Vimeo support most video formats, but MP4s are nice and easy to work with.
How Many Showreels Should You Make?
You only need one showreel at a time, but since it represents examples of your best work, you’re likely to make a series of showreels over the course of your career. After all, you’re constantly learning, improving, developing your talent, and sharpening your acting skills – and, from a casting director’s perspective, the work you showcase should be fairly recent.
How to Use Your Showreel to Get Noticed
Of course, just having a showreel and keeping it to yourself isn’t going to land you any roles. You need to get it out there first. The most obvious places for it to go are casting platforms where you have a presence, and your own website. And, of course, you’ll share links to your showreel with agents and producers you’re hoping to interest.
But don’t stop there. Be seen! Upload your showreel to your social media accounts too. If you’ve been playing it smart, you’ve been building up a community of fans and people who are active in the industry. Even if you don’t get hired as a direct result of getting discovered on social media, lots of likes and engagement are indicators that you have an audience – some casting directors will see this as a good sign.
With so many uses for your acting showreel, and with it representing your best chance of getting hired, it’s really worth the hours of work you’ll put into making that two or three minute video! Remember, nobody who wants an actor is going to rely on headshots alone.
What to Do While You’re Between Roles
There are very few actors who are never “between roles.” Working on your showreel is one of the tasks you can tackle at times like these. You can also work on your personal brand. Update your website (or make one), check your casting platform profiles and update them if need be, and keep developing your acting skills.
Then, there are tons of things you can do to develop your acting skills too. Stage a production yourself; get involved in drama clubs; catch up on your reading; watch shows starring your favourite actors with an eye to technique; and attend acting classes and workshops. The more active you are, the more you grow!
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