Showreel Guide

What are Showreels and what are they for?

A showreel, also known as a demo reel or a demo tape, is a concise video compilation that showcases an actor’s or performer’s talent, skills, and range. It serves as a visual portfolio and a promotional tool to demonstrate an actor’s abilities to casting directors, agents, or potential employers in the entertainment industry.

What do Casting Directors NEED to see on your reel?
Casting Directors and industry professionals want to see your best acting work on your reel. Showreels play a vital role in the casting process, as they allow casting directors and industry professionals to quickly assess an actor’s abilities and determine whether they are a good fit for a particular project. It is often the first impression an actor makes on industry decision-makers, and a well-crafted showreel can significantly enhance an actor’s chances of securing auditions and landing roles.

What are the ‘trends’ in Showreels?

Showreels are evolving to reflect our current needs in casting, and our digital environment.

One trend we are seeing: Many Actor’s don’t just have one showreel anymore. Different accents, styles, or even languages can be included on different reels to help show your abilities.

It can be very useful to have a Vimeo or Youtube page that you use to showcase your abilities. Clips of any other skills (dancing, singing, unique talents) can be a useful addition as a separate option to your main showreel. Attach a link to this page to any Actor databases you are a member of and update it frequently. You might decide to upload other skills to this page. Tip: keep your showreel as the main focus and have your other videos as supplementary options for the viewer.

How do I get a good showreel?

If you don’t have enough professional footage to make up a good showreel that shows your best acting work, don’t panic.
Showreels are not about production values, they’re about your best acting work. One way to get your best acting work on your Showreel is to use a Self-Test or Self-Tape format, either using a reader or creating a scene as a monologue. Check out my online course Self-Tape Your Showreel for expert help with this.
Filming on a smartphone is fine, as long as we can see you and hear you.

Should I pay a professional to shoot my reel for me?

My advice, your money is better spent on quality Acting Training. If your work is consistently good and you are getting it in front of the right people the professional jobs will come.

  • Using the Self-Tape format advantages:
  • You can update your reel frequently to reflect changes in your acting abilities.
  • You can supplement your professional work with contrasting self-tape scenes to demonstrate a wider acting range.
  • Cheaper – professionally shot showreels can cost upwards of $3000.
  • Lower stress – being in a place where you are comfortable can be a great thing when recording a scene for your reel.
  • Practicing the art of the self-test or self-tape is always a good thing with more and more casting being done in a self-test format.

Showreel Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do:
  • Keep it short and sweet. It’s unlikely that Casting Directors will have time to watch it all anyway. We are often very rushed.
  • Include your best work at the start and keep it short.
  • Self-Tapes are fine.

Some common mistakes to avoid on your Showreel:

  • DON’T: Use long clips or clips that focus on other actors instead of you. We want to see your acting, we don’t need to see establishing shots, long pauses or other characters. Casting is a high pressure, time-sensitive job and we don’t have time to skip through your reel to try to see your acting.
  • DON’T: Save the best for last. Show us your best work upfront, Casting Directors often only have time to watch 30 seconds of your reel. Hiding your best scene at the end isn’t the best idea here.
  • DON’T: Include clips from every project you’ve ever worked on, that’s what your resume is for.
  • DON’T Spend a lot of money on a ‘professionally shot’ showreel. Self-Tapes are fine, as long as they show you best acting work. You will grow and change as an artist, and your showreel will need to be updated often to reflect that fact.
  • DON’T spend a fortune shooting scenes to look like a ‘professional’ production. Casting Directors always can tell the difference.

Overall, a showreel is a powerful tool that allows actors to showcase their talent, leaving a lasting impression and increasing their chances of being considered for exciting acting opportunities within the entertainment industry. Check out Self-Tape Your Showreel to get professional coaching on your Showreel.

What we should be learning from Character Actors.

What can you learn from Character Actors?

I have a personal fascination with the concept of ‘character actors’. Whatever way you look at it, they’re pretty cool. They’re like the secret agents of the acting world, consistently working in different quirky roles. It’s so great to watch Actors bring a unique energy to a role. Bill Camp, Jennifer Coolidge, Dale Dickey, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Jason Mantzoukas are some of the brilliant character actors who always captivate audiences with their performances.

But what sets these character actors apart?

Physical Traits:

Character actors often don’t fit the conventional standards of attractiveness, but they have succeeded in an industry that can be very superficial. They embrace Stella Adler’s excellent quote: “You have to understand your best. Your best isn’t Barrymore’s best or Olivier’s best or my best, but your own. Every person has his norm. And in that norm every person is a star. Olivier could stand on his head and still not be you. Only you can be you. What a privilege! Nobody can reach what you can if you do it. So do it. We need your best, your voice, your body. We don’t need for you to imitate anybody, because that would be second best. And second best is no better than your worst.”  

These performers have figured out how to capitalise on their unique qualities and turn them into captivating character traits.

Training:

These performers are usually well-educated, but their training tends to be more diverse and resourceful than a standard university degree. They seize learning opportunities wherever they can find them. Reading background biographies of character actors will have you come across a litany of unusual jobs – from Robin Willians as a street mime, Whoopi Goldberg’s time as a morgue makeup artist and phone sex operator and John Hamm as a pornography set-dresser.

Creating Characters:

Character actors don’t wait for auditions to develop their characters. They make bold choices and cultivate these personas over time. Iconic examples like Barry Humphries’ Dame Edna and Andy Kaufman’s Tony Clifton took time to evolve alongside the performers themselves. If you love creating, then it’s important to create. Waiting for someone to come to you with your dream role pre-written is likely to only result in frustration. Create those characters for yourself and learn to enjoy your craft.

How can you be more like them?

  • Work on different aspects of your acting training to become a well-rounded performer.
  • Practice doing impressions and impersonate your favourite characters to improve your skills. 
  • Focus on voice work to handle big choices and loud moments without straining your voice.
  • Step out of your comfort zone by trying new activities that challenge and develop your craft. Sometimes the best way to stretch and grow as a performer is to step out of your comfort zone and into something new. 
  • Check out my course Character Chameleon to help you learn bold character interpretation techniques that will make you shine in the audition room. In this online course we delve into creating characters that align with roles you are most likely to get cast in, so you can make bold choices that show on screen and catch the attention of directors, producers and casting directors.

In summary, character actors possess an authentic and mesmerising presence on screen. They celebrate themselves and their uniqueness while bringing remarkable energy to every role they play. Emulating their boldness and dedication to their craft can elevate your own acting journey.