As an actor, having a professional showreel is vital if you want to be noticed by directors and casting agents. Here's the Reel Scene guide to creating an acting showreel from scratch, and our one-day cinematic showreel shoot.
If you have just recently graduated from an acting class or drama school - or you are just about to - then a showreel should be one of your top priorities. This is because a showreel puts control of your acting career in your hands. You can record the scenes that suit your performance style, personality and most effectively portray your strengths as an actor. In this post, we’ll talk about recording your own showreel “from scratch,” where you don’t have any broadcast performances to include and introduce you to our one day cinematic showreel shoot.
What is a Showreel?
A showreel is a short promotional film that displays the work of an actor, artist or presenter. The showreel is the actor's marketing tool in that it that acts like a visual resume.
Actors frequently upload their showreels to video sharing sites like Vimeo or YouTube, and then send the link on to casting directors and talent agencies when needed.
Why do you need a Showreel?
Every actor should have a showreel to demonstrate their talent. A good showreel can help increase the number of auditions you are offered. It is an introduction to casting directors and agents. This is one of the most important tools to have as an actor.
It used to be the case that a strong CV and a good headshot were all you needed to land an audition. These days, a director would want to see visual proof of your skills before calling you in for a meeting. Directors and casting agents are usually very busy, receiving hundreds of applications a day, so you need to make sure you stand out by providing them with a professional showreel.
Your showreel is a great opportunity to show off your acting skills while giving casting directors an idea of how you look and sound on camera. A good showreel will set you apart from your competitors and help convince potential employers that you are the right person for the job.
What should be included in your Showreel?
When deciding on the material to include in your showreel, ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of roles am I considering auditioning for?
- What are my strengths as an actor?
- Which performances best demonstrate my range and ability?
Including a variety of performances and genres will help demonstrate your versatility as an actor.
The Top Ten Showreel Mistakes
It’s easy to make mistakes when creating an acting showreel. Here are some things to avoid:
- Reproducing a scene from film or TV verbatim
Reproducing a performance from a film or TV episode is fine as long as you give it your own spin and make it unique - not just an exact copy of the original performance.
- Making it too long
A well-crafted showreel should last no more than three minutes. In essence, the shorter and punchier it is, the better. Casting directors are busy people, and if you want to stand out, your reel should grab their attention quickly and not waste their time.
- Too much diversity
You can't always be a jack-of-all-trades. You need to give casting directors / agents the best possible impression of who you are in the shortest time. If your strong points are comedy and drama, then just focus on these in your showreel.
- “Acting” too much
Unless you're doing Broadway or theater acting, keep overly exaggerated acting out of your showreel. Casting directors / agents want to see your natural talent - say your lines, and be real when you say them. React like a normal person would react. Find humanity in the character.
- Using poor quality footage
We know, we get it. You’ve just come out of school, and you don't have the budget for a movie-quality showreel. But do what you can to make your showreel look as professional as possible. Make sure you’re well lit, and your sound is clearly recorded without background noise. Most modern smartphones have good enough video quality that some have even been used to make mainstream movies.
Don’t use montages, fancy editing, distracting or overpowering locations. A showreel is where you showcase your acting.
- Confusion around which performer is the actor
A generic scene might show two people of the same gender having a conversation. That's great if you want to show it to your friends - they already know you. But the people watching don't know who you are. Your reel needs to focus on you – or else the casting agent might get excited about the wrong person.
- Too much celebrity footage
So you've managed to get a celebrity on your showreel? Great! But you need to be careful how much footage of that actor you use. Including a celebrity to show that you can act with a professional performer is a good idea. But remember this is your showreel.
- Putting background artist or extra work on the reel
Your two seconds of screen time with a famous actor or on a big budget movie does nothing for your showreel.
The only reason to include background artist work in your showreel is when you've had a lot of screen time that will prove your worth.
- You're not updating it
Keep your showreel up-to-date! As you add more work to your portfolio, remember to add the best moments to your showreel, possibly replacing any less-than-stellar performances, so your reel is always improving.
How to make your showreel stand out
Sure, you can create a showreel from scratch on your own, with a team of friends, family members, or even colleagues; and with any equipment you have at your disposal - but it won't be as high quality as it would be if done professionally. Here are some tips on how to make your acting showreel stand out:
Find a director that understands you
Find a director that will make an effort to get to know you first before starting a shoot. This ensures that your director understands your skillset, and how to best utilize you on camera. A good director knows how to make your skills as an actor stand out.
Be specific in your reel
Don't try to prove in your showreel that you can take any type of role on offer because this can ruin the reel, not make it better. Be specific in your performances and show your strengths as an actor. Remember that the jack of all trades is a master of none.
Shoot in real locations
Try and make each scene believable, because the audience knows if you've faked a location. Yes, you are creating fictional scenes, but the audience needs to believe in what they are seeing. This immerses them in the scene and lets them focus on your acting and not in a poor location. If you don't have a good location for a scene, shooting short dialogue using a close up of two actors is better than a fake location.
Give them what they need, then get out
Enter the scene late, leave early. The point of the showreel scene is to show the following:
- How you look
- How you act
- The way you create, handle and develop a character.
Then that's it! Get out!
Tell a story
Don't just think in terms of acting. Think of how you would give the viewers a good experience when they are watching your reel. A good story leaves the viewer feeling something. Make us laugh, make us cry, intrigue us - but don't leave us bored or make us cringe.
Keep it consistent
Keep the music the same, the theme the same, the pace, and everything else consistent. Everything should be a reflection of what you are trying to achieve. Have a plan and a vision before you even start.
For instance, make sure that the music you are using is appropriate and relevant to the scene. Don't just put it there because it sounds good to you, but not in the scene.
Nothing ruins a good showreel more than when an actor is too tense or worried about how the scene will come out. The more you enjoy yourself and have fun with the scenes, the more natural your acting will be and the more believable will be your performance. So don't worry too much, relax, and have fun when doing it.
High-quality showreels are essential
Casting agents and directors can tell if a showreel is bad just by looking at the thumbnail of the video. Even if your acting and script are good, you’ll lose out if the production value is bad.
The Reel Scene can help you to create a professional showreel
The team at Reel Scene use state-of-the-art equipment like a 4K digital cameras, high quality lenses, and professional-level lighting. We make sure that your showreel is cinema-level quality by utilising a team of stage managers, cameramen, directors, and editors who have worked on feature films and television.
Creating a showreel with The Reel Scene normally takes one full day. Sign up for The Reel Scene One Day Cinematic Showreel Shoot
How we create an acting showreel at The Reel Scene
Here's a rundown of what we do when an actor requests a showreel from scratch:
- We have you work with a professional actor and director to practice your performance in the rehearsal studio. If this is your first time, we'll cover the basics for you - the technical aspects of acting on screen, the technology we use, and an understanding of the most common terminologies used on set. We will block and rehearse the scenes for your shoot so you'll be prepared for shooting on location.
- The shoot is usually in central London. Central London has been the home for many blockbuster movies due to its museums, art galleries, scenic views, icons like Big Ben and the tower bridge. And of course, London's epic skyline view. Our team has worked on feature films, Channel 4, BBC, and ITV so your reels are produced to professional quality. You will perform your pre-rehearsed scenes and will be recorded on location.
Frequently Asked Questions
I'm not a professional actor, can I still do a showreel shoot?
It is essential that you have completed acting training prior to making a showreel from scratch. This is because showreels do not teach you how to act, they are designed to showcase your existing abilities and skills.
I'm an actor working mainly in theatre, is this right for me?
Our shoot is not dependent on the platform, but on how you can showcase your diversity as an artist. If you are not familiar with working on a film set, you will be fully briefed before the shoot.
How are you different from other companies offering showreels from scratch?
Our crew is all working professionals who have backgrounds in film and television. We have industry-standard, state-of-the-art equipment, and our post-production workflow is the same as it would be in feature film and broadcast television productions.
How long will the shoot take?
After recording, post-production will take up to 7 days. This includes editing, sound mixing, color grading, etc. You'll receive the final footage of each scene individually in 1920x1080 resolution. We'll also send compressed versions for uploading online.
In addition, you'll receive still frames that are at least 12 megapixels in size and color graded for a professional finish.