Actors – 5 Lies About Showreels

Warning: There may be gratuitous use of analogies and perhaps a soupcon of sarcasm in this post…allegedly.

Over the last few months, I’ve really enjoyed working closely with actors in and around the West Midlands area. There is some real talent around and it has been a pleasure working to help refine that talent. One of the more unexpected, and fun, aspects has been listening to the recounting of ‘wisdom’, which has seriously been passed on to these unsuspecting actors from filmmaking ‘experts’. Unlike many, “I don’t make this shit up” just because I want you to spend money on one of my classes (although that would be jolly). I know from mi career that accurate, informed, information is vital when you are planning how to develop your career.

Mi 5 inadequate truths (OK lies) about showreels…

  1. “Actors don’t need showreels, headshots are fine because film/TV companies do screen tests anyway!”

Analogy: OK, so let’s say you go to buy a car. You ask if you can see the car, but the salesperson responds by asking you to buy the car before you can see it in action. Thoughts? I’m guessing the word NO and various phrases with ‘off’ in them are now being uttered across the interweb.

A showreel is an advert for an actor. It lets us directors (or casting directors) see and hear what you have to offer. It lets us see if you can do what you say you can and gives us an idea of what roles you are good for. If you’re any good at what you do you should have some examples to prove that, right?

2. “Showreels can contain anything”.

Honestly, I’ve personally reviewed ‘showreels’, which had actors at riding schools, juggling and far too frequently “Me on stage in the chorus line”. I love theatre, but, TV and film are different tribes with different languages and cultures. A grainy, video from the back of the stalls, doesn’t help me to see your TV skills. If there is an analogy it’s something like being on a date and talking about your ex.

3. “One polished clip is better”.

This is a good one because it’s usually followed by a filmmaker offering to write and produce a short film for you. If you’re a talented actor, you’ll have a number of roles, and looks you want to showcase. A 3-minute one-clip showreel says “This is the only thing I’ve done” and infers you don’t understand what a showreel is for.

4. “Put your best stuff at the end so the showreel builds to a climax”

Sorry, but from mi research most casting directors and directors rarely watch a full showreel. Casting directors especially are busy people and they know what they’re looking for. So, if they don’t see it in the first couple of clips…Next! Put your best clips up front, so you get them seen.

5. “A montage of clips to music shows your versatility”

NO! A montage at the beginning of your showreel is a No, No, thrice No! This was a style back in the 90’s and not only is it dated, but it is the quickest turn off for directors and CDs. A showreel is a living thing and should be updated to show your most recent (hopefully improving) work.

Mi Thoughts

To finish, here are a few of mi thoughts, which you may want to consider.

RELEVANT? We live in a millennial, Google age of relevance. Our Netflix choices, emails and TV adverts, are all driven by how relevant they are to us. Agents, directors, casting directors will be influenced by that, so what you show them should be…yes…relevant. So, if you’re sending a showreel full of Shakespeare for a sci-fi casting, ask yourself, is it relevant??

MINI ME? With the running time of showreels getting shorter (2-3 minutes generally), there is an argument for creating mini-showreels. You have 9 minutes’ worth of clips. We know you can’t send them in one ‘reel’, but will they break down into: a 3-minute comedy reel, a 3-minute drama reel and a 3-minute improv reel??

SHORT, SHORTS? Thinking of the two previous points, if you have access to the individual clips from your showreel (with contact details on obviously), it may be worth sending a relevant clip along with your showreel. “I’m applying for the next Star Trek film, here is my showreel and a clip which I thought may be relevant as it’s from a sci-fi film I did last year”??


Now, I’m not saying any one of these things will get you more auditions or parts. But personally, if I get an actor contact me who ‘gets’ what I’m looking for, I will always be more likely to see them, because they appear to be mi kind of people.

So, thank you for reading right to the end, and I hope this post helps in some way to make you as rich and famous as you deserve to be.

Any questions or comments please feel free to email me. Thank you to Andy Chaplin, for the use of his showreel piece.

Mark Alexander Todd – Writer, Director and Filmmaker.

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