Showreel Tips for Actors

Last month, a well known Casting Director Tweeted her despair that 50% of the actor applications she was going through did not have showreels. Since having a showreel myself, I have seen my casting responses increase exponentially.

So how do you do one?

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Before we get going I have to say that yes, you do need a showreel. Having a good range of credits is great but the showreel is the clincher. A showreel demonstrates all the tools you have as an actor; your voice quality, your appearance, your expression of emotion and your reactions in the scene, in a way that a cv can’t.

If you don’t have one yet, get excited, because your career will change for the better once you’re armed with a good one.


 

If you haven’t been in anything yet, there is nothing wrong with writing your own scene and filming it yourself – even on your phone. You can write your ideal character, you can also write a scene that will show you in your best light, so why not do it!

There are also companies who write and shoot bespoke showreel scenes which is an option but can be more expensive. If you’ve been in productions already, contact the producer for your footage.

The Do’s

  • Your name should be the first thing on your showreel. It should linger on screen for no longer than 3 seconds.
  • Each scene should be around 45 seconds long
  • The full Showreel should be around 3 minutes long. 2 minutes is still good, but 5 minutes is pushing it (not many Casting Directors have the time to watch that much footage)
  • The first scene of your showreel should be very clear about who you are. If you’re in a scene with four other actors, you want the Casting Director to know who you are from the first instance. It can help to include your headshot with your name at the beginning of your reel so they know who they’re looking at, but make sure your headshot matches how you look in the footage!
  • Your first scene should be your best scene. It should be a scene where you have a speaking part and a close-up.
  • It should be in an MP4 format. The way to do this, is to either convert the file online (MP4 Converter), or get a Vimeo account. Once you upload your showreel to Vimeo, you can download it and it will be in MP4 format.
  • It should be 400mb Max. 300mb is ideal, anything more and the file is too big, or maybe too long.
  • Put it on your Spotlight page. That way, you can send your Spotlight link to a CD and they can click through to it easily.
  • Put it on Vimeo so you can share the link as an MP4.
  • Send it via Wetransfer. Everybody loves Wetransfer.
  • Keep it short and simple.

The Dont’s

  • Don’t shoot it in portrait. Your showreel should always be in landscape. If filming on your phone, make sure you film in landscape otherwise it looks unprofessional. No cinema screens display in portrait after all…
  • When sending your showreel to a casting Director don’t attach it as a file attachment to the email! Casting Directors get hundreds of showreels sent to them every day, and if each one is 300mb, their inbox will soon be packed full. Oops. And it can also look like a viral attachment or go in to their Spam folder.
  • Don’t upload it to Youtube. No CD wants to sit through watching Youtube adverts before your showreel begins. Vimeo is your best bet and it’s free. And of course make sure you update your Spotlight profile with it.
  • Don’t do a montage. This isn’t a trailer for your acting work, it is a demonstration of what you can do, and montages are distracting (and can be a bit corny), just edit together three or four scenes of your work.
  • Don’t put music over your scenes. If the person watching hates your choice of song, they may stop watching it. It can also distract from your voice quality and the overall emotion of the scene. If there is already music edited over it, fine, but don’t add it in yourself.

Hopefully these tips are useful, now go forward and give ’em all you’ve got.