Amazing Showreels...and why most aren't

Let’s face it, without one you seriously decrease your chances of even being looked at…. Well, that is, those of us who take this performance career seriously. For those just starting out it can seem like a minefield trying to decide what to do about it. Conflicting advice from everyone, the “You need to have this!”…followed by a…”don’t ever do this!”…and lets not forget the essential….”only an idiot wouldn’t have this”….(sound familiar?) With so much opinion on the subject it’s hard to decide what the right steps actually are, especially if you’re a newbie. My job is to view showreels on a regular basis, and boy, when I receive those good ones I could hug them through the screen…normally I just hire them, but you catch my drift. The reality of a showreel is that, unfortunately, you’re one of a huge number of applicants. All of a similar look to you and all in competition for the role you may even be better for (horrible thought isn’t it)…. But here’s the good news…so many of them will not be up to the standard or quality they should be so this at least narrows down your competition, even if just a bit…every little helps. There’s more information out there on showreels than ever before. It’s one of those things that they all have an opinion about because someone said this, and someone said that. But what is the truth? So why not take a look at these top 5 tips on why most showreels that we receive aren’t that good…and how to have the perfect one, today!

1. It’s Too Long…Seems like a no brainer really, but it still surprises me how many reels we see that we need to cut our viewing time short because they’re just simply too long. That means that professional casting directors, may not be even looking at your full showreel. Try looking at this from the studio perspective. They have a tonne of applicants to get through. It’s one heck of a day to say the least. They simply don’t have the time to sit through ten-twelve minutes of acting.

Tip: Be much more critical about how you cut your reel. If you can get still get your point across while losing a few seconds here and there…do it! You should be aiming for 2 minutes (absolute maximum). It’s a lot more effective to cram more in than have us sit through pregnant pause after pregnant pause. I for one would rather make my mind up in 30 seconds than “um and ah” for three minutes. By shortening your reel your making the casting directors life easier and he will definitely thankful for it.

2. It’s too old…Director - “you sound great for it, send your showreel along and I’ll take a look ”You – “excellent, here’s one I put together in 2012” A lot can change in a few years. A couple too many beer burger deals for me, but hopefully for you, they’ve changed for the better. The point is a showreel can age quickly without you being aware. This also means you may be hindering your chances for your actual look, as opposed to the look you feel that you have. Therefore, actually decreasing your chances of being hired.

Tip: Keep your showreel as fresh as possible and change things up as regularly as you can. Always seek advice from as many people as possible in regards to your overall look, by asking things like “who could you see me playing?” and “what actors do you know closest to my look”. It sounds very cliché but you may be surprised by some answers, and a whole new perspective may open up for you. (Just don’t be offended if it’s not what you want to hear)

3. Your co-stars overshadow you…“I’m not sure about her for this part, but can we get a look at her co-star she was great” Believe it or not, our friends in “the biz” and I have received many showreels that have displayed more of their co-stars talents than there’s. It’s actually surprisingly common to open up with a piece of dialogue and by the time it’s finished, the owner of the showreel has said one or two words (in a few cases, none at all) and we’re left wondering who the reel actually belongs to.

Tip: We asked to see YOU…so show us you. Make sure every scene is for the majority, you on display. This doesn’t mean that you need to be particularly dominant in the role, it just means making sure we see you more than anyone else.

4. It’s Too irrelevant…This can mean a lot of things. Imagine I’m casting a horror flick and you’ve got just the look I need. “Send me your reel,” I say. To which you send straight away. I take a look and it’s three scenes of you acting ditsy and with your on screen comedy pals. Now, I don’t have a clue how you would hold up in the genre I’m casting. The director may well take the risk and invite you to the read through, but the point is, the risk is so much higher, yet so easily avoidable. Now I understand that this is incredibly difficult in the early years of your career, but…your reel needs to be as diverse as possible. Your overall aim should be to have a showreel that shows off your multiple abilities and styles. Then, somewhere down the line, you should be aiming to divide those out. For example: For horror applications, you have a horror reel. For Comedy, you have a comedy reel and so on.

Tip: Make your beginner reel as different and diverse as possible, this will show that you have range and will display how adaptable you are to every role that is put your way. When you start out and have minimal clips available this will increase your chances hugely. I’d suggest, to begin with a comedy, an angry and an emotional scene.

5. It’s Too BoringThis one may sound incredibly blunt…but no company ever said, “I want this advert to be as boring as possible,” likewise, no market seller ever talked delicately, with a mono tone to passing customers in order to sell his produce. (that guy isn’t shifting a single carrot) More close to home examples would be film trailers. When did you ever see a boring movie advert? Most of the time it is the exact opposite. (A lot of the time the trailer can be more exciting than the film)The point I’m getting at here is this…As an actor/actress serious about this industry, you are A BRAND. You’re a business and you’re asking another person of business to invest in you. Why? Because you CAN deliver the performance that director asks for. You CAN excel in the industry and you WILL make this person of business a lot of money in return….but here’s the thing..the director want’s you to be sold to him/her.Your showreel not only needs to display your level of talent, but also your passion in your product. “You need me….and here’s why” (pssst…Don’t actually say this) By placing yourself in the studio once again, where the casting director has sat through 100 showreels and suddenly yours is next. If your reel is not just a good display of your ability but also fun to watch. You will be remembered!

Tip: Try to create an interesting and entertaining showreel, after all, it’s an advert for your product and business…just like any other job. This will greater your chances of sticking in the minds of those casting directors.

Bonus. No Structure…This goes hand in hand with the last point. The structure of a showreel is, way too often, overlooked and so easy to amend. Imagine your showreel as a presentation or a show. A truly brilliant one, will be incredibly well structured. It will have that flash bang opening, dips and booms of energy and completed by that memorable ending. Why should your showreel be any different?

Tip: put your strongest performance for that particular reel at the end and your second strongest first. Depending on the amount of clips you have at your disposal you can structure it correctly after this pretty easy. Generally you want to be putting similar paced material apart, divided by contrasting styles. For example Slow emotional clip > upbeat comedy clip > Scary horror clip > Slow emotional clip 2 > Comedy clip 2.….so there you have it, my top 5 tips, of the most common showreel errors, and how to improve yours. If you enjoyed this be sure to share it with anyone you know that may benefit from this info. If you have any more questions or you feel there’s something else you need to know please visit our website (below) as we’d love to hear from you.Greer-Macjames Productions specialises in all aspects of showreel Videography and have worked with many clients of all experience levels.

(Showreel of Manchester based actress - Veronica Finney)

Written by Kris Macjames

Co-Director of Greer-Macjames Productions is your one stop shop for all of those showreel needs. From first timers just entering this wonderful actors journey all the way up to those seasoned pros that need to update that reel, you need look no further.Please get in touch for more info.

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