As an actor, your headshot may be your calling card. However, it’s your reel that can really make or break your chances before you even walk into the audition room. Because a reel can do something that your resume of unknown credits and a headshot can’t do: It can actually show your skill. Whether you’re using your reel to show a range of different characters you can play, or you’re using clips of your work to show a casting director exactly what roles you’re perfect for, there’s no denying how essential of a tool footage of your work is.
So, with a tool that important… How do you know what to put out there? The tricky thing about putting together your demo reel is that you don’t just want to make sure you’re showcasing your best work, but you also want to show the type of work you’re looking to dive into in your acting career moving forward. Because, after all, when working on any of your marketing materials as an actor, the one key factor is to make sure that you’re not only assisting yourself, but making the job of the casting director just a little bit easier. By being the answer to their casting problem! “You don’t have the chance to explain to a casting director how long ago a shot was taken and that you have improved your skills since then,” says casting director and NYCastings Head of Reel Services Angelita Ali, “If a casting director has never worked with you before, they are assuming what they see is what they will get.” So, is your reel showcasing how you should be presented now? No? Well, fortunately, there’s actually a solution to your problem.
Creating your own demo reel content! “If you have no footage at all, don’t just give up or wait on it. With the way technology is advancing, there is no excuse for anyone who calls themselves an actor not to have anything at all to show for it,” says NYCastings’ Angelita Ali, “Take action. Shoot a scene or monologue. Work on a low-budget short film that will provide you with footage. This way you will continue to grow as an actor by working on a set, getting the credit for your resume/IMDB and footage for a reel. Let them see you act!” However, don’t dive into anything that’s supposed to be professional without putting in the effort as well. Meaning that if you want to write, produce, film, and edit your own scene, the work should be put in just as much as you would for an actual role. “I recommend working with an acting coach on something so it is polished and ready to tape, then putting a powerful scene or monologue down,” says Angelita, “Also, many times some actors are sitting with one or two clips and think they need to wait for more stuff. Believe it or not that is more than enough. One clip could be 40 secs alone and we know Casting Directors will watch at least that much. The longer you wait, then the footage you have now will become old and you will never be able to use it. Let it do work for you now.” And with programs like NYCastings’ reel services, there’s always a place to go to help you film the content you need and edit together the perfect clips.
However, once you’ve got your clips together and you’re ready for the editing process, that’s just the beginning. From there, there are things that you definitely should make sure are in your reel… and there’s things that you definitely should not do! Professionalism of your reel lies in the choices of the editing. “You should not start the reel with another actor. The first frame should start with you,” says Angelita Ali, “You should also not have long intros with music, Casting doesn’t have time to sit through montages. They are waiting to here you speak and if you make them wait too long, they may move on to the next person. Also, do not try to put your
everything you’ve ever done into one reel. Your reel should be the ‘main attraction’ like a trailer.” And what do good movie trailers do? They make you want to watch more of what’s being showcased. Exactly what your reel should be doing!
So, after making all of those necessary cuts, what’s even left to include in your reel?! And how do you make sure you’re not losing the interest of a casting director? “Now people are comfortable with just having clips. The ideal length of an acting reel would be one minute,” explains NYCastings’ Angelita Ali, “Casting Directors would probably watch up to the first 45 secs so you want to also make sure the best stuff is at the very beginning of the reel. If your scenes are edited correctly to give the reel a nice flow, you may keep their attention for much longer. So if it tends to go over one minute, that won’t be a problem.”
Overall, yes, putting together an acting reel can be overwhelming. And a ton of work if it’s your job to piece it all together and film the content for your reel yourself. However, it’s one of the actor’s most vital tools in this business. So, what are you waiting for?! It’s time to stop putting your acting reel on the back-burner. Because nowadays, your reel is just as much, if not more important, than anything just your headshot and resume can book for you alone. It’s time for you to prove to the casting directors that you’re actually worth it.