What You Can Do to Make Your Showreel Stand Out

by Mariana Tramontina

A showreel is one of the essential tools when it comes to an acting career. From a student starting out in a class project to familiar faces on TV, every actor needs footage to present their skills. It gives a casting director a glimpse of your versatility and how you come across on camera. From there, you are halfway to landing an audition.

Making a good showreel (also known as a demo reel or sizzle reel) can be challenging. Picking out clips, tracking them down, or even making them from scratch, the process is quite overwhelming. Here are some ideas on how to do that.

How to put together an actors' showreel

Straight to the point: your best scenes. Your showreel is a snapshot of who you are and what you are capable of, so originality is key. Keep in mind that your showreel should highlight your strengths and demonstrate the range of your acting abilities.

When you're first starting and don't have much footage to use, you might put together a few clips from different genres (comedy, drama, a commercial you've appeared in). Eventually, as your portfolio grows, it's a good idea to break them up into categories tailored for different purposes. This way, you will help the casting director to see what they're casting for.

Don't forget to include your name, your contacts, and a headshot on the title card. 

How long should a showreel be

Make it no longer than 1-3 minutes --casting directors don't have the time to watch anything beyond that. Each clip shouldn't take too much time; 30 seconds should be enough to show what is necessary. And be sure to not save the best for last; they can determine within a few seconds if you are good or not, so grab their attention right away to keep them watching. 

How to get footage for your reel

If you lack material to use, self-shot clips are acceptable, but professional videos are more appropriate. Look for free opportunities to act in student films - you'll get not only high-quality content but also experience, networking opportunities, and a solid portfolio.

You can also direct and shoot your own productions. In this case, you'll need to write, direct, produce and possibly hire someone or ask a friend if you don't have the necessary equipment to record and edit. After setting it up, find a good scene partner to perform with you; this will show your ability to react to the lines of others. 

As a last resort, if you have zero footage and are short on budget, record yourself on your phone delivering a monologue --a good one! Your voice plays a big role in the final result, so speaking clearly is extremely important.

Where to display your showreel

Upload your material directly to your website and also to either YouTube or Vimeo. Also, casting websites are an excellent place to post your reels, especially if you're seeking auditions via online casting websites.

Create a small version of your reel under 5MB that you can quickly attach to an email and send to someone when required.