The basic purpose of a reel is to grab the attention of the agent or casting director by putting selections of your highest quality material together to put your best face forward and then leave them wanting more.
If you’re sitting there thinking, “I don’t have enough material,” Don’t worry! You can puttogether a speed reel of short clips of your work or even selections of (professionally taped) recent student films.
Important DO’s to remember:
*Know what you are auditioning for and to whom you are marketing towards.
*Always! Lead off with your strongest, most recognized, professional quality material. Then finish up with your second strongest piece of work. Give it a nice bookend.
*It must be focused on YOU! The first face they see should be yours.
*Know your type and focus your material in a way that highlights your type. As your reel continues on you can diversify away from your type and show them how you can stretch, but you want to begin with how you are most easily cast. You want the casting director or agent’s first thought to be, “Yes. I can see that. I know how to cast this person.”
*If you are submitting for a particular audition and your dominant type presented in your reel doesn’t necessarily match what you are auditioning for-it is better to submit good material rather than nothing at all. Who knows! They may consider you for another part or cast against type! Stranger things have happened!
*Always choose Quality over Quantity. One clip of strong professional work is worth a lot more than 5 badly edited, badly lit scenes.
*Make sure your finished reel is posted on the casting sites! It gives you a leg up. Your submission is more likely to be seen if it has a video attached.
How long should it be?
*A professional reel, which includes network television and major film credits, should not be any longer than 5 minutes.
*If you do not have a legitimate number of credits, it is a good idea to keep it between 1 minute and 30 seconds minimum and 3 minutes maximum.
*If you don’t have a lot of material the best thing to do is to create Speed Clips instead of a reel. 30 seconds to 1 minute of good quality material from one project is better than throwing a bunch of mixed quality things together. Break it up and showcase yourself with the little clips.
*Most importantly, the first 30 seconds are the most crucial!
Putting it together
A title card at the beginning of your demo is a great way to start out. It should include your name and your web address.
If you are putting it on your website or into an email, it should be embedded or no more than one click away via youtube or vimeo. You don’t want to make Agents or CD’s have to chase you down. They don’t have the time, so make their lives a little easier.
Each clip should be well edited and it should not over show you. You don’t want to show the entire scene/show/film/etc, you want to give a glimpse and leave them wanting more.
Remember: The point of a reel is to:
Be proud of your work, but be realistic about what you have done. If the quality is bad or sound, lighting, and editing is not up to par, then it should not be used no matter how good the acting. If it distracts from the performance, then it is not good and it won’t help you.
Good quality footage from Film and Television is the best business card you can have; it gives you credibility. Short and really good is better than long and pretty good.
For Theatre: all of the above applies.
*Most theatre auditions are in person and a reel is not necessary. However, on the occasion you have to send a reel for an out-of-town audition, or if one is requested of you, it is a good idea to have one ready.
*Make sure it is an accurate representation of your work.
*Performance footage is awesome, but not always easy to obtain and this is understood in the industry.
*If you are taping a song, dance number, or scene:
1. Make sure it is project specific. Ask yourself: What do they need to see if you can’t be in the room?
2. When compiling material for a specified audition, do not cut together the best portions- it should be shown in one take.
3. When compiling material for a theatre reel: same rules apply as in film and television.
Written by Helen Abell with interviews from Vince Pisani, A-List Atlanta Actor, & Vic DiMonda, Associate Producing Director of the John W. Engeman Theatre