Sending showreels

  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    I am pretty new to the industry and have not yet finished my drama degree however I thought I would be safe and try and get an agent before I graduate in 2 years to make life a lot easier for myself. I have a showreel and when writing to agents I tell them about it and ask if I can send it in. When I recieve a reply there is just the usual "we cannot take on an new talent at this time"

    Why does no one want to see it, how do they know if I'm any good or not if they don't see it.

    Thanks x

    • 16th Jul 2007
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  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    Most agents will specificaly say on their websites that a showreel must not be sent in the first instance. Of course, the other issue may not be that your showreel is bad or that you are but if you consider a newly graduated drama student, free for al auditions etc and one who has two years left before graduating, i think most of the time, you would come second.

    The other issue is that women have a harder time than men at getting agents and work- their unemployment is considerably more most of the time. This basicaly is a standard and my advice is NOT to give up. Keep sending stuff out but finsih your degree as prority as many agents cant use you or send you off with studies getting in the way.

    x

    • 18th Jun 2007
    • 1
  • Gary Mackay

    Actor

    Hi,

    I would echo what Blake has said, finish your training first before you start sending out your showreel.

    I sent off my showreel recently to casting directors, as recommended by my agent, and although I sent out 20 copies with a stamped address envelope inside (correct postage too!) I received 1 back! The others just did not respond.

    Not only is this an expensive venture but it can also be demoralising!

    So my advice is wait and focus on your training for now then hit them hard after you've completed your course. Especially if you have a showcase coming up!

    Good luck though and don't get down about it all.

    Gary

    • 18th Jun 2007
    • 2
  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    Welcome to acting: this is pretty standard. Agents are letting people go, rather than taking them on...

    Also, I think trying to get an agent whilst studying is not a great idea: they like to know you're available to work immediately, and fully trained.

    Wait a bit, get trained and take advantage of your school's showcases, these tend to be better than unsolicited mail...

    • 18th Jun 2007
    • 3
  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    Also, an agent is important but most actors get their own auditions and stuff the majority of the time..the agents ae thgere to negotiate the contracts... and many times they cant get people seen- they can get some auditions but you ae your own best client ultimately...

    • 18th Jun 2007
    • 4
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    What has been said so far is pretty good advice - though I disagree that an agent with an interest in you would not take you on before you finished your course, if they believed in your talent. However, virtually all agents would want to see you in something before they commit to taking you on, and you will be unlikely to offer them the possibility of seeing you while you are snowed under with the course. Also, it is true that some agents would not 'trust you' to be fully qualified until ,frankly, you've done your course.

    As to showreels, the basic rules of thumb are threefold:

    1. A showreel that does not show your performances off to a high standard is a pointless tool. It will dissuade people from taking you on. Definite no -go areas are sticking on camera footage of stage productions (which will always come over badly because the camera is recording acting that is not being designed to play to camera), very often sticking on any footage that has been 'specially created' to show off your skills and so on. As a general rule, most CD's would say all material on a show reel needs to be broadcast quality. There is a debate, perhaps, as to whether student filmmakers sticking stuff onto HD cameras are producing 'broadcast quality' material, but, unless they plan on showing it on the festival circuit, the answer is that this probably doesn't qualify either. Is this a Catch 22 (i.e. how many high ranking films parts are you likely to get to put on your showreel without having a showreel to promote you in the first place...?). I'd say so, but then that's alright because:

    2. Most CD's really don't care whether you have a showreel initially or not. It will occasionally swing landing a role for you if you are far on in the casting process anyway, but, frankly, they have no interest in looking through unsolicited showreels, when they could look over a CV and headshot much more quickly. If they want to see a showreel, they will ASK YOU FOR IT.

    3. Most Drama Schools promote the idea that you need a showreel because they like to be seen to be a) cutting edge and b) to maximise any opportunity you may have of getting work. Most show reel editors are in it for the money, and have no idea whether the finished product will actually help anyone get work or not. Most agents would rather see you perform in the flesh before taking you on, then see you on screen (where judicious editing could do a lot to hide your actual performance style).

    • 18th Jun 2007
    • 5
  • Albert Clack

    Actor

    I find it hard to believe that any CD would looking primarily at how many pixels the video has, rather than the quality of the acting portrayed in it. Besides, if the main way you exhibit your showreel is online, such as on CCP, it's going to be reduced to an mpeg anyway, which is hardly broadcast quality.

    Another concern voiced on here is cost. Having come into acting quite recently from video production (which I still do a bit of), I'm amazed that actors don't realise how easily they could DIY their showreels.

    A professional programme such as FinalCutPro is quite expensive, but there are lots of cheaper ones which give acceptable results, and believe me, to bolt clips together for a showreel ain't rocket science.

    What would YOU want to see if you were a CD? A lot of fancy special effects and flashy transitions with music in the background? Or a simple series of clips cut together which give an instant summary of a variety of performances (including stage).

    Exactly. You CAN do that for yourself. And if you keep your showreel on your hard disc all the time, you can pop a new clip in easily as soon as you get it, and maybe trim some of the others so that the whole thing doesn't get too long.

    • 6th Jul 2007
    • 6
  • Caroline Boulton

    Actor

    Couldn't agree more with Albert, from a filmmaking backround it may be easier for me as its what I'm also trained in but it really is very easy to edit and you don't use much more then basic cuts and transistions between clips. I sometimes use movie maker on my laptop and its easy as pie. Admittedly I do have a mega expensive pro edit suite aswell but often basic reels can be put together on movie maker. It really shouldn't cost 200 for a showreel.x

    • 7th Jul 2007
    • 7
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Well done Albert and Caroline! I was recently treated to a friend's in-depth analysis of how his showreel provider had explained his choices and honestly, you'd have thought you were sitting down to 'Kingdom of Heaven' or something. I told my friend I didn't see any of that - I was just watching him do his thing.

    I'm a firm believer that so long as you've got some halfway decent material and a good sense of dramatic timing it really shouldn't be a problem to thread together a series of clips into a stylish and coherent reel. I've always cut my own and garnered appreciative comments, so why pay someone else silly money?

    • 7th Jul 2007
    • 8
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Really don't agree with putting stage performances on a showreel. Why?

    Stage performances are not designed to be filmed - they are designed to be seen in the theatre, by the audience. Emphasis is laid on being able to project to the back row, to being able to demonstrate intentions through extensive movement and so on. Little emphasis is placed on, for example, facial expression - which may in some cases be pretty difficult to see. This applies (broadly) even in very small scale theatres (although obviously there are differences in scale).

    Film performances are put together incredibly delicately and precisely (or they should be). Huge attention is paid to matters like getting the actor (and the scene) lit just so, composing the angles of the picture consciously, so it tells a specific story, adjusting sound to the exact right level for maximum vocal impact. And so on.

    If a stage performance is filmed (generally for reference based purposes, because, let's face it, why bother otherwise?), the actors will be giving compromised performances somewhere along the line. Either they would have to play their stage performance like a film performance (and, frankly, no - one would be able to hear them, and a crew would have to be with them at all times on stage!). Or, what actually happens - the stage performers just do what they normally do each night on stage, and the camera records it.

    When this is seen back, it looks and sounds completely crap. That's not surprising - the shot isn't properly composed, the lighting will generally be terrible (after all, in theatre, the area the camera operator is generally in is in darkness), the sound levels will find it very difficult to compensate for a) projection and b) the camera operator being stuck quite some distance away from the performers so as not to 'distract', the movements will all seem too big, and too fast etc. etc. etc.

    Only a stage performance that was adapated shot by shot would look good for the camera - and , at that point, it is no longer, strictly, a stage performance - it's a stage play, being performed for film, and the only difference between it and a 'movie' is that it looks less 'naturalistic' and a tad more 'theatrical'.

    I think putting such material on a showreel is bad news for everyone. For you, because it will make you look like you have no idea of what a good camera performance looks like and/or you haven't done any decent film work, and are padding your showreel out with anything. For the CD, because it just looks amateurish, and will put them off considering you.

    And I also think such an attitude faintly insults the incredible amount of hard work any decent film crew goes to get a piece in the can. Why have individuals on set who have devoted their careers to focus pulling, laying down tracks for the dolly, providing make - up, wrestling with sound levels, and so on, if ,frankly, an acceptable piece of film is assumed to be something that a man with a hand - held camcorder can pick up in the back seat in a theatre auditorium?

    • 8th Jul 2007
    • 9
  • Albert Clack

    Actor

    I don't want to get drawn into a polemic, but there are a couple of false assumptions in Lee's strangely defensive and in places hostile diatribe:

    1. That stage extracts in a showreel are aimed at screen casting directors - they're not - they're to give stage employers a quick initial peek.

    2. That they're necessarily shot by "a man with a hand-held camcorder ... in the back seat". Please don't talk about insulting film crews, if you're then going to hurl insults yourself, at a highly skilled man or woman using a dvcam or hd camera on a pro tripod set up, for example, on the sound and lighting perch, with a direct sound feed off the mixer into the camera, and years of experience controlling the iris to follow lighting changes. All done after a dry run the previous night to follow all the moves properly and know when to zoom in on a face and when to pull out wide.

    • 8th Jul 2007
    • 10
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    No, there is no need to get drawn into a polemic, Albert. I think your points are valid, that you have more experience behind a camera than I do, and that your recent reply has clarified for me where a slight misunderstanding may have taken place.

    I'm not saying that you can't ever film a stage performance decently, or that seeing a stage performance on film wouldn't be a useful proxy for a stage director who is casting, but is too busy to audition.

    But what I was trying to suggest is that placing stage performances that have been filmed, and actual film performances, together on a show reel, potentially offers a 'mixed message'. This is because, surely, the quality of the two types of pieces is very different.

    I grant you that, with a proper camera rehearsal, use of zoom, and so on, there is no reason why a filmed version of a stage performance cannot closely approximate to 'cinematic' values, but I just can't see how the material isn't 'compromised' in some way. To take an obvious example: for any stage performance in a large theatre, I need to project to the back row. With the best sound recording in the world, surely this vocal quality will come across sounding strained and unnatural on screen. For screen work, it's often best to drop to a whisper, even. If I did that (for the camera's benefit), whilst performing on stage, it would end up being a terrible stage performance. The only situation I could see in which you could successfully bypass this problem would be if the camera was allowed to film you doing the performance, free of the need to communicate to the audience (i.e. without an actual audience present), and, at that point, your performance would surely be a 'stage' performance in name only, because it would be done to camera, for the benefit of the camera.

    So, surely, on screen, a film will look like a film, and a stage performance will look likeā€¦a stage performance recorded on film - Nothing wrong with that, especially if you are trying to sell your abilities as a stage actor. But, I would simply suggest:

    a)That most stage directors are unlikely to ask for show reels in the first place - a show reel is surely a tool for the screen medium. A stage director will want to see, above all, how you are in the flesh at audition, responding to moment - to - moment stimuli, and, if possible, an audience (if they can see you actually perform live, so much the better). Seeing a recording of you on stage would come a poor second, I'm sure. In contrast, many film directors wouldn't care what you did in person, so long as you looked right on film, and that's when show reels become really useful.

    b)That, by sending a casting director whose metier is casting for film a show reel filled with (from their perspective) 'irrelevant' stage work is likely to frustrate them. At the very least, they will have to fast - forward through your 'irrelevant' material to get to the stuff they want to look at. At the worst, they may assume, because you have placed 'stage' material together with film, that you are inexperienced with filming, that you're 'padding out' your resume and so on. I think it unlikely that they will be impressed with your 'range' because, frankly, they'll have 500 other applications to look through that morning, and they will be interested only in seeing if the face fits. I agree that you might somehow have derived the best profile shot you possess from a stage based close up, and it could clinch you jobs - and also that 'film' work might be just as useless at 'selling you' - being man in street #2 for the BBC is worthless show reel, if no - one can actually see your face, or you're in shot for 15 seconds. But, overall, this seems to be, from enquiries, how most CD's actually think.

    With all this said, having separate show reels of stage and film work could be useful, and I don't for a moment wish to imply that stage work is somehow unimportant. It is for me the most rewarding work in the industry. But, by it's very nature ephemeral, I just don't believe you can experience the full impact of it outside of the theatre.

    • 9th Jul 2007
    • 11
  • User Deleted

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    My personal viewpoint is that showreels are generally accepted as a platform for screen performance rather than stage, and mixing stage and screen work is dicey unless - and I assume this was Albert's point - the direction and performances have been to a significant extent re-tailored for the video recording (as with the famous McKellen/Dench 'Macbeth'). But in that case, as Lee points out, it's no longer a stage performance. For my part, I would never use a plain record of a stage show on a reel, no matter how well filmed; like Lee, I believe it will satisfy no one - and whether or not one agrees, this is certainly the received wisdom.

    Having said this, the very first showreel I ever cut was specifically formatted for DVD presentation with the menu divided between stage and screen, and I got some very good comments on this form of presentation. But using alternate menus meant that the viewer had his or her choice. What's more, the staged excerpts were all professionally filmed by a documentary crew recording a project in which I was involved, therefore the footage, editing and presentation (with voiceovers and music) were of the highest quality. I no longer use the stage material however.

    • 9th Jul 2007
    • 12
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    I will give credit where credit is due. Having taken a look at Albert's showreel, I must say it's a nice product, and the theatre material is generally very nicely presented. But I stand by the fact that a film is one thing, and a piece of theatre on film is another, and the two forms elicit different responses in the viewer.

    I grant the fact that Albert makes it very clear exactly what the material is that is being viewed, and this makes it quite obvious to the viewer when they are seeing his film work, his stage work, his work in workshops etc.

    Indeed, thinking about it, Albert's showreel is almost like an extended calling card for his versatility across different media - straight film, stage, corporate work, workshopping etc. It's certainly a great web - based calling card.

    However, as Keith says, many film and TV Casting Directors are most interested in seeing simple snippets of prestige film and TV projects when they are actually assessing your suitability for casting, and so, conventional wisdom would have it that TV and Film work should dominate.

    It should, moreover, be said that many Casting Directors (as well as Agents, Directors etc. etc.) are very reliant on adhering to 'conventional wisdom'.

    • 9th Jul 2007
    • 13
  • User Deleted

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    Yes indeed, I can't argue that Albert's stage work is rather well presented. Anyway, Albert, I shall get the chance to see you in action very soon as my colleagues Richard Woolnough and Trevor Jary are acting with you in 'Woyczek' and I owe them both a show visit.

    • 9th Jul 2007
    • 14
  • User Deleted

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    I have to defend Lee's points on this. The best way to capture a stage performance on screen is to redirect the performance SPECIFICALLY for the camera - like Ulu Grosbard's great opening out of DEATH OF A SALESMAN with Hoffman or as Keith says with the excellent McKellen MACBETH.

    Stage acting is a totally different style of performance - it goes out to an audience rather than bringing them in as film does. Despite some great advances in digital camera technology and I'm sure superb sensitivity and placement by a top cameraman, a stage showreel is trying to 'bottle lightning' that wasn't ultimately meant to do more than suggest what the stage version does. When done well, it makes you think "God I wish I'd seen that live". When done less well, it looks overblown. Remember also that when watching a taped recording of a stage-only production, you as the audience are being told artificially where to look. When you go to the theatre you are allowed to put your focus anywhere - it's a panoramic experience, not a caged one.

    I love seeing stage translation to screen (and David Mamet's films of his plays are a great example of transfers of material). It's simply a question of respecting what one medium demands of another.

    • 13th Jul 2007
    • 15
  • User Deleted

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    Be very careful as well about ever sending an agent or casting director a showreel containing self-shot pieces to camera (i.e. Viola's ring speech filmed in one's back garden) If you havent got studio TV or film credits to show, industry bods would rather see one minute of a well-filmed corporate video or short film than something you did 'with a mate'. Respect respect respect your audience.

    • 13th Jul 2007
    • 16
  • Albert Clack

    Actor

    At which point I must admit that the excerpt from A Month of Sundays in my own showreel (and the longer free-standing one on my website - www.albertclack.com) is self-shot in my own dining room after the play was over. For one thing, no such monologue exists in the play - it is a series of lines joined together. But I am an experienced cameraperson, have some good video cameras to work with, and a reasonable knowledge of basic lighting; so I think it's adequate to show that particular aspect of my work. I would actually be interested in pro- or anti-comments on the basis of that clip (no remarks about the acting content, please!) in order to get things more right in future. As a glance at my CV would reveal, I am a newcomer to this business.

    • 13th Jul 2007
    • 17
  • User Deleted

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    Your go-getting spirit does you credit, Albert!

    • 13th Jul 2007
    • 18
  • David Padbury

    Actor

    As an agent, I would advise the original poster not to spend her money on showreels at this stage in her career. She said that she has two more years of training so, whilst an agent may show some committment to her at that stage, by far the best way to secure this is to invite agents to see the school's public performances and meet them afterwards.

    Most three year courses mount public performances during the last year with a high profile showcase towards the end of the third year. These are more often than not in a 'proper' theatre such as the Criterion. The school will invite agents, casting directors and other industry people to their showcase with the expressed intention of getting their students seen by the 'right' people.

    The trick is to make contact with friendly agents before the showcase and get them to see you in action before the official showcase. I am personally watching the development of a couple of students at two different acting academies. Both these students know of my interest but realise that, as yet, they are an unfinished product.

    I would suggest that a showreel, whilst essential for presenters, is just an additional tool for actors because, when you get to do auditions your acting talent is taken by the CD as read. The audition usually is to assess your suitability for a particular role - be it in appearance or character interpretation.

    By all means use what facitities you or the school have to produce a showreel, but bear in mind that CD's ususally do not have the time to view them (except, as I said, in the case of presenters).

    Lastly, please do take the advice of your tutors because they really have seen it all and their views are formed from vast experience.

    I hope this helps.

    David Padbury

    DPA

    • 13th Jul 2007
    • 19