Best Showreels

  • Alan Pelz-Sharpe

    Actor

    I am currently pulling my first showreel together and getting lots of conflicting advice (overall a sort of good thing!) and was wondering if anyone here could point me to some truly outstanding showreels that I can benchmark against.

    Secondly, what is the general opinion on showreel length? Most I see here are around 3-4mins but a casting director I spoke to last week told me 1-1.30 is the ideal length, anything longer is waste of time.

    Thanks in advance!

    Alan

    • 25th Sep 2012
    • 6549
    • 24
  • Megan Rogers

    Actor

    Hi,

    My friend Lee has a brilliant showreel...

    www.castingcallpro.com/uk/view.php?uid=295756

    Hope this helps!

    • 21st Sep 2012
    • 1
  • Peter Halpin

    Actor

    I don't mean this to sound big-headed, but I've been getting lots of amazing feedback on my showreel. It's on my profile.

    I think under 4mins and over 2:30 is about the right range. In my opinion, any shorter than 2:30 and it looks like you've not got enough good material to use & any longer than 4 mins is too long. Lots of people feel differently about this so you'll no doubt get contradictory responses! :)

    • 22nd Sep 2012
    • 2
  • Sue Parker-Nutley

    Actor

    Yes, I agree, Peter. Certainly less than 4 minutes, perhaps even as short as 3.5 minutes. I also believe the showreel should show as wide a range as possible - different looks, accents, moods, etc. I also know there are differing opinions as to montages. Some CDs say yes and some say no. Mine is at the beginning, only 8 seconds, and only shows clips from the items on my showreel. But, hey, it's all subjective.

    xx

    • 22nd Sep 2012
    • 3
  • Luke Hope

    Actor

    I have spoke with lots of CDs over the years re 'ideal' showreels, have also worked as an agents assistant.

    Spotlight allows 5 mins max, If you have the footage you should use it. I know they don't like montages to look like pop videos. (dubbed music) they want to see you act. they can see if you can usually from your showreel, they will watch as much as they want to watch of it...If they like you they will watch the whole showreel and download it too to share with production. In my showreel I only use footage from the last 5 years' jobs..and I made it myself. Maybe I should go into the showreel business too?? Or do you disagree? LOL

    • 22nd Sep 2012
    • 4
  • Dan Gregory

    Actor

    Some good edits. Good variety too. But I think you should lose all the Casual+y bits on the gurney. Just cut to the sit-up in bed.

    • 22nd Sep 2012
    • 5
  • Emil Tobias-Jonsson

    Actor

    I even think a showreel should be below 2:30 minutes and I don´t buy the whole "it shows you don´t have enough to put on it". If a showreel is well edited with good material that grabs attention immediately (and no montage) than even 1:30 is enough. The showreel is just to get you into the door and it´s not to sell the complete package. You can always set up a site with more clips for the few times someone is looking to cast from media clips only.

    Here´s one of my favourite showreels, by LA actor Ben Whitehair: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X1N9R34ty8&feature=relmfu

    It´s 1:41 and it shows enough to decide whether to call him in or not and what type of parts he fits into.

    • 22nd Sep 2012
    • 6
  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    I agree about the Benwhitehair reel...very good and an example of how one can use just 1min.30secs to great effect.

    However.......

    You will get a lot of conflicting advice regarding showreels. I do a fair amount of showreels for other actors editing their footage and or shooting and editing scenes from scratch, and I attend a lot of mainstream and commercial film/TV castings and have also had many chats about reels to various casting directors.

    There is no hard and fast rule on times, it all varies: If you have a contrasting and interesting reel…4-5 minutes may well be what you need to show all the fab clips of your many facets and log of great work.

    However, if you are playing a one casting type of role, and that's all you have…then I would earnestly advise keeping it to no more than around 2-3 mins….less is more!

    I have made reels lasting 4-5 mins….and those actors have had more great work since… as have 1-2-3 min reels. It totally depends on the actors and the footage they have.

    I would agree…in general try and stay on the side of 2-3 mins if you can, but I have heard everything from casting directors telling me 1 min to 5 mins…and so on, because they all see things differently.

    It's worth bearing in mind that a new agent will want to see some variation and range in a reel so from that point of view….don't short change yourself by making the reel too short because some actors feel you should stick to a minute or whatever. The main thing is keep the reel interesting and of good quality.

    Best reels: reels that keep the viewer interested….good quality footage which is not too dark….jerky (well encoded and smooth footage) and avoid lots of varying formats…..nothing that distracts from "you" the actor. One thing is for sure, a reel must and should represent you the actor…your casting type and range. So many do not. It's why I totally advocate bespoke footage if you don't have good film footage already. That advice has also been seconded from many casting directors, agents and directors too. Masses of Depth of field footage is never going to gaurantee you work!! Casting really are not interested in picking fault in filmic quality…..though it still need to be pro quality, crystal clear…and good sound. Not mates handi cams!! That said....To all those who poo poo bespoke footage. I have been to many mainstream castings only to be filmed on a cheap camcorder. It proves….all they need is a clear representation and sound of you. Booing off besposke footage is nuts!

    TIPO: Put most of your best footage first….and don't be fooled into montages at the front end which go on forever and say nothing!! I accept a little brief "what's to come" montage if carefully crafted and very short, can work. ….but I mean…VERY short!

    Make sure the reel streams and plays well…..proper encoding by the editor is the key there. A good editor will capture the essence of your casting type and convey it in a clear cut…well cut….interesting way.

    My latest edit: Actor "Stuart Adams" Stuart sat in with me on this edit…and I guided him through scenes which showed him off at his best and his excellent varied range. I doubt there is one scene or piece which is edited as per the original footage….in as much as I shortened and re-edited them to make the reel interesting….well I hope I did in any case!! I am certain he will get great work from this reel. Stuart won't mind me saying I think we could have perhaps lost another 60 secs off this reel...but I wanted agents to see his "full" range.

    Trumpet well and truly blown…I'll leave it there in the hope that it helps?

    One thing is for sure...there really are no hard and fast rules. Be as filmic, short /long and creative as you like....but it will never replace putting plenty of thought into how the actors will be seen and cast...and getting that across within the reel.

    • 22nd Sep 2012
    • 7
  • Edwin Flay

    Actor

    Again re: the trumpet-blowing thing, I've been offered roles purely on the strength of mine.

    2.30 is a sensible length - anything above 3mins is a waste.

    Current thinking amongst casting directors seems to run against using montages - of eight that I have asked in the last year, seven said they hated them, and one said they weren't fussed.

    My approach is to have a version without a montage on Spotlight (honestly can't remember if the version on CCP has one or not), and a version with on my website, on the grounds that if they've gone to the lengths of finding my website, they'll sit through 20secs of snappily edited clips to get to the sweet stuff.

    Er. Make sure that you've equalised the sound as far as the clips will allow you to - in my experience, sound is the first thing that slips on short films and what-have-you, and it shows up the relative professionalism of your work in an instant.

    I've started and finished my showreel with my headshot/number/spotlight number, and found that putting titles on each clip makes it look more professional. Your mileage may vary.

    Hope that helps!

    Edwin.

    • 22nd Sep 2012
    • 8
  • Emil Tobias-Jonsson

    Actor

    If you visit your own showreel on youtube you should be able to see when people drop out viewing your reel. Usually you have a big drop in the beginning, but what is more interesting is when the rest of the group stops showing interest.

    • 22nd Sep 2012
    • 9
  • Peter Halpin

    Actor

    Edwin, the length, as I said is always open to opinion. My reels have always been over 3mins. I have no idea how many jobs I have had direct from them but there have been several and I got one job off the back of the piece that was last on my previous reel, which kicked in well past the 3 min mark. That piece is now in my current showreel. It was, therefore, not in the slightest bit a waste.

    • 22nd Sep 2012
    • 10
  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    You make good points Edwin...but I agree with peter...different casting folk see different things in different actors all the time!

    Bit like beauty is in the eye of the beholder innit!!

    • 22nd Sep 2012
    • 11
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Hi Alan,

    I tend to agree with Mark on this: there *is* no such thing as an 'ideal' good showreel, because everything is so utterly subjective in this area. I have seen showreels that have been designed to the hilt, filled with montage and baubles, and actually rather impressed me, showreels that have been made up of nothing more than tens of clips of a few seconds duration each strung together in a kind of 'barrage of work' effect, showreels from major performers that are stunning in their simplicity and straightforwardness, showreels from major performers that gleefully run to seven minutes, showreels from major performers that look like they have been shot on a camcorder, but, I have no doubt, still bring masses of work in for them. There *is* no standard, and, if a showreel can win work, it works! However, there are probably three ways of looking at the qualities of what differentiates a 'lesser' reel from a 'better' one in broad terms:

    1. Technical competence in the edit. This is the most obvious way to ensure that any showreel you produce/have produced for you presents a decent face to the industry - get the technical details right. Mark has already covered these details in more accuracy and depth than I probably can (he *is* the professional editor, after all) but, in essence, making sure the edit is smooth, the sound levels are well balanced, the segues or cuts between scenes don't jar, the resolution of the piece plays decently in different formats etc. If you edit for yourself, you have to pay attention to these details, and if you are using an editor, anyone who is worth their pay has to be giving attention to these details. It may help if you're using someone else's services (I swear by it) to ensure you are stood in the edit suite overseeing the edit as it is made - many showreel providers do offer such a service, and your input can be extremely valuable in attaining results that work for you. It also goes without saying that the material you offer for the reel is infinitely more worthwhile if it was edited properly in the first instance, the sound properly calibrated and so on. A decent editor will actually be blunt with you and should question the incorporation of a piece of footage if they believe it's under par (though perhaps the choice as to whether or not to include it should always remain at your discretion). It is possible to tweak and improve certain qualities from foxed originals in the reel edit (low sound levels, for instance), of course. Getting a finished edit of the individual pieces you wish to incorporate sent to you in a usable format initially is a must (luckily, with the increase of Internet usage, sending even large files as Mp4's, Quicktime etc. is getting ever easier); an ideal, if you wished to re-edit footage to privilege your own performance would be to be sent unedited rushes, but this is so time consuming that I have never known any editor I've worked with to offer it as an option - there are other ways of skilfully re-editing excerpts if needed to give more emphasis to your presence in a scene if it's a little sidelined in the original cut.

    2. Aesthetic elements - There is always 'disagreement' over these elements - which is to say, I think, there are no hard and fast rules about them, and they are open to individual actor/provider choice. But broadly, some elements that help give showreels structure are:

    a) Title card - You generally want your name displayed clearly at the opening of the reel as a reminder indicating whose reel it is. Some incorporate a black screen with the name superimposed, and then switch to the first scene; some incorporate a headshot with the name, just as a further reminder of what the face looks like: some use a stills shot in close up from a piece of film overlaid with the name; some (I've done this with my most recent) have the name as a 'title' running over an opening shot that plays, while featuring the face prominently. They all serve the same purpose as introduction.

    b) End card. This appears at the end of the reel to confirm your name, and gives contact details. It is generally considered less fussy to place it at the end, rather than the beginning of the reel (though that's sometimes done). Some reprise a stills picture of the actor at the end of the reel as another further reminder: many don't. Details are kept to the minimum: generally either your email, telephone, website etc. or your agent's (if you have one). Some will maintain that mentioning agent details is risky because you may change agent before you replace the showreel: this is true, but this is also why the end card is separated out from the rest of the showreel, so that it shouldn't be too awkward to replace the single frame with new details in a 'top up' edit, should it become necessary. Most reels hold this information for a fair few seconds in order that it can be read and absorbed by a viewer.

    c) 'Montage' - Is always contentious. The inclusion of montage is a favourite with editors because it can make an opening to a showreel seem more dynamic, but it is generally held by casting directors that usage of montage holds up getting to the actual material they wish to see, that most montage just repeats elements of what is otherwise featured in the reel, and that inclusion makes running time unnecessarily lengthier. For this reason, montage usage is frequently avoided. The best argument I have ever heard for using montage (sparingly) is that it gives a reinforcement of what you look like to the viewer at the outset of proceedings, but there are other ways of achieving this. Some include a montage at the end of a reel, rather than the beginning, but this rarely seems productive. With all this said, I know for a fact that many providers who service the showreels of the highest earning actors in the country often default to using montage to open with unless they are specifically asked not to.

    d) Running time - again, contentious, as we can tell from this thread. Mark is probably right to say that it really very subjective as to what a 'good' running time is considered to be. If the footage is itself interesting, varied and well presented, three - four minutes will not actually seem a lengthy viewing time. If there is little variation to show, it is best to remain succinct. No-one can really tell you how often any given casting director watches an entire set of reels through, anyway. It is probably more accurate to say that most casting directors will know whether they wish to watch the remainder of a reel after about a minute and a half's worth of it, depending on their impressions: this is not, perhaps, the same as saying your reel should run to a minute and a half in itself. Naturally, most casting directors tend to want to advocate the shortest of reels because they believe that time spent watching is time they could be better spending elsewhere, and most editors tend to advocate the making of longer reels because they enjoy working with editing challenges, and make more money from the more hours they spend on an edit. You must simply be sensible about the choice of footage used, and honest with yourself about how much of it is needed at any given point to give the impression of what you're doing in it.

    e) Titling clips. Some reels add this (it can help to allow the viewer to identify the piece of work that the specific sequence is taken from, and confirm when it was done); many don't, perhaps for the same reasons. My personal opinion is that it doesn't make a whole raft of difference, and that it may actually date your reel content restrictively. But certainly, if it's done, it needs to be done in a pleasing and consistent format that adds to the aesthetic appeal of the reel, not in some format that actually cheapens or confuses the look of the footage.

    3. The actual footage. Although it can seem like the most self-evident of points to make, I never tire of pointing out a recognition that should be obvious to anyone who has ever viewed a variety of showreels: you can have a showreel that really isn't edited with any frills at all, but if your footage is great, it will speak for itself and, conversely, you can have the best editor in the country working on your piece and if your footage is mainly from badly funded, badly lit, badly scripted pieces, it will still come across as weak. This is a painful truth to recognise, but an obvious one. A more positive way to put this is to say: you can only make the best of what you have got. For most of us who are jobbing actors, if we've had any success at screen work beyond the usual under financed student shorts and the like, most of our footage is likely to be in the category of 'cheaply made but well shot'. It can still be made to look its very best by a worthwhile edit, but will, of course, never look as impressive as something that was shot on an extremely expensive budget, featuring period recreations, extensive VFX work or the presence of major actors, for leading studios. This matters less, perhaps, in these days when HD quality is spreading rapidly through the world of independent production, and even very low finance pieces can be made to look impressive. Of course, it's not only the quality of the original shoot that's important, it's the quality of the acting, too: your own acting, especially, but also that of those in the scenes with you. Yes, let's assume that you wouldn't be putting together a showreel if you couldn't act, but it can sometimes take a while to actually come up with footage that really demonstrates what you are capable of to full capacity. And while you can always finesse your own performance, you can't be responsible for the performances of those who appear with you. So, there must always be intelligence and selectivity applied to a choice of showreel material: it really has to show your performances in the best light, because it is a selling tool. Mark offers bespoke footage shooting, and although I sometimes debate whether there are limits to that, he is probably right to say that if you aren't generating any usable screen material from the projects you are working on, but want to serve yourself well on screen, you should consider investing in a bespoke setup - mainly, in my opinion, because you can ensure a good performance and good looking material from it. But you may prefer to simply build up the body of your own work: it takes time to amass, it takes time to track down. I spent three years making films before I put my first showreel together: I have spent another two getting the material together for my newest version. You work on the assumption that what you start with is enough to generate work at better and better levels of production, and the quality of your included material increases exponentially over time. Patience is often the greatest virtue in getting a really good showreel together.

    • 23rd Sep 2012
    • 12
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    That was a pretty epic post, even for me, but at least I remembered some paragraph breaks in this one!

    • 23rd Sep 2012
    • 13
  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    Lee that was a little shorthopedic note for you!!!

    Brilliant points though...and some extra good advice too.

    I'm sitting in Heston services on route to film an actress in 3 bespoke scenes smiley for her showreel

    She has written 3 lovely v short scenes...and I have edited her writing a tad too.

    Shell be well lit...well Mic'd and well filmed. ...and shell not be under o reduce of rushing students in a script or scene where the focus is not on her.

    Some of the actors I have shot from scratch for have got mainstream telly work....following which f hey prob replace my scenes with the TV clips which is understandable and shows credibility.

    One thing is for sure....reels are a vital actors tool these days....without one you limit your chances massively.

    My reel is way out of date...and poss too long....but it brings in the castings and the work for me. ...or at least gets me in through the casting door.

    I hope Alan you have found this thread useful so far. The question I have....should one have a theatre reel separate from a tv reel. Ie...do theatre casting dirs prefer to see theatre scenes....or do they assume a good tv reel means the actor will be good for stage.

    Personally....I think good stage work needs to be filmed accordingly....so many theatre scenes look very bad...coz filming a play on one cam usually looks rubbish.

    • 23rd Sep 2012
    • 14
  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    Sorry for typos and bad word replacement....horrible galaxy s3 phone!!!

    • 23rd Sep 2012
    • 15
  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    Lee that was a little shorthopedic note for you!!!

    Brilliant points though...and some extra good advice too.

    I'm sitting in Heston services on route to film an actress in 3 bespoke scenes smiley for her showreel

    She has written 3 lovely v short scenes...and I have edited her writing a tad too.

    Shell be well lit...well Mic'd and well filmed. ...and shell not be under o reduce of rushing students in a script or scene where the focus is not on her.

    Some of the actors I have shot from scratch for have got mainstream telly work....following which f hey prob replace my scenes with the TV clips which is understandable and shows credibility.

    One thing is for sure....reels are a vital actors tool these days....without one you limit your chances massively.

    My reel is way out of date...and poss too long....but it brings in the castings and the work for me. ...or at least gets me in through the casting door.

    I hope Alan you have found this thread useful so far. The question I have....should one have a theatre reel separate from a tv reel. Ie...do theatre casting dirs prefer to see theatre scenes....or do they assume a good tv reel means the actor will be good for stage.

    Personally....I think good stage work needs to be filmed accordingly....so many theatre scenes look very bad...coz filming a play on one cam usually looks rubbish.

    • 23rd Sep 2012
    • 16
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Re: Theatre reels, Mark. I tend to believe they are a separate concern from screen reels (the only time the footage should be mixed, perhaps, is if the reel is intended primarily to secure representation and an actor wishes to show prospective agents as much range of performance versatility as possible - this may, in truth, be of interest to an agent). By and large, though, I think screen casters are the ones that view reels the vast majority of the time, and they are not in the business of wishing to view theatre performance: some will even suspect that a reel that is primarily theatrical in nature is one that conceals the fact that the maker of the reel has no actual knowledge of screen requirements, and may serve to reinforce what they most fear in an actor: that said actor is working on the presumption that a screen performance is nothing more than a 'toned down' stage performance (when, of course, there is much more to a decent screen performance than this). A screen reel should be wholly comprised of screen material for this reason.

    With that said, theatrical reels can have their uses, particularly for specific casting purposes. Your concerns about the limitations of shooting stage for screen remain valid -and this is another key reason why you shouldn't try and incorporate stage material into a screen reel, where comparison is odious. When stage work is shot, it tends to suffer from multiple limitations that a screen setup would automatically compensate for (as I'm sure you're well aware, Mark): you have the difficulty of the camera placement (which is often at some remove from the subject), the awkwardness of coping with diffused lighting sources, the difficulty of not being able to pick the sound up as specifically or being able to match it to shot size, as, in fact, it's matched to the size of the auditorium space, the placing of the characters relative to one another within the space (which is generally working on the flat in order to give the 'proscenium' effect even in e.g. traverse or thrust section and is not arrayed in depth of field) and so on. Moreover, playscripts are far less pithy than screenplays, far more detailed and descriptive, because the audience are engaging actively with the text, as opposed to being shown how it generates emotion: and there is little room for complex emotional reaction in stage work, where everything has to be conveyed to audience firstly through gesture and tone and only secondarily through 'reaction'. To get a really 'screen like' interpretation of a stage show would actually require that the show be mounted and shot as if for screen (sometimes, the RSC etc. do, indeed, do this with their productions): fine as it goes, but begging the question - once the show is playing out as if it were a screen piece, can it any longer be considered to be an accurate reflection of the stage delivery? Has it not become just another screen form?

    Yet, a specific theatrical reel that is fit for theatrical purpose can still work very well, and, thanks to massive improvements in camera technology in recent years, it seems to be the case that a canny camera operator can, even on single angles, with appropriate zooms, pans etc. and with appropriate mics liberally scattered around stage, generate some good looking and sounding recorded stage material. It will still look nothing like and feel nothing like screen material, but this does not matter if the reel is being made to bespoke requirements - Nigel's (i.e. Nigel Peever's) pantomime reels are exemplary in this fashion, in my opinion: they do a perfect job of showing a theatre impresario that he is a talented pantomime performer, through judicious use of well recorded live shows, while being kept quite separate from his screen work. In a similar vein, many an actor who has an important career as master of ceremonies, as a performance comic, as events host and so on, can benefit from hosting a reel that is partway between an acting reel and a record of 'presenting' activities in character - but I would still maintain it should be an entirely separate project from the hosting of a screen reel.

    The other aspect of the question is, of course, the issue of how likely theatrical casters are going to be to want to view reel footage in the first instance. There is certainly no denial that most modern screen casters are eager to see filmed footage of potential employees on a regular basis. For theatrical casters, however, I'd hazard this is a much less regular occurrence. Many in the theatre do not behave as they would if they were producing/directing/casting for the screen business: they are more sedate in their attitudes to deadlines, feel less beholden to outside monetary forces pressurising them into making snap decisions, are answerable to fewer authorities in a hierarchy, and, often, more concerned with an actor's personality than an actor's look. They accept that working with an individual actor will be a gradual process of work, process and rehearsal development, and are not looking to establish, as most screen producers tacitly are, that the actor is already well on the way to 'embodying' the character at the time the first audition takes place.

    A lot of theatrical casters are traditionalist enough in their tastes that they actively prefer to stick to the tried and tested methods of casting: they are more liable to show interest in hand written letters, personal recommendations, and so on. And most of them would probably profess to the great importance that they level on meeting actors face to face, for the sake of auditions that run the actor through their paces, hearing them read and so on. What is important here is the guarantee that the actor proves themselves amenable enough to be worked with on an extensive one to one basis, and innovative enough, yet pliable enough, that they can help to shape, and be shaped, to the directorial vision. It is very hard to gauge whether an actor can fulfil those demands or not from filmed (or indeed still shot) material. For film work, in contrast, because the connection between director, crew and actor is always more attenuated, look and performance style are as important as any other quality, and the actor is expected to bring much of the character work with them to the table, it is far easier to gauge an actor's 'type'/aesthetic from previous filmed work, and judge by reel that, all things being equal, such and such an actor could be a good match for such and such a character. It is perfectly true to say that you can be cast effectively in a screen piece virtually sight unseen (i.e. on the basis of reel and headshot alone, as many of us would testify, with only having glancingly met the director, or never seen them until the day of filming). I don't think you would ever be accepted onto a stage production in this fashion, and there lies one of the major differences between the modes.

    • 23rd Sep 2012
    • 17
  • Cally Lawrence

    Actor

    Hi, not saying my show reel is "outstanding" but it has got me a lot of work and a lot of good feedback, mainly from directors who like the variety

    I have recently put it on Youtube as one full showreel, but also split into shorter comedy and drama reels as I find the comedy stuff can be offputting for corporate work as they are quite big "characters" This means I can be selective about what I direct people to.

    My humble opinion, don't use any clips that are of substandard quality in terms of sound or the way they have been filmed, as much variety as possible and no montages.

    I am not a big user of Youtube myself but I think if you search Cally Lawrence it will direct you to it if you want to have a look

    Good luck x

    • 24th Sep 2012
    • 18
  • Dan Gregory

    Actor

    Lee. Do you really think people want hand written letters? I recall many years ago that there just was not enough time to read any that were not type written amongst the hundreds we received each week. And that was in the days when IBM Golfballs were the latest technology.

    Face to face, preferably workshop auditions always seem to be the best for stage work as they show how well an actor can get on with others as well as whether they can perform. Very important in touring companies.

    • 24th Sep 2012
    • 19