How to put together a showreel at a reasonable cost
I have seen a number of showreel courses which can range between £300 and £2,000. The problem I have found with showreel courses is that the company has commercial incentive and would be unlikely to be as passionate about making a good outcome as you. However, I have acting colleagues who have paid a lot of money for a showreel which contained some good, professional and punchy scenes. So if you are going attend a showreel course, I would suggest doing some research and asking actors who have attended courses to find out which companies are good for a fair price. If you go online and look at actors showreels (i.e. through Casting Call Pro), you will see what makes a good showreel. You could always contact the actor to find out who compiled their showreel.
A good showreel should be no more than 3 minutes long. This is because casting directors don't have time to view anything more. It should also contain contrasting characters, emotions and settings. This is so that you can showcase a diversity of characters. You also need to make sure that the showreel includes your contact details (mobile, email, CCP number, Spotlight View Pin etc) in the credits so that casting directors can easily contact you. Make sure that you have two copies, one in high quality and one in low definition or mobile quality. The reason for this is that you may need to send a showreel by email or upload it to a website that has limited upload capacity. However, if sending a showreel by CD or USB stick or by Dropbox, then a high definition showreel would look better. What you need to remember is that the casting director isn't always concerned too much with the editing or the definition of picture but more with your acting abilities and contrast of characters.
However, if you don't have lots of money to splash out on expensive showreels, another effective method is to do lots of short and feature films. There are a number of advantages of this such as: you can get your showreel material free of charge, you build relationships with industry professionals whilst doing short or feature films, and some short films provide payment. However, make sure you agree with the director at the beginning of the film if you can have your scenes for showreel purposes. It is best if they can agree this in writing to avoid any copyright issues further down the line. You are more likely to get showreel material out of short films as opposed to feature films as they are more commercially based. One disadvantage of using this method is that sometimes the director or production company may never send you the footage for your showreel. Another disadvantage is that it will take longer than doing a showreel course as you will have to audition for films and it may take time to get contrasting roles in different films.
Once you have the showreel material, you then have two options for editing. You can either pay a professional editor or edit the showreel yourself. Obviously, a professionally edited showreel will look good but if you need to reduce cost further, you can download free editing software from Google. If you decide to download software, spend a few days playing with it to get familiar with how it works as you are likely to make mistakes. In addition, take a look at the showreels of other actors and this will give you an idea of the editing required. In terms of a professional editor, you need to speak to acting colleagues and get recommendations of editors that offer value for money.
Remember; only use showreel material if you have written consent from its producer. This is why short films or collaborative films (i.e. unpaid work with the intention that crew and actors collaborate to build their own showreels) are normally better.