So you want to be an actor: Getting the perfect showreel

As connection speeds increase and broadband is rolled out across the UK, showreels are becoming an increasingly important element of your profile.

Showreels are usually made up from a collection of past work, showcasing your range as an actor. Ideally the showreel will consist of clips from broadcast work. If you don't have sufficient clips from your body of work you could consider getting a showreel made for you from pieces shot specifically for the showreel. Many of the leading showreel companies now offer 'shoot from scratch' services in which they'll work with you to shoot your choice of scenes. Some offer script consultation and direction which are worth considering to ensure you choose suitable material and to get the perfect performance. When thinking about scripts and scenes it's generally better to concentrate on scenes showing you playing characters you are likely to be cast as. So rather than trying to show your entire range in a showreel, focus on portraying the characters you are most likely to be cast as i.e. play to and showcase your existing strengths. Too much versatility makes it difficult for a casting director to picture you in the role, so put your best character forward. Always use the services of a professional company - there is an art of to putting together a professional looking showreel. A showreel that looks like it was cobbled together by a friend of a friend won't do you any favours. It really is worth going to the expense of using a professional company which specialises in showreels for actors. Before deciding on a company try to view samples of their work to give you an idea of the quality of the finished product.Make the showreel informative and entertaining as this will help maintain a casting director's attention. The first 30 seconds of your showreel are the most important. It's often sensible to start with a brief collage of the work about to be shown, ensuring the casting director gets a quick overview of your talent right from the start. Alternatively, you might consider opening with a still of your headshot or a long close up, over which you can place your name. At all points in your showreel it should be clear that the focus is on you - it is you who is being showcased, not the other actors. With this in mind, include plenty of close ups, with your face and facial expressions clearly visible.If your showreel consists or broadcast clips - and even if it doesn't, to be on the safe side - check with the broadcasters' rights department to get clearance to include the clips on your showreel. Just because you were in a programme or film doesn't mean you have automatic rights to take an extract for viewing in a different format (i.e. your showreel).

If you are considering creating a new showreel, you'll want to end up with both a DVD version of your showreel which you can post to casting directors and a streamed version which you can upload to your websites and websites such as Casting Call Pro.

The DVD version of your showreel is pretty standard, however, you should take the time to ensure the box and DVD come with personalised designs which have your name and contact number clearly visible. As most showreel companies will charge you for subsequent copies of your DVD, take the price of DVD duplication services into account when selecting a service provider. Streamed or internet showreels should be in wmv (windows media video) format or quicktime format, and a typical file size for a 2 to 3 minute showreel would be around 6MG - at least until UK broadband speeds increase.

Your showreel should ideally be 3 to 4 minutes long, with the maximum length of each clip not exceeding sixty seconds. Try not to exceed 6 minutes in length; casting directors don't have that much time and are unlikely to be impress. Keep it clean, keep it simple and keep it relevant.

Contact details
Your contact details should be clearly visible at the start and end of the showreel and on all packaging. Where possible try to include your headshot on the CD cover or DVD case.