Doing a ‘Showreel Course' should have some specifically desired outcomes for the actor, who will be committing both time and not insubstantial amounts of money towards this end.
When choosing your course it might be worth considering the length of the course, what likely outcomes the course advertises, and just how specific the courses are to your needs.
Only when you take all of these elements into account can you be sure that the final product will be a suitable reflection of your talent and value for your hard earned cash.
So What Should One Reasonably Expect From The Structure Of The Course?
Obviously the course should be run professionally, in so far as the procurement of a welcoming and well equipped studio.
Cameras, sound, lighting, and ‘sets’ should be of good quality to produce excellent finishes to your work.
Scripts should be many and varied for the actor to choose from, not merely scenes that are familiar or convenient for the course organisers.
The course should be long enough for the actor to concentrate energies and focus towards achieving at least two professionally produced pieces that will promote the actor’s strengths and not merely have them ‘on film’.
The course should declare its intention to strive to elicit the most original and interesting work from each of the performers. To this end, rehearsals for each of the scenes should cover wide varieties of possibilities so that the course co-ordinators get to know the particular qualities of each performer and work to draw these qualities out in each of their scenes.
Showreel courses should not merely be filmed acting classes.
The participants should, in most cases, already have the necessary abilities to make the absolute most out of their time in front of the camera, remembering that what they film is what will be in the public domain for some time to come.
It is the responsibility of the course co-ordinator to accept only those students that could reasonably be expected to give the very best account of themselves possible.
What Should Be Covered?
The course should cover the relationship between the actor and camera, and practise – using the scenes to be filmed – the many possibilities to tell a story without relying on the words or attitude of the piece.
Acting is a visual medium (we go to ‘see’ a film, not ‘hear’ a film). Onscreen work is, or should be, filled with character nuance, rhythms of voice, personality, and physicality that often can tell the story in many subtle ways without a word being uttered.
The spoken word can then become the icing on the cake, in many instances.
Showreel courses should cover these aspects in the greatest detail, given the time available, to ensure that the performer will complete the programme satisfied that they have created filmed scenes worthy of being viewed favourably by the industry at large.
It is important that the actor is given the opportunity to contribute as many ideas as possible toward the development of each of their scenes and never made to feel that they are merely ‘making up numbers’ for someone else’s scene.
Each actor should feel good about each of their pieces and confident that the pieces have been chosen well, either for them or by them.
What’s A Good Length For A Showreel Course?
Because showreel courses tend to vary in length from company to company it is important that the participants consider what they are realistically going to achieve within the given timeframe of a particular course.
For example, if a course runs for several weeks (one session per week) then two completed scenes might be appropriate to expect as a result.
If a course runs longer, possibly 6 or 8 weeks (one or two sessions each week), then the participant could be confident that the final shooting will be a true indicator of their current abilities. Courses of this length could reasonably be expected to offer three completed scenes.
If a course runs for one week (even full-time or 20 or more hours) then realistically it is going to be difficult to conclude the course with more than one satisfactorily completed scene. This is taking into account that, in all likelihood, there will be significant numbers of people on the course that will consume large quantities of time.
No showreel course should feel rushed, or harried as the ‘shoot’ time draws near, or is in actual filming mode.
It is important to remember that even though it is excellent practice to shoot your scenes somewhere within the normal time constraints of a film production, it is not in fact a film production, it is the preparation and presentation of an actor hoping to generate enthusiasm about their work on screen and as such all care and time should be devoted to achieving that end.
Anything less than your best and considered efforts up on the screen will not serve you well when watched by those you hope to impress. Choose carefully and prudently when looking at the various courses available, spend your considerable time, and money, wisely, be well prepared in your work, feel confident that you have decided upon the best possible options in your acting choices, make sure that the production qualities are professional and the end result is as close as possible to what you might see on television, and you will have given yourself every possibility for the best outcome.