I've driven a lot of cars. I see cars on the road every day in real life, TV and movies. Tomorrow, I'm going to make my own car.
A ludicrous statement, don’t you think? Without studying for years to be a mechanic, you wouldn't know the first thing about making a car. Sure, you can have a go, but don't expect it to be any good.
You need to know how an engine works and why it works before even contemplating it. It's a craft.
Acting is easy, right? It's just saying words and pretending, isn't it? Anyone can do it.
How do you feel when someone says that to you? Angry, upset, offended?
You've invested countless hours and funds into learning your trade. You’ve learned how to create characters; the particular way they move and think, their subtle nuances, what their childhood was like, where they've lived, who and what they’ve loved...
You’ve learned to tap into your own emotions and really feel when you’re acting. You can make those script lines feel fresh and new every time you have to repeat them.
And you do all of this whilst remembering pages and pages of lines, knowing what marks to hit when and being able to recall actions and movement beat for beat, sometimes in the most uncomfortable situations.
Acting is not easy, not in the slightest bit. It's a craft.
This brings me to filmmaking, specifically in regards to showreel scenes on actors’ showreels.
I understand that you’re in a catch-22 situation as an actor. A casting director needs to see your showreel before they'll audition you and give you a role, but you have no footage yet to cut a reel from.
How are you supposed to get yourself seen? You need acting footage or your career will grind to halt before it ever even gets going.
What do you do? Perhaps you shoot something yourself?
Maybe get your mate to shoot it for you on his camcorder? But don't expect it to look great and 'wow' the industry professionals you’re going to show it to.
It won't. Want to know why?
Filmmaking is a craft.
From a technical aspect, does your mate know about blocking for camera, lighting, lenses, sound recording, camera movement, editing, sound mixing, colour grading?
Does he know to use a location to its full advantage, how to use shots to best tell a story, how to shoot for the edit?
From a creative standpoint, does he understand subtext, pacing, dramatic tension, character and story arcs? Is he able to work with you as a director to nurture the very best performance from you?
Your showreel is your advert; it's one of the main ways to promote yourself as an actor to get work or a new agent.
The quality of it reflects directly on you! If your reel looks and sounds terrible, it makes you look terrible by default.
It's worth investing in yourself. Get a quality reel that looks professional in every aspect.
You don't want that influential casting director or well-connected agent to be put off by poorly recorded dialogue and wobbly, dark shots.
Showreel scenes don’t have to cost the earth.
Without sounding like a walking advert, the scenes I shoot work out at less than £100 per actor if you split the costs between two of you – and I’m sure other providers offer similar packages.
Regardless of whom you choose to go with, if you want to end up with a quality reel, do your research and ask these questions:
What is their previous work like? What awards have they won? Do they do this professionally?
Do they produce other work or just showreels?
Is he/ she an out of work actor or are they a proper filmmaker with years of training?
Know who you’re dealing with.
Check to see what work actors who have had their reel shot, or edited by them, have gone on to do.
I’m incredibly proud to have shot reels for actors who have gone on to appear in TV shows like Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks and Happy Valley, films like Edge Of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise and one actress has just landed a role in the new Harry Potter spin off.
I LOVE it when actors bring me back footage from jobs like these to re-edit into the reel I originally shot for them. It gives me such a buzz to know I helped that happen.
Most importantly, watch showreel companies’ completed showreel scenes.
DON’T just go off their ‘promo video’.
It’s naughty, but I’ve seen many showreel providers use footage that is NOT taken from their custom filmed showreel scenes, but rather other productions that the provider has been associated with.
These productions usually have a larger budget and consequently much higher production values than their showreel work.
I have even seen another company, ran by an actor, use clips from TV shows he's appeared in to promote his showreel business!
"Errr... hang on mate. You didn't shoot that, you were just in it."
It's a misrepresentation of the final product you'll receive.
You need to know what you’re getting.
My showreel promo, as with any other respectable provider, only contains footage from showreel scenes I've shot - and nothing else.
Nothing from any of my other projects, such as short films or web series episodes.
I want to accurately represent the product you'll be receiving.
I’m not here to promote what I do, but I’m aware with so many companies offering showreel services that things can very quickly become overwhelming for actors.
When you’re overwhelmed it’s very easy to miss the pitfalls I’ve outlined.
Remember, every profession is a craft, so get the right craftsperson for the job.
If you have any questions on showreel production, want me to look over your reel or anything else, drop me a tweet any time!
Click the Twitter button below to follow me or drop me a line via my website!