Just by creating an actor reel, you can stand out among the many candidates auditioning for valuable roles in the industry. But that’s not the only benefit to producing your reel. The real benefit is knowledge. When you embark upon the task of putting together a reel, it forces you to honestly assess your career. How much work have you really done? What is the quality of your acting? Are you proud of the work? How can you improve upon your oeuvre? A reel gives you an immediate answer to all these questions, and helps you get clear on how to move forward.
But what exactly should an actor include in his or her reel? And what should be edited out? To squeeze the most juice from your reel, here are a few tips.
The first 10 to 20 seconds: Start your reel with a close up, speaking directly into camera. This will give the casting execs a real sense of your appearance, but more importantly, it will showcase the force of your personality and the allure of your magnetism. Pick this close up carefully as it’s the first impression that often packs the biggest punch.
Secondly, put your best material in the first minute. With so many other talent choices to sort through, casting executives often decide within the first minute if you’re the right match for their particular role, and need to stop viewing before your reel can finish playing.
Next, keep your reel concise and powerful. Strive to keep it short. That means 2 minutes for those with less material to work with, and no more than 4 minutes for those who’ve accumulated particularly impressive clips. Most reels come in at about 3 minutes. But keep in mind, longer does not equate to better.
Also, make it authentically you. That means, if you play guitar or you’re a first-rate dancer, put it in. The suits should have a real idea of your passions and skills. Additionally, add original content. If you’re not a writer, consider a friend’s original screenplay or grab a scene from an off-Broadway production or a book you love. But avoid performing a scene from, for example, The Descendents. You’re performance will be compared to George Clooney’s—and you don’t need that kind of scrutiny at this point.
And finally, once it’s done, make sure to add the reel to your Casting Frontier profile and website so Casting Directors can view it with ease. To paraphrase Field Of Dreams: “If you make it, it will be seen.” Headshots, resumes, websites, and acting reels…use all these tools in your arsenal to land as many TV auditions as you possibly can.