What Makes A Great Showreel?
Updated: 14 hours ago
Daniel Harding Showreels is committed to making sure you get the best possible footage for your new showreel, so we asked ourselves: "what makes a great showreel?"
Get to the point!
Filmmakers, Casting Directors and Agents (and just about anyone looking to cast something) don't have all day to watch your five minute masterpiece - it's a fact. They want quick, clear and focused footage which shows off the best you. Whenever I look at someone's showreel, the first thing I want to see is: 'you acting'. As obvious as it sounds, a lot of showreels start off with unnecessary fluff and padding which adds nothing to your casting potential, and actually will probably frustrate the person watching and put them off. I am forever skipping through a showreel trying to find bits I want to see. Including a scene that is over a minute long but doesn't really change or go anywhere is pointless. You're only going to annoy the person watching. So again: get to the point!
Know your casting type
Before I write for actors the first thing I want to know is, "what's your casting type?". This is understandably a difficult one, especially for newbie actors, because you're being ask to judging yourself - which is difficult to do at the best of times. But 'casting type' is a term used to describe the sort of character that you're most naturally going to fit, and therefore, will likely get cast as. So if you're twilight years are approaching fast, then you're not going to be cast as the college-student (an extreme example, but you get my point). Know your natural-self, and play to your strengths. This is what is going to get you cast in something because often filmmakers don't have a lot of time to mould your performance. They are looking for someone who can play the role they're casting. I write scenes with 'casting type' in mind, so you should know this (at least a little bit) before producing your own footage.
Show a variety of performances and characters
One of the main things I like to do when producing footage is to give you options with the style, genre, and vibe. This is vitally important, especially for someone watching your reel, because they want to see that you can do more than just the one type of character. If I see a bunch of varied characters done well, I'll know the actor can likely take direction (they'll have range). When shooting 2 or more scenes I try to shoot the scenes in a different style. Because more and more people are getting their showreels produced by a company, all their footage ends up looking the same - and it can be quite off putting. Showreels typically include clips from a host of different productions, which gives the impression that you've been a busy-bee, but if you're building your 'showreel from scratch', it's my job to help you achieve this look. I will often suggest that after nailing your casting type in the first scene, we go for something 'against-type' in the second. It's important to show you have range! I will then film the scenes in a variety of styles and locations to help build your professional showreel.
Minimise your scene partners
This is another difficult one to get right. You don't want to cut them out completely, because the scene still needs to make narrative sense, but the focus should certainly be on you - it's your showreel we'll be watching after all! There's nothing worse that watching a showreel and feeling like the focus is on the other person. It's confusing! And the last thing you want to do is confuse the person watching - it'll put them off. At the same time, you don't want it to be all 'me, me, me', so choose scenes where you're the lead and driving force behind the narrative. The scene partners should be visually different too, to help the watcher quickly gauge who they should be focusing on (the headshot attached in the bookends will clue them up as well). You should feel like the main character.
Don't include self tapes and background artist footage
It's tempting to show everyone that you were in the last Bond film, but if you're just walking around in the background, it's probably not going to offer anything to the person looking to cast you. A showreel is for a different purpose - it's not a credit CV after all. If you don't have any suitable footage, get some. Nowadays, there's really no excuse to not have professional footage, focused on you, in your showreel. Crappy, amateur footage, that is poorly recorded, will likely do you more harm than good!
Lastly, be prepared to have links on hand
Whenever I am casting for something, if I am interested in the person after watching their showreel, I will often ask to see the full clips or films that are in the reel. Whilst the showreel is the 'best of', I also want to see what else you've got. The showreel should be used as a teaser to entice the viewer into wanting to see more. If the person casting asks to see the clips, then you know you've done your job!
If you agree or disagree with any of my points, I'd love to hear from you. Tweet us @DHshowreels with your suggestions!