Even though I encourage the use of clips to showcase exactly what you’re capable of for the buyers, you may still have the need for a linear demo reel. You remember those, right? That’s a short (90 seconds, ideally) compilation of the on-camera work you’ve done, displaying your capabilities to folks who want to check you out before calling you in for an audition.

The problem for most actors — and I actually covered this in two recent Periscope broadcasts with regard to actors’ resumés — is that they get overly eager to showcase everything they have, rather than picking and choosing the very best footage and leaving the rest off.

I encourage you to treat your credits — whether on your resumé or on your reel — as ingredients to a recipe: the recipe for how to cast you next. Even if there’s a perfectly delicious ingredient, say cumin, in your cupboard, it doesn’t belong in that fruit smoothie you’re whipping up today.

When you’re piecing together your reel, think of the footage as elements that support one another in the mission as a whole. Make sure to use a piece of footage that shows off how you work — your craft, your process — this should be a really wonderful stuff, even if it’s from a low-budget indie or a student film. It’s not about how big a budget the project had or how many awards it won on the festival circuit; it’s about YOUR work. Make it spectacular.

A second piece of footage should show off how you book — your castability, your bullseye — this can be less meaty in terms of craft since you got that covered with the first piece, but it should be a great indication of your type and what “brand YOU” brings to any project.

The third piece of footage I want you to include on your reel is one in which you show the buyers some high-profile booking. Yes, even if it’s a teeny one-line role in a studio blockbuster, it’s still a studio blockbuster and there’s cred that comes with having something starring a celeb on your reel.

Any other footage you include on your reel should do a fantastic job of furthering the buyers’ understanding of what you bring to the table. Talent, type, and trend. Again, that’s your craft, your castability, and your cred with major players in the industry. If your footage instead shows three different hairstyles and wardrobe options as you basically play the same role but in different accents on different sets, you’re missing out on the best use of a linear reel altogether!

If at this point you’re saying, “Bon! I have no footage! What about me?!?” Boy, do I have good news for you! NOT having footage but knowing the anatomy of a reel allows you to actively and methodically pursue clips that serve these functions, so you can assemble a compilation of material custom-built to get the job done. Phenomenal! Now get out there and shoot!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001983.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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