Feedback on Fab Footage

This week’s Your Turn is comprised of two emails based on last month’s column on Fab Footage.

Hi Bonnie,

My name is Dani Renee and I’m a working actor here in Los Angeles. I just read your column about demo reels and I couldn’t agree with you more. We actors face many challenges every day — challenges that I like to call the beautiful catch-22s. We want work but we can’t get work without having footage of our work to showcase our talents. Because we need footage of this “work” that we sometimes can’t get, we end up with crappy/low budget footage from various projects.

The more years I spent in this career, the more I began to shoot my own material, write my own stuff, and cast myself. The issue I’ve had with this has been finding a good crew who will work off food and actually show up. I am in no way complaining, but rather, I have a question for you.

Because I know my reel isn’t up to par with industry standards or my talent, I’m wondering what your opinion is on actors going through a service like Relentless Filmworks, a service that charges $700 to shoot and edit your reel. Every aspect of this career is about investing in my future, but none of us are made of money. The more I think about investing in this, the more I feel like I could benefit from it in the long run.

Do you have any advice about these kinds of services? I would love to hear your opinion. So sorry for such a long email, I do hope I haven’t wasted too much of your time. Thank you so much for your time.

Dani Renee

Hi Dani, and thanks for writing. I’m familiar with this reel-creation services and, while I think the occasional scene shot in one of those facilities can help round out a reel otherwise made up of footage from actual booked acting work, I’m hesitant to outright recommend them. It’s not that they’re not offering a really valuable service; it’s that companies like these typically offer packages of multiple scenes, and reels that are created entirely from scenes like these *feel* inauthentic. They *feel* bought. So I think footage from these services should be used sparingly. A great scene from one of these facilities could be a great addition to existing footage from low-budget copy-credit-meals projects you’ve done.

But, since you’re talking about spending $700 or so for this service, I’d ask you to consider investing that same $700 into creating your own short film. You could pay your crew more than “just lunch” to shoot a scene with this level of budget. And working with a great group of people with whom you enjoy collaborating — WHILE being able to slide them a little money — is fantastic!

By creating a short, you could get it up on IMDb (thereby not just serving you on your reel, but in your resumé credits as well), maybe send it through the festival circuit, and possibly fall in love with the content creation process, enabling you to do more self-produced work down the line.

Talk about never having a lack of footage! That’s what I’d recommend you invest in: Creating your own work with people you adore. Good luck. Lemmeknow how it goes for you.

Hi Bonnie,

Thanks so much for your column. I’ve been reading it since the beginning.

Question: My representation and I are looking to create more footage because a lot of my reel is outdated and we think there are other roles I can play and want to showcase that.

In order to do so, I’m shooting my own scenes. We’re not adding these scenes to my reel, but just having them as clips for when they are appropriate to submit.

The question we have is whether I should be shooting these audition style or should my actor friend/scene partner be in the scene with me and we try to shoot it to look as realistic to the scene as possible. Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks much,
Tania Verafield

Hi Tania. Thank you for being here since the very beginning! You rock!

Certainly you could go either way with this, and maybe some things you shoot lend themselves to being shot as if they’re real scenes like I discussed above. “Audition style,” I would save for scenes that are too complicated to stage and shoot “for real.”

“Audition style” has its advantages because it shows a work-in-progress and doesn’t attempt to be as high-quality as a fully-produced piece. Of course, if you have the ability to shoot a simple scene outright, including another actor on screen, that’s more typical of what we’re used to seeing on a reel, so I’d go that way, most of the time.

Keep me posted on how this all goes for you!

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 Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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