Should I Self-Produce?

Hi Bonnie!

A big two-year fan of you and your column and, when I got to LA last year, was fortunate to catch your seminar at AADA. You’re always an inspiration to me! 🙂

I’ve been studying/pursuing acting for one year (I’m “old,” not a young ‘un) and I’m finding that trying to recover material for that coveted demo reel is proving more difficult than I imagined. In fact, being chosen to audition seems easier than trying to chase down student film directors who promised me a copy of the finished product.

My point: What do you think of me just filming a scene of myself so that I have a sample of my “walking and talking” so to speak? I had an acting teacher tell me once that I just needed to “get something on film.” I’ve heard both sides: “No, wait until you have high-quality film material,” or, “Yes, it helps get you more audition opportunities if they can at least see how you move.”

What do you think? Is a “live” business card better than nothing?

Best regards,
Shannon Maree

Oh yes. Definitely, I see great benefit to having tape. I’ve written quite a bit about dos and don’ts when it comes to creating your own footage. The important factors are these: Cast yourself correctly (don’t put yourself in a lead role if you’re always going to book the wacky neighbor stuff), use well-written material (and nothing we’d recognize, if you’re not using an original scene), make it technically fantastic (excellent lighting, sound, editing), and stop using it once you’ve got enough fantastic footage from actual work to make it no longer necessary on your reel.

I have heard of actors getting more opportunities thanks to having tape — but it has to be really great tape! (And of course, no one uses physical TAPE anymore, so I’m just using that word for fun.) You should have all the best things going for you, in your own footage. Since you’re creating it from scratch, there should be no excuses for the material to be anything other than really fantastic at showcasing your abilities. There are even services that shoot reel footage (there’s been discussion on Hollywood Happy Hour about several of the facilities), if you’re not a total DIY kind of gal.

Oh, and as for getting footage, I know it’s tough. I recommend handing off Holdon Log’s Copy Provided form when you show up on set. Any producer who won’t sign something stating that they will get you the tape you’ve been promised — when doing a copy-credit-meals project — makes me nervous. The copy is part of your payment. They should guarantee you’ll receive it! Oh, and with student filmmakers, a call to their professor should make sure you get your footage, quickly. The student filmmaker’s grade depends on completing the project, and completion includes “paying” the cast. Stand strong on this! It’s your right.

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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