The Purpose of Reel Footage

Hi Bonnie,

Your article on Rear View Mirror is dead on. While I have been tempted to do a look around at the competition, I find it can be tiring to dwell on it and lose the energy that I really need to be at my best.

The letter regarding personality slates really hit home for me even though — ouch — was a bit of a kick in the pants. While I do have a couple of video clips of actual performances (brief as they may be), I succumbed to doing a personality slate that starts with a bit of a monologue. This I will reconsider not using when I looked at your ranking list of things to use for acting examples. It makes sense that casting directors really would rather see examples of what you HAVE DONE, not what you could do.

Thanks again for the advice,
Marty Krzywonos

Marty, thank you for this email. I’m so glad that Rear View Mirror resonated with you. I think this week’s column (above) is a good companion piece to it!

I want to address the Personality Slates issue, because while absolutely, casting directors want to see the work you have done, one could argue that the entire auditioning process is an example of “what you could do,” rather than “what you have done.”

But since the goal in sharing a reel, clips, scenes, footage of anything is to get an audition (during which you can show what you CAN do), it’s best if that footage is indicative of your professional work. Sure, if you have nothing else and what you’ve shot is stellar (and by that, I mean, when you watch other outstanding demo reels, you are impressed that yours absolutely stands up right there among those clips from network shows and studio feature films with recognizable scene partners), keep using it!

Just know that much of the time reels are used to eliminate actors from that audition. Casting directors will watch a reel, see that you’re not measuring up to other candidates they’re bringing in, and then move along to someone else. OR, your work will be so compelling that you will absolutely get invited in, because the casting director so wants to see what you do with this material.

Pick and choose where to use the footage you have. Keep it on your Actors Access profile, sure, and then submit it only when it’s of the same level of the rest of the actors who are being submitted on that project. Meaning, if you’re submitting on a student project or a micro-budget indie, your footage — any footage — may be a big help. But if you’re getting in the mix for something tiers above that, you’re going to find your profile up against actors whose reels include “the real thing,” and unless your slate measures up, you may get farther in the process by NOT submitting it.

Good luck to you! Keep me posted on how things go 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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