The actor’s show (demo) reel - Are you making these mistakes?
So you are an aspiring or struggling actor and you just uploaded your show/demoreel on YouTube. You now wait in anticipation to be flooded with calls from casting agents and filmmakers. A few months down and your showreel gets less than 100 views – certainly not encouraging for an aspirant. You start wondering about the phone calls you had expected your showreel to fetch you. Subsequently, you start questioning the purpose of your showreel and the investment of time and money (if spent) you wasted over it. Before you trash it completely, ask yourself if your show reel was spot-on. Did it stand out from the rest? Was it good enough to attract filmmakers, casting agents and others who could hire you? When a casting agent or filmmaker goes through your showreel his first and foremost expectation is to see your intense passion for acting. Has your reel been able to bring out that passion well enough?
We present an analysis of some of the common and novice mistakes with an aspiring actor’s showreel and what he or she could do instead to salvage it.
Problem – Is your showreel longer than 3 minutes?
If yes, you’ve lost your captive audience’s interest here itself. No one has the time to spend even 5 minutes on one showreel if he has to sift through hundreds of them for a role. Imagine, all the effort you put in to come up with your reel, and it is fast-forwarded or skipped simply for the fact that it was too long. As much as you love watching some of your stellar performances for as long as you can, not everyone else does. Remember, you still have to make it to the ‘saleable star’ level to run your showreel for 5 minutes.
Problem –Have you stuffed your show reel with too many clips of your previous performances?
You are only confusing the viewers. Inclusion of too many clips might not necessarily speak of your versatility as an actor; it could leave the viewer baffled with all the visual overload. It could also reveal some of your shortcomings and limitations as an actor- things you most certainly want to conceal from your potential employers.
Solution –What you could do instead
Hit the magic number – 3.
Keep your showreel as brief as 3 minutes. Top casting agents could be spending only a few seconds on every showreel they watch.Three minutes are adequate to showcase your capability and versatility as an actor. The first minute itself will determine whether the viewer is interested in going through the entire showreel or not. Keeping it brief will do away with most of the redundant content your reel might not actually need. It will bring conciseness to your reel thereby making it more appealing.
Usually Hollywood experts suggest 2-2 and half minutes for a demo reel but dancing and action are Indian Cinema’s prerequisites. You could add another 30 seconds to your reel to exhibit these prowesses.
The same magic number applies to the number of clips you incorporate in your reel. 3 of your best and contrasting works can sufficiently display your talent and versatility. Avoid cluttering your show reel with snippets of every work you have done in the past. It is always a good idea to include an emotionally-charged dance or an action sequence since these skills always come in handy in Indian Cinema. But try and stick to 3 scenes.
Problem –Coming to the content of your showreel, you need to reflect on how wisely and relevantly you have chosen it.
Does your showreel also showcase your dialogue delivery or is it a mere compilation of your facial expressions?
Have you included unnecessary montages?
Does it focus more on the big names you have worked with than your own acting abilities?
Is a jarring musical score in the background overwhelming your performance?
Does your show reel follow a ‘best to mediocre’ pattern?
Are you clubbing in too many scenes of the same film or project?
If you answered most of these questions with a ‘Yes’ it is unlikely that your showreel will capture any pertinent attention.
Solution –Bring in these changes instead.
Include scenes that bring out the best of both – your expressions and your dialogue delivery. How do you expect to engage someone if you don’t speak (unless an outstanding role demanded it)? While your eyes may convincingly talk, open your mouth too.
Do away with any montage set to some crazy background score. Your showreel doesn’t need it. A montage is usually so rushed up that it is hardly indicative of any of your abilities. A montage of stills is even worse. What are portfolios for? Why would you include your stills in a tool primarily meant to demonstrate your acting skills?
The only still that you should include is your name and contact details as your opening shot. Tone down the background music too for your dialogues to be audible.
While it is recommended to include scenes of your work with a big star, make sure that you are the point of focus in the scene. The viewing panel is there to judge YOUR skills, not the superstar’s. What is important here is to show how well YOU have been able to perform in the dominant presence of a star whose performance can tilt any scene in his favor.
Put in only and only your VERY BEST clips. There is no place for mediocrity. NEVER close your showreel with mediocre work.
Also, try to incorporate scenes from different projects. Adding different scenes of the same film or project will not bring out your range. You will be emphasizing on just one of the many characters you may have played in the past. Do justice to your versatility. Show yourself in different characters from different projects. But do not go beyond three characters.
Problem –Does the quality of your showreel appear amateur?
Was your showreel done by a professional?
Did you make any efforts and investments to get your best scenes professionally edited and compiled?
Does your showreel have a professional crispness in terms of lighting and sound?
Are you presenting your latest work?
A negative answer to these questions indicates that your showreel needs professional attention.
Do-it-yourself reels may seem a cost-effective option for beginners and strugglers. But in the long run, they are anything but that. They will most likely, not bring much returns. A self-conjured reel may not get the lighting, sets or sound as desired. There could be too many visual and auditory distractions in the background.
Solution –Leave it to professionals instead.
They are being paid to leave no scope for imperfections and technical snags and to render the best quality to your showreel. They can certainly make your showreel more classy and tasteful than your amateurish attempt. It is an investment worth considering.
Last but not the least, don’t forget to update your showreel with what you have done recently. You wouldn’t want to present a dated version of yourself.
A showreel is one of the most important tools of self-promotion for an actor. Although, our film industry does not openly mandate it, it is presumed that you present one when you are out looking for opportunities. A well-done, balanced and updated showreel can surely get you the precise and right amount of attention you’ve been eyeing.