Here is what no-one ever tells you about showreels, but what every casting director needs you to know:
“People rarely watch more than 20 seconds of it”
I guess that comes as a big shock to you? All the time and money you invested in getting your reel cut together and it’s only going to be your Mum and your Facebook friends who sit through the whole four minutes. All the effort you went to finding a cool song which sums you up to play over the opening montage, well, the truth is the montage most probably gets skipped over.
what I’ve observed and experienced is that the vast majority of reels that are sent to casting directors get turned off in less than 10 seconds
Casting Directors are very busy people and can often get sent ten to fifteen unsolicited showreels a day, would you want to sit through all 5 minutes of every showreel? Nope, you’d have things to do. If someones face or picture catches your eye maybe you would put the reel in and watch the first scene, or some of the first scene and then make a mental note to perhaps see that actor for something in the future.
But what if my agent sent the showreel to the casting director because they wanted to see my work? Those times, yes the showreel will get watched for slightly longer than 20 seconds – probably more like 40 seconds, and maybe more if they like what they see.
So how do you make sure your showreel works for you, and isn’t a waste of effort?
I would advise you go for individual clips instead of a showreel. Technology has advanced so far in the last ten years and the acting profession seems slow catching on. Video is watched online now, or from a dvd disc or USB stick. The beauty of this is that you can offer four or five varying clips to a casting director on one stick or dvd which they can easily navigate through. Even better on the online players used by Spotlight or Casting Network, the casting director sees a short menu of clips and can choose exactly what they want to watch. Keep the clips brief, under a minute and they will probably choose to watch more than one. We edit clips like these at Actor Clip and find that they work brilliantly for actors and the industry.
Don’t stress about showreels, but DO make sure you have one, preferably available on Spotlight and keep it up to date.
If you are deadset on making a full showreel instead of individual clips, I would advise you don’t have a montage at the beginning as casting directors rarely enjoy these and they tend to be a bit of a vanity project for the actor and not much use for the job at hand. Always put you best clip first, if you have a scene with a well known actor get that in early, it shows you have worked with professionals on a professional production. The casting director needs to have faith in you, and believe that you are prepared and practised for a professional shoot, they rarely like to take a chance with a ‘rookie’. And most important of all ‘Keep It Short’, three minutes is plenty long enough, show a couple of good scenes but not everything, make them want to see more not feel like they have sat through your entire back catalogue!
Always have a showreel available, you don’t want to lose a job because you don’t have one.
When a casting director watches your clips or reel they are not settling down into a comfy lazyboy chair with a litre of cola and a bucket of popcorn. They are probably not excited about watching this latest blockbuster which has landed on their doormat! They are most likely sat at their computer screen after hours of emails and phone calls, they are probably trying to finish an M&S sandwich and have a pile of showreels to get through before this afternoon’s meeting with a producer. Make it easy for them, and the chances are you will be remembered.
Pick you best stuff, keep it short, even better keep it clipped.
It’s so much better to make them wish it were longer than the reverse! And as always with any performance ‘leave them wanting more!’