Some of what I say is personal opinion, some of it comes from speaking to other directors, and some of it comes from conversations with casting directors over the years. These are just ideas, suggestions, and things I tend to go by when creating showreels myself. If it doesn’t resonate with you, ignore it!
1. Don’t waste the first minute with a montage! We want to see you ACT! Too many showreels are just people looking pretty walking in and out of rooms. It’s not as interesting as you think!
2. Begin with a GREAT PERFORMANCE! It doesn’t have to be a whole scene — it can be the middle of a scene; halfway through the dialogue, whatever it is! Show us YOU in the MOMENT.
3. Don’t put your favourite pop music all over your reel. Not only is it amateur, but it dates your showreel immediately.
4. Make the scenes SHORTER! When we’re watching a reel, the STORY doesn’t matter so much. Things just need to make sense. So turn that two minute scene into a thirty second scene by taking out some of the bits that don’t matter so much.
5. DON’T cut out shots of other people. Part of acting is reacting to the other characters, it’s about the relationship. We need to see that. Remarkably, when a scene is GREAT, even when the camera isn’t on you, we still feel we’re there with you. So it doesn’t all have to be close up on you — allow the thing to BREATH!
Have a look at this showreel I edited for actress Debra Baker.
The second scene, from ‘Junkhearts’ was originally about three minutes long, but we cut it down to forty seconds — yet everything important is still there. Also, if you look at the clip from ‘Call The Midwife’, the camera is on the other actress more than Debra, yet we still get a really strong sense of her character and performance.