Dramatic Moments in Showreel from Scratch Scenes

“What’s wrong?”

Those two lines are pretty much all you need for drama in a scene. It’s the same in life.


You make a joke or a silly comment and someone takes it personally. That’s interesting.

You make a joke or silly comment and someone takes it personally but won’t admit they’ve taken it personally, that’s even more interesting.

And those are the moments I try to focus on. My job means that I watch a lot of actor showreels day in and day out; and they’re so often punctuated by big, over-the-top moments. Actors vying to do their impressions of Kate and Leo in ‘Revolutionary Road’.

But when someone shouts and says ‘I’m angry right now’ you are left with so few options. Because everything about the conflict has been answered.

I’m obsessed with finding the smaller, more nuanced moments. I’m fascinated by them in life and on screen. Someone saying “I’m fine,” when they’re not fine. Or someone saying, “I don’t think I can carry on,” right before they carry on. People are full of contradictions and drama can come from the simplest of disagreements.

The first scene in the video above, brings together two sisters who have been estranged for many years. The character, played wonderfully by Lainey Shaw, begins in a conciliatory way, but she’s still holding resentments. We don’t know this immediately, although we sense it. And then she says it; “You said it in an email,” and that’s all we need to dive into the drama. To push the characters to being more estranged rather than closer.

The third scene, featuring Manny Ahmed, is more about his internal conflict. Facing up to the responsibility of his actions. If you watch the extended scene, which I’ve included below, you’ll see how the conflict grows to being between him and his friend, as she implores him to hide from the crime he’s committed, pushing the characters into conflict.


My early short films, as well as my showreel scenes, focused almost exclusively on romantic relationships – on break-ups, as it were. There are many great reasons to write those types of scenes — they’re easily relatable and they give clear and defined conflict. But in recent years I’ve been drawn to other aspects of human relationships. The subtle ways people fall apart and come together.

When you’re creating a showreel – be it as an actor or a filmmaker; I recommend finding the smaller moments. The reactions. The hidden agendas. The truth of the moment.

Find out more about my showreel work with actors. 

Email me at: dj@danieljohnsonfilms.co.uk

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