Is A Showreel-From-Scratch Skipping An Important Step?

A friend said to me recently that she wished my showreel service was around when she started out as an actor, because it would have saved her having to do those 50 terrible short films that she did. I liked what she said, it fed my ego and it was something I would tell others in passing, as in, “my showreels are great and help you skip the nonsense!”

But then this began to jar in my mind, because those 50 bad short films are important. You need the experience of being in awful student films that never end up seeing the light of day. You need films where the writing sucks, the directing sucks, and yes; even your acting sucks.

A showreel shouldn’t be about skipping the hard work. A showreel from scratch isn’t a miracle, it’s just one of the many tools at your disposal.

While many actors have been very successful with the aid of showreels I’ve created, many haven’t. They think that a showreel will propel them further ahead, but in truth, the main thing that propels you ahead is experience, and attitude. You’re not entitled to work or opportunities as an artist. They tend to come along five years later than you expected, after you’ve paid your dues in so many more challenging ways than you expected.

I do a lot of acting showreels for performers who are fresh out of drama school, and I maintain that it’s a great tool – a perfect opportunity to show people who you are and what you’re about. In this hyper-competitive industry, where literally hundreds if not thousands of actors are chasing the same openings as you — a reel is an integral part of setting you apart.

There are many misconceptions about what a showreel-from-scratch is. This is probably because it’s a relatively new art. In fact, I may be the very first person to ever call in an art. For most, it’s the hacking together of a few scenes to make a reel. But for me, a reel is something very important for the actors involved and the writer/director, and there are many ways in which they can go wrong.Some actors, mindful that they’re paying, and that it’s to show their talents; they feel the need to oversaturate the screen with themselves. More dialogue, more close-ups, less shots of the other actor. I understand these ideas and have, sometimes, bended to please the actors; but I believe it’s the wrong approach, because it’s ultimately false.

The key thing is to serve the scene. To serve the reel. To show you as an actor and artist in the most truthful and honest way possible. That will involve reaction shots of the other actor, and yes, even keeping their dialogue in. And while close-ups are indeed important, they are also just one of the many tools. There are times when a close-up can tell the story or help show us the character, but the same can be said for a wide shot, or a close up of a picture frame.

If you are going to get a showreel, yes; you want it to achieve those all important goals; help you get cast, help you get an agent, help you earn money. But on a more important level – you should use it as a tool to make you a better artist, to work with new writing, to work closely with a director, and to be a little bit closer to the creative person you are becoming.

Email me: dj@danieljohnsonfilms.co.uk —- Tweet Me: @danieljohnsonuk

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