Showreels from Scratch for International Actors

acting-showreels-scratch-editIt’s difficult for a non-English actor to make it in London. Despite the capital being one of the most diverse places in the world, the characters we see on our screens are still, for the most part, white and English.

As a foreign actor in the UK, this isn’t your fault, but it is the current reality. However, you are not powerless. You may see the British Film and TV world as being institutionally biased towards British actors, but I don’t think that it always the case. Casting choices often come down to something a lot less sinister but equally frustrating, and that thing is: a lack of imagination.

When the casting director thinks of a doctor, or private investigator, they don’t think of you, the big-built Polish guy or the small Norwegian woman. They see an English guy with a beard, aged 50. It’s just what first comes to mind, it’s what we’ve had on our screens for the past sixty years.

Here’s where a showreel from scratch comes into play. You can transform people’s perceptions of who you are as an actor. We can create scenes that show you in a different light.

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Unfortunately, casting is still all too often about stereotypes. Whether it’s your ethnicity, your colour, your accent, people make certain assumptions, especially when they only have a headshot and CV to base their opinions on.

The fact you’re from Japan or Germany or South Africa shouldn’t act as a hindrance to your castability, it should be an asset. You have experiences and skills and ideas that we haven’t seen on screen before.

A showreel from scratch can do two things for you, and they’re complete opposites, but bear with me.

1. It can play to your stereotype.

If the only roles you’re currently getting seen for are, for example, ‘Russian Gang Member’ or ‘French Beauty’ – I often think it is good to do one scene which showcases you can do this. After all, you want to get work — and TV is cast, rightly or wrongly, by stereotypes. So let’s do a scene ‘for them’, to show you can do it. If you’re getting seen as the ‘manipulative business investor’ we may as well do a scene to show that you can totally nail it. It’s one piece of the puzzle that will help you get employment.

2. Let’s break away from the stereotype.

Let’s have you in a break-up scene. Or a comedy scene. Or a family drama. Let’s show you in conflict, in pain, or let’s see you inspired. Basically, let’s see you doing the scenes that everyone else gets to do by default. Those roles that you have such a hard time getting cast for, we can create them.

By creating them, you get to be them. Now when a casting director watches your showreel, you won’t be stuck playing the gangster, or the confused tourist, or the quirky foreigner. You’ll be you. A fully functioning, interesting, castable human being.


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