Showreels
The way in which casting directors and other industry professionals view showreels is changing fast.

Casting Directors now more than ever are under a lot of time pressure to find 'the actor'. They probably have 1 minute or less to look at your work on your reel and decide whether you are one of six or eight they are going to call in. They are experienced at honing into energies, looks and individual qualities that would fulfil their job description, and they probably don't need longer than a minute. From all the Casting Directors I have spoken to through working in our agency on a daily basis over the last 3 years, I can count on one hand the number who have watched a showreel from start to finish. Therefore, as an actor, you not only need to get past the starting block and have as much of your reel viewed as possible, but you need to be identified as someone they want to work with or call in, if not now - in the future.

I believe there are a number of 'essentials' that need to be in place for your showreel to put you on the 'most wanted' list. It is through 15 years of film making that RAaW Films have learnt all the tricks and essentials, which have formed the policies and procedures below and by which we operate :

Accents

Only do an accent in your scenes, if it is as good as a person's dialect, who lives in the country or region you are portraying. The sound of the dialect not only needs to be spot on, but the delivery needs to relaxed and natural - not over delivered or too theatrical. One more note: if there are small flaws in the accent, they become bigger on film.
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Actors in your scenes

The amount and age of people in your show reel pieces is important. You can have a beautifully produced scene with just one other person, however if all of your scenes are just of you and one other person, sitting somewhere having a chat, - it begins to look like a show reel produced for showreel purposes, rather than taking work from you working professionally in the industry and cutting it into you reel. Older people and children can add production value.
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Archetypes, Who You Are

At RAaW, Robbi works in partnership with the work of Australian psychotherapist Katie Altham, to get a deeper perspective of who you are. Actors obviously need to draw on who they are and their experiences to create characters and performances, however sometimes rely on what they know or have created in the past, and don't take enough risks. Archetype work of course would be useless if who you are had nothing to do with what you look like and what it all means to the industry. We take pride in marrying these three elements together in order to help you make your best choices of characters and scenes for your showreel.
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Broadcast Quality

If the scenes on your reel have not been taken from a TV show or a distributed film, you need to convince people watching that you are able to handle being on a professional, broadcast quality set. You may think things like muffled sound, shots out of focus, lack of production design resulting in no depth, over composed scores, out of sink edits, bad lighting... the list goes on... are out of your control, however you are wrong. You must be in control because it is your job to assure casting directors that you can step into a professional environment and shine. Therefore your show reel scenes need to be shot like feature films rather than films for show reel purposes.
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Individuality

Although you need to be the best version of yourself, you can't be anything other than yourself. By that I mean if you are the type who is tough, physical, outdoors and fit – be all of those things in the most extreme way that you can. However if you carry a lot of weight and prefer reading books and watching movies and generally staying indoors, then you are not going to be able to compete with the above type if you try and change and vice versa. Your casting type will come around, and if it doesn't create your own work that features all that is great about you!!! Your first step to doing that is celebrating your type in a scene in your showreel.
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Length of your Showreel

As I mentioned before, very few industry professionals have the time to sit through a full reel, even if it is 3 minutes long. Never go over 4 minutes. The clips within the showreel can be as short as 30 seconds, however don't spend 10 of those 30 seconds focused on someone else driving the scene and in most of the shots. If you don't have any broadcast credits, put the clip that you are most likely to be cast in first.
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Locations are everything

Choose locations that couldn't get better if they were on a multi million pound feature, and you had all the money in the world to throw at them. Parks, train stations, hospitals, beer gardens, churches, forests, streets, pubs, playgrounds etc would all stay the same no matter what set you were on. The trick is to have great production design - which may be a few very small things - to make the location look more cinematic, however with the location itself, be clever. Don't try and recreate a Victorian gala set in 1845 with no budget. Also choose locations that have natural depth, to help with the filmic look. Filming against a white wall does not help with the quality of the image. Go to the location on the day and time you will be filming to check for the potential problems with sound, people, cars etc. Finally if you are filming inside - make sure the rooms are big enough to create decent shots, otherwise there will be no style to your scene - just a succession of close ups.
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Professions, What would you be?

Working in RS Management, we get a sense of what is being cast. Casting directors are always looking for professionals. What professional would you be? A nurse, soldier, police officer, doctor, teacher, receptionist, fitness instructor or sales person. Interesting to see you 'play a role' in your reel.
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Sound and it's Importance

Sound coming second to everything else is the biggest mistake film makers make. Clear, crisp sound is one of the hardest things to achieve and the very thing that can ruin your piece. Put sound, both on set and in post production, on the list of things you spend your money on and don't take it off. In post production make sure that you have a sound designer and composer that works around the action of the piece, rather than just laying down a track underneath the scene. Be careful that the mix is done well and that the music doesn't override the film. Before you sign off the film as being done, watch it on a big screen, as it is then that you will see all the mistakes you didn't see on your small screen.
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Special Skills

If you have special skills that you are really good at (not moderately good at), try and work them into your showreel. This not only shows you off, but it helps break away from all your scenes being between you and another person sitting down. It is OK for some of your scenes to be like that, however you need to always try and push your reel to new and exciting places. Having you doing combat, playing a guitar, boxing, free jumping or riding a horse can really add production value. Of course you have to be able to afford to the horse and location etc, but anything is possible.
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Tag Line and biog

Your showreel is essentially a marketing tool. It enables the world to see what you can do, what you look like, how you sound and more. A good idea is to start the process of creating your showreel with a tag line - a two line, one sentence description of yourself - and a biog - a four line three sentence description of what you have done. Throughout the creation/production of your reel, always refer back to see if your showreel is evidence of your tag line and is building on your biog. You can either choose to use your tag line and biog after that in general emails, or websites, social media etc to market yourself so that everything makes sense.
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Variation

Think of people watching reel after reel of actors 'going through tragedy', sometimes badly. It's enough to turn anyone off. Don't be scared to do normal, cute, romantic or comedy scenes. Actors feel like they are not doing anything if they are not going through some sort of emotional dilemma, but I have known actors who have secured auditions, just because their showreel isn't full of it.
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Viewers knowing who you are

If you think about it, someone watching cannot tell who you are by a name. There is no harm in putting a still image of yourself at the beginning of your showreel, to avoid people watching wondering who you are until the same person turns up in the second clip. Choose a photograph that encapsulates who you are. Avoid being 'too beautiful or polished' as it masks your individuality. Sell your biggest asset - you!
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