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Dear West End Producer: What’s the best way for an untrained actor to make a showreel?

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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Set your phone to video mode, press record and start acting.

Obviously that’s one method, but it may not be the most effective. Actors used to have to wait months, years, even decades to get enough legitimate television credits to enable them to put a showreel together (but then again it was easier to get television roles then – reality TV stars didn’t steal all their jobs). But nowadays actors are in the enviable position of being able to create a showreel themselves.

However, as with anything, it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality that counts. If you’ve got a few decent television scenes then you can just edit them together. But if you don’t have any actual television scenes, don’t worry, there are many options. If you do a Google search you’ll find companies who offer ‘showreel-making’ services. They’ll do everything from making the tea to even acting in scenes with you (useful if all your actual actor friends are ‘craptors’ – bad actors). These services usually cost £300 upwards, but are an easy way of getting a showreel completed quickly. However, always check that the company is good by watching other showreels it has done – make sure that the actors are always in frame, that their mouths are moving at the same time as the dialogue, and that extreme close-ups of groin regions are minimal.

If you decide to do this, make sure the scenes you choose are similar to your age, and that they show you playing a variety of different characters. And please, for the love of Trevor Nunn’s double denim, avoid scenes from famous films. I recall a showreel that included a scene from Jurassic Park, which was actually rather well acted until two people ran on wearing ridiculous dinosaur costumes, jumped on top of the leading actor, and threw tomato ketchup all over him. Rather silly, but it did get Ross Kemp his series on Gangs, dear.

If you are on a budget, you can of course just film scenes with friends and edit them yourself, using software such as iMovie or Adobe Premiere. However, when editing it is vital you don’t make it too long. A showreel shouldn’t be long at all – in fact, anything more than five minutes causes casting directors to get anxious, dizzy and drunk.

Remember, the aim of a showreel is to show people how you look on screen, and also that you have some acting ability (although this is the least important bit. Truth is, if you’re incredibly good-looking the acting doesn’t matter one jot – just look at Orlando Bloom).

In terms of getting it to an agent, simply upload your showreel to YouTube or Vimeo, and send the link to several. Explain that it’s your new showreel, that you’re looking for representation, and that your mum thinks you’ve got the X factor. Then, if you’re lucky, they’ll have a quick look, decide within the first 10 seconds if you’re sexy enough, and then either call you in to meet them, or tell you to go away and pursue a different career working in retail. That’s showbiz, kid.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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