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Phil Willmott: This is what’s wrong with your showreel

Photo: SpeedKingz/Shutterstock
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This morning I looked through 468 submissions for a theatre piece I’ll be directing in a few months. I can audition about 50 at a push. I need 10. However, 468 is a comparatively small amount. This is a micro-budget project – for better-funded projects you can multiply that number by at least six, and much more if you’ve advertised for women in their 20s. (If you fall into that category, I really don’t envy you. The odds on you even getting an audition if you’ve no profile are shocking.)

Anyway, back to my trawl through the 468 CVs. It struck me how essential having a video showreel is. I don’t think I selected anyone I couldn’t have a look at first via their reel because I don’t want to waste any of the coveted audition slots on anyone who isn’t suitable.

I’d like to make the point that for theatre casting the vast majority of these compilations are pretty useless. Now, I do appreciate that they’re predominantly aimed at getting performers TV and commercial work but, even so, do the people who make these videos even consider ease of use for casting purposes?

Phil Willmott: Here’s the real reason you didn’t get that audition

Imagine you’re going to look through, say, 400 clips to make your selection. Most of them start with a blast of loud music. Can you imagine how irritating that is 400 times? Most of them have five seconds of the artist’s picture with their Spotlight pin. Why? If we’re accessing your little film it’ll be via Spotlight anyway or via an email from you or your agent. It’s just unnecessarily irritating to see this 400 times.

The most frustrating thing for anyone selecting auditionees for a text-based theatre piece from showreels is you often have to search hard among the reaction shots to hear the actor actually string a sentence together. I guess that’s fine for commercial casting and extra work, but I’d imagine even screen casting directors want to hear you speak.

It’s also amazing how many showreels focus on scenes in which the actor plays (or reacts to) psychopathic types. Is there really that much call for that to warrant the disproportionate amount of ‘I can be a bit sinister’ clips that are out there?

If there’s a selection of clips, many showreels just comprise the artist using the same accent in various ‘Barratt Homes’ settings and wine bars, which I suppose means we should conclude the artist can’t do anything else.

You often have to look hard for sections that demonstrate RP. I’d have thought RP would be more in demand then people who can play psychos, but based on the 400 or so clips I’ve just looked through, it would seem not.

In these days when almost every one of us carries a video camera on our phones and when clips are so easy and free to upload, I just don’t get why actors can’t film a short piece to camera so those of us casting can’t get an instant look at what you look and sound like without having to trawl through clips of you hitting people, running through corn fields or reacting on the phone while loud music plays.

It needn’t be anything fancy: just 60 seconds, straight on, demonstrating the accents you can do, that you haven’t got a speech impediment and whether you can do RP.

If you’re interested in Shakespeare, surely it makes sense to also have uploaded a short selfie of you doing classical text. It would be so easy to provide.

If you’re applying for text-based theatre jobs, please consider uploading on to your Spotlight CV a text-based alternative to your main CV of reaction shots and mumbling monosyllabically in EastEnders cockney. Unless, of course, that’s all you can do.

It would make directors’ and casting directors’ lives so much easier. It may even get you more work.

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