When my day job became an endless round of online meetings, and I was embarrassed about my lack of a decent bookshelf to create the right ambience, I ordered myself a green screen set-up with my birthday money. Although the kit I chose was relatively cheap, the quality isn’t bad at all. I have been able to discuss sales figures and other mundane topics from a wide variety of exotic virtual locations.
With digital performing and remote filming becoming a hot topic on the acting side, I have naturally been thinking about how I could use the green screen in that side of my work. I’m specifically, wondering if it is something I could put to good use to make my self-tapes stand out, and to use for new showreel scenes that I have been meaning to update.
Obviously, there is a difference between just throwing a bookcase image up behind a business meeting and acting effectively in front of a digital background, but I’m prepared to practise and invest in more kit. Do you think it is worth it?
It’s always a good investment to keep up with new technology, but if we are talking specifically about self-tapes and showreels, technical ability will only be a factor in deciding whether your work makes the grade if the visual or audio quality is so low that the person who requested the tape can’t see or hear you properly.
My concern with adding green-screen backgrounds into the self-tape mix is that distracting real-life backgrounds are already a turn-off for casting directors and producers. No matter how beautiful or appropriate a digital background might be, there is always the danger that it will pull the focus away from your performance to what it is going on behind you.
Unless a digital effect has been specifically asked for, I would give it a miss. The same general caution applies to showreel scenes. You want the viewer to focus on what you are doing as an actor rather than how you achieved an effect technically.
Whether we are going to invest our own time in self-producing a showreel, or our money to hire a company to do it for us, it is always worth reminding ourselves that the purpose of a showreel is to showcase our acting abilities and the types of character we are best at playing. A common error, especially in paid-for reels, is when an actor ends up playing their ‘dream roles’ rather than the types of role that actually suit their current skill set and playing age.
For example, I have seen many ‘lead detectives in murder investigations’ who simply look too young to have believably reached that position in any police force. Incongruities like this inevitably cause a distraction from the performance – no matter how good – and usually happen when showreel companies use off-the-shelf scripts or stock scenarios.
Digital backgrounds in your home-produced showreels – no matter how slick – could land you in the same position of choosing showreel scenes to match the backgrounds available, rather than your own specific abilities.
Depending on the software and image library you use, you also can’t be sure that a popular background image won’t be turning up in other reels too. You want your video material to leave the viewer wondering where they can see more of you, rather than whose reel they last saw that tropical beach or outer-space scene in.
It’s fine for those who have the cash to indulge in vanity projects, but not a great investment if you just want an effective marketing tool.