Acting : Why Your Acting Showreel Is NOT The Place To Show Versatility by Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson

Why Your Acting Showreel Is NOT The Place To Show Versatility

Why Your Acting Showreel Is NOT The Place To Show Versatility - Daniel Johnson Films
Why Your Acting Showreel Is NOT The Place To Show Versatility - Daniel Johnson Films
I must admit that, in the past, I have got this completely wrong. When creating showreels from scratch I have advised actors to show all of their versatility. You wanna show you can play a serious doc…
Renate Morley

Brilliant. So true. I produced, filmed and edited my own showreel so I was in charge and could show where I am best at. Check it out: http://youtu.be/bDOqPbIXOEs

Daniel Johnson

Thanks for reading all!

Emily Verdict

Working on my reelz re-doing my website! Gives us a chance to show YOURSELF the way you want them to see you instead of them molding you the way they want to mold you!

Renate Morley

How strange Emily. The last character I played in DEAD AND AWAKE feature (now in the edit) was called Emily. Yes, you are so right. Showreels made by companies for us often reflect the way they see us, not what we really are. I wrote, filmed and edited my own showreel but it wasn't easy. The learning curve was brutal. Good luck with yours!

Emily Verdict

Yes! Renate i know it is challenging! Daniel thanks for that link! It was dead on! Play to your strengths then let the rest follow!

Una Love

Hi Daniel, interesting read. I think there's a balance between playing to your strengths and showing versatility. I'm all for focusing on and enhancing your strengths, in fact in the work I do with creative businesses I help them figure out which one of 8 different business growth paths suits their particular blend of strengths and personality. The fact is that top agents and casting directors do want to know you can do more than one thing. My acting teacher was only talking about this in my last class. I think HOW you define that one thing is absolutely key... So for instance with your actress who was missing something in the comedy, etc but nailed it with the dramatic scene. She could have taken the essence of her that related most to that scene and played with it along a continuum to create different characters that show versatility while staying within her strengths.... Think Jack Nicholson and how he explodes in most of his films, yet didn't in About Schmidt and how powerful that was. I'm not an expert in this (yet) however I'm planning to go to a workshop this summer with Sam Christensen in London (he's based in LA) to explore more of this. He's got a wonderful 3-part video explaining it better than I could here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLoD_bnTZ6OnU6-xzp3e40P3NXwAEJQgto I guess with everything in acting specificity is key... ;-) PS I'm not 100% there yet with my own reel I think! I've some variety but am currently doing deep character work with physicality and accents in class that means my next reel will be on a whole new level...

Matthew Cornwell

Una, you will LOVE the Sam Christensen workshop. I did it in Atlanta a few years ago, and it was a game changer for me and countless others who have taken it in this market. You will not only learn more about yourself when it comes to the roles you will excel at, but you will also be able to instantly take better headshots. I recommend this workshop to EVERYONE, not just actors. Believe it or not, it can improve marriages when both spouses take it. I certainly agree with Daniel's "revelation" in this article. Playing to your strengths is the key. I just sat through an actor's symposium yesterday in Atlanta, and both east and west coast CDs emphasized this same thing. Additionally, they reinforced that CLIPS are much better than REELS when it comes to what you're posting on your various casting websites (specifically Actors Access). When they look at your videos, they are almost always working on one character in one project, so they don't want to see versatility. For example, if they're casting a state trooper for a film, they don't care about the clip of you playing a vampire, or your slacker from a mumblecore film. They only want to see that clip of you as a police officer from Law & Order. Short video clips are much preferred over the 1-3minute showreel or speed reel.

Mike Milton

Go with your strengths is a wonderful bit of advice. Thanks for sharing as This would not have been my first inclination either. Now it seems rather obvious. I guess all really good thoughts are obvious - but only after someone does the hard work of thinking them through and expressing them. Thanks again.

Una Love

Very interesting Matthew and good to hear re. the Sam Christensen workshop! I'm really looking forward to it. I'm curious, what did you come away with from it in terms of how you know/market/articulate who you are as an actor?

Matthew Cornwell

Una, it may sound simple, but Sam holds up a mirror to you. By the end of the image workshop you have a very clear idea of how the world sees you, and by extension, what sort of roles people need you to play. Jack Nicholson was brought up earlier. He is the epitome of volatility. We NEED him to show us that volatility, because he owns that type of character. So in a way, the workshop gives you a much smarter approach to your acting. You fully understand why some roles are easy and require very little prep, while others seem impossible. You also start to notice others picking up what you now know to be true about yourself. And lastly, you walk away with an entire new vocabulary to describe yourself. So when a casting director asks "tell me about yourself", you don't say something boring like "I was born in Florida..." Instead you can rattle off Essence Statements that are much more interesting and telling about your personality. I could go on and on, but in the end, it's something you have to experience :)

Rhonda Husak

I guess I missed something....who's Sam that you mentioned.

Daniel Johnson

Hi Alle - thanks for your input. As a creator of showreels from scratch I get what you're saying and agree with many parts. I wrote a blog a few months ago about how actors shouldn't substitute learning through short films by skipping to a shot from scratch reel. I see the showreels I create as representing actors where they are at this point in their careers. Many have done tons of short films, but have nothing to show for them - new and upcoming filmmakers can be so terrible at returning footage. I get what you mean about not watching reels from scratch, but I shoot them in the same way I shoot my film projects and my web-series, many of which have used very established and well known actors here in the UK. It's a platform for actors much like anything else. It's disappointing you disregard them so easily, but then most reels from scratch are bad, so I can understand! Overall though, of course, I agree - the important thing is experience.

Renate Morley

When I started my career again two years ago, I had to start from scratch. Via the internet I found a writer/director in London who not only made feature films, but also showreels from scratch. He wrote the part for me, directed and edited it which turned out so successful, that it helped me to find more work. So, who is right in this discussion?

Daniel Johnson

Renate - I know so many actors who have had a similar experience - including many of my clients. Alle speaks in absolutes - but I think it is much like anything else in this industry; some people have good experiences, some have bad - we all take what works for us and move on forward :) I'm glad a reel from scratch worked for you. Good luck to all of you with your careers :)

Renate Morley

Well, it went even further. He wrote a substantial part for me in his feature which was filmed 2013 and is now in the edit. I think actors should be very careful whom they trust with their showreel. Do your homework first!!!

Renate Morley

Hiya Alle. Spot on. A show reel is a reel that shows what you have done. But if you haven't done anything for years cause you have had family commitments , and have just come back into the business after the children left and your husband passed away....... what do you do? I think you have no choice but to go for a show reel from scratch. What I learned though is if the people who make your show reel are not in tune with each other and yourself, and if the reel is too over the top, casting directors spot this and loose interest. It needs directors who see beyond the actors acting. I was just blessed to have found one of those ingenious directors.

Renate Morley

David, you are so right. It's shocking! I checked my 'Statistics with Casting Call' where I can see not only which casting director viewed 'My Profile', but also which item they viewed such as: 1. Viewed Profile, 2. Viewed file (showreel), 3. Viewed Gallery. No views on my showreels, only views on my profile 2013. In my opinion that means that CD's are fed up watching either badly made showreels or too over the top produced ones. Many thanks!!!! Renate

Michael J Smyth

A bit late into this but some very interesting points which I must bear in mind as I'm about to get my own reel sorted. Its not a short for a reel as thankfully I'm lucky to have been 1 of hte main characters in a feature we made and also quite a number of shorts under my belt. I had been thinking about the number of different scenes I could use which hopefully could highlight versatility but I'll have to give this plenty of thought.

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