Actor Reels : When Is It Time To Get Footage?

If you're tired of feeling stuck on a career treadmill, maybe it's time to take a step back and do a quick assessment of your branding situation. Ok, you have the headshots. Great. How is your actor reel footage looking? Do you even have any? Are the ones you have up to industry standard?


Don't worry. While all these career checkboxes can seem overwhelming to keep track of and tick off - year in, year out... you'll get the hang of it. The most important thing is that you don't adopt a hasty, or desperate mindset.





When it comes to careers, patience is certainly a virtue.


Acting Agent Dustin Flores On the Importance of Patient

For the rest of this interview, visit Misfit Pandemia.


"To be patient and know that all you have control of is your craft and what you do. And if you're continuing to do good work and you're continuing to work on your craft and get better at certain things, you will succeed. There's unfortunately a very small percentage of being a great actor or a great singer. When it comes down to the end, it's who gets cast, right? There's so many things that go into who actually fits into that crazy puzzle that they're putting together at the end.



But I just think it's a patience. Being able to understand that not everybody is going to book everything and they're going to hit right away. And sometimes you have to invest in people and know that it will, the payoff may come later, or it may not. But it's going to, it may never, but it's worth it to try. You know, I think a lot of times as agents, we find someone that we're super inspired by. Or we see something, and we literally have no idea what we're going to do with them. Or where they fit at that moment"



Let's Start with the Obvious - When you have ZERO footage


There it is. The Perfect role - it was almost is if the universe itself incepted this logline into the screenwriter's subconscious and... BAM! An audition submission primed and ready.


Just. For. You.


So you giddily submit your application, attaching your pristine headshot. And then the eager anticipation begins.


Except, you'll probably be waiting a while. See, if you didn't send the application with ANY reel footage, there's a 1000% chance that Actor's Access will bump your submission to the bottom of the queue.


Right below the hundreds (if not thousands) of other submissions with attached clips. By the time they get to your application - if they do at all- they'll have already seen several others. The CDs will have a tough time gauging your potential for the role since they don't have a way to tell how you handle yourself in-front of the camera.


The opportunities will keep ticking by until you find a way to crawl out of career purgatory. Start that climb with a proper acting reel - one that properly captures your authenticity. After all, no one is better at being you than... you guessed it.





Waiting on Student Film Footage


Ok. You're a resourceful, patient creative. Why not go the student film route? After all, they're young and hungry cinema lovers who love to tell a story. Doesn't cost a dime, either.


And maybe it's not the greatest pay. Hell, maybe it's not even the greatest writing - but screw it, there's an opportunity to get some sexy new footage with YOU at the helm.


... Right? Hello?


After a few years of playing that hand, you might come to realize this path isn't the most reliable one. For nuuuumerous freaking reasons.


The most important one being : there is hardly any guarantee that all of your efforts into bringing your A game as an actor will end up in usable footage for your reel.


Largely because student filmmakers have a frustrating reputation for taking their sweet freaking time getting their projects finished. Most of the time, actors end up hunting down the post-production team for months (even years) before finally getting their "golden" clip.


Only to find out that the edit has been cut to shit, your role diminished, the worst takes used, etc.


While it didn't cost you a dime, you did lose a lot of time - which, as we all know, is the most precious resource. You can't get those months back.



Terrible Sound


To elaborate further on the unusable clips topic, let's assume you did snag some footage for your reel. One of the first elements (besides your performance) you should analyze is sound.


Here's a general rule of thumb with film production: you can get away with average - or even sub-par- camera quality, but poor sound screams AMATEUR.


If the the aesthetic is grainy or blurry, you might be able to write it off as a stylistic choice. But you can't hide the crappy sound cinema sin.


Casting Directors looking at footage with tinny sound, distracting background noise, and poor mixing will quickly sniff out the production as unprofessional - and even if you're giving a Meryl Streep level, your talent will be upstaged by the production.


So if what you have right now sounds like horse-shit, maybe you shouldn't send it out for your next Marvel Studios submission.


Weak Writing


Yes, actors. Honor the writer and elevate the material. But let's face it - not every screenwriter knows what they're doing. Sooner or later, you're going to come across a script so abhorrent, it would be better off existing as a forgotten relic on a dusty attic shelf.


But we're actors. We like to say yes - because, hey... it's work! Of course, that doesn't mean every piece of work should earn a roster spot on your 2 minute reel. Clunky dialogue, poorly developed characters, weak stakes all create an uphill battle for even the most seasoned actors.


And, for some industry professionals, it can be hard to separate the writing from the actor - not necessarily unfair, since the collaboration between both is a necessary symbiosis.


Regardless... If you're trying to be seen for some hard-hitting HBO level productions, maybe say YES to writing that can match or at least suggest that caliber.


Terrible Cinematography


While we did say earlier that if you HAD to pick between crappy sound or crappy footage, the former is a far less dangerous sin to commit.


BUT - that's not say that you should package grainy, hard-to-see footage into your materials. A self-produced reel should still come off as a professional production. And the scene should feel like it's a moment lifted out of a bigger story.


With that said, actors... you want reel footage that shows your face clearly...especially the eyes. The shot styles should also approximate the kind of show (s) you're trying to be pitched for. So if it's a dark, gritty procedural, the cinematography shouldn't look too bright and bubbly, etc.


So if the clips in your actor reel aren't living up to those standards, maybe it's time to consider freshening it up!


Father Time - The Undefeated


It might also be time to seek out a new actor reel if all you have right now are clips from projects you did years ago. A lot can happen in a few years - maybe you got a new haircut, put on weight, lost weight, etc. Whatever the case, if you don't quite look like the person in the reel, then maybe steer clear of submitting to casting agents with it.


The last thing you want is to walk into the CDs look of total confusion when they have a hard-time reconciling the person in the room is the same person who submitted on Actor's Access.


With all that said, understand that even with all the right packaging you won't immediately be brought in for that coveted MCU lead role. The footage you get now will serve as your entry point into the industry. Casting Directors will take their time getting to know you by bringing you in for the smaller parts... and as long as you're coming in prepared and confident, they'll remember you for all the right reasons.


And, eventually, that acquaintance will grow into a fan!


In the words of Acting Agent Dustin Flores:


"Be patient and know that everybody's journey is different. And if you fall into the trap of comparing yourself to your friends or then it's going to be a very short career for you. You have to just keep your eye on the prize and know that if you wake up in the morning and can think of doing nothing else, you're doing the right thing and you're on the right path. You just go, it's just a matter of time before it happens."




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