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Performer Success Manager Mel Brown’s advice on creating a showreel without professional footage and ideas for your ‘Audio’ section.

As a Spotlight member, you have space on your profile for at least 20 minutes of video and 20 minutes of audio. That’s 20 minutes for various clips and reels – all of which can showcase your acting and voice talents in a way that words on a web page never could.

While it’s not essential (or advisable) to use all 20 minutes of this space, it’s particularly important to upload something if you’re a Performer or Graduate member. When casting professionals use Spotlight to search for actors, they have the option to filter their results to only members who have video or audio files uploaded. Therefore, ensuring you have a showreel or voice reel uploaded to your profile is vital to prevent you from missing out on these searches.

We have plenty of helpful articles on how to make a showreel and how to edit your showreel. However, we often get asked questions about how members can make the most of their video and audio sections on Spotlight and what you should do if you don’t have professional footage to make a showreel with.

Although we’ve gathered as much information as possible, there are various opinions on this topic. It’s always important to do your own research and make up your own mind, but here’s what we’d recommend:

What Should You Include in Your Video Section?

Typically, your showreel should be around three minutes long – definitely no longer than five! – and will give whoever watches it an idea of your acting skills, your experience, and a chance to see you in action.

A showreel is vital for getting professional acting jobs and should ideally be made from professional footage from previous jobs. However, if you need professional footage to get jobs and can’t get professional footage without a job, how are you meant to make a showreel as a new actor in the industry?

Making a Showreel with a Little Experience

It may be that your current acting experience is with smaller projects like short films, music videos, or a speaking role as a background character in a TV show. Even if this is a short clip of 30 seconds, it’s better to have this on your Spotlight profile than nothing at all. 

Watch the clip and ask yourself the following:

  • Can I be heard speaking in this clip?
  • Can I be seen in this clip?
  • Am I the central focus of the camera?
  • Do I have full copyright clearance for this clip?

If the answer to all of the above is ‘yes,’ then use it for your showreel. It’s better to have footage that lets the casting director see and hear you than a moody, emotive music video. It doesn’t matter if the scene is short, just make sure there aren’t multiple people on-screen – otherwise, the casting director won’t know who to focus on. Ensuring full copyright clearance for any materials you use is also imperative.

Making a Showreel with No Experience

It may be that you’re brand new to acting or don’t have any usable footage of your previous roles. You might feel like putting a non-professional showreel on your profile would do more harm than good, but we wouldn’t recommend having nothing at all. All the casting director has then is your headshot and they will want to see what you look and sound like on camera.

If you decide to record your own footage for your showreel, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Choose a scene with more than one character. Ideally, you should be able to film with another actor, but if not, ask a friend or a family member to read the other part. Don’t worry if they don’t deliver the lines well. Acting is so much more than saying words from a script – it’s about emotive responses. 
  • Think about the piece you’re choosing to record and the casting bracket you currently fall into.
  • Never use footage you’re not happy with. If you’re not happy with the quality of the scene you’ve filmed, try again or record something else.
  • Record your scene like it’s a professional self-tape, but instead of going to a casting director, it’s going to your Spotlight profile.
  • Do not use anything in your showreel that has been used for a self-tape. These could potentially be embargoed or under an NDA, so make sure you’re using things from the mainstream, like published scripts.

What Does ‘Professional’ Footage Mean?

When we say ‘professional’ footage, we’re talking about clips from films, television series and other productions you’ve been in in a professional setting. 

If you record something for your showreel, it may not be professional, but as long as it’s high quality, you’re off to a good start. Aim for the same set-up as you would when filming a self-tape – ensure the sound, lighting, and framing are good, film it in landscape and check the footage isn’t technically jittery.

General Showreels Advice

  • Depending on your specialism, you may not want to upload too many video clips or showreels to your Spotlight profile. Really think about the material you’re putting on there and don’t belittle yourself if it’s not professional. Everyone has to start somewhere and casting directors are looking for someone to work with who has ability and technique. 
  • If you have specialisms in a number of areas, e.g. comedy or dance, then you should upload additional videos that highlight these.
  • For acting, it’s best to do a couple of contrasting pieces – one light-hearted and one serious. Don’t overthink this. Make sure you think about what will show different sides to you as a performer.
  • Your showreels shouldn’t be too long. Try to keep it between three to five minutes max.
  • Casting directors are very busy and they may not have time to watch your whole showreel, so make sure to really grab attention from the start. 
  • If you’re doing very contrasting pieces, you can separate clips into multiple files. Make sure to label them clearly and correctly, e.g. with the character name and general mood or genre of the piece. 
  • Don’t worry about uploading an introduction video – this is what your ‘About Me’ section is for.
  • If you decide to use a showreel company, do your research first. Using a company isn’t essential, as you don’t want your showreel to come across as too manufactured and you’ll have to pay for the service.
    NB: There are some brilliant companies out there but try to be aware of exactly what you’re paying for, compare costs with other companies and take a good, detailed look at the previous showreels they’ve made for actors.
  • You can also use your video section to showcase other skills, so if you’re an amazing gymnast, ice skater, etc., record footage of yourself showcasing your skills. 

What Should You Include in Your Audio Section?

Your audio section is the perfect place for adding voice reels, singing reels and clips of you doing accents. Whatever you upload, it’s essential to make sure everything is titled clearly and correctly so casting directors can go straight to what they’re interested in.

Take a look at our guide on everything you need to know about voice reels for more information on what to include in a voice reel

Audio Clip Tips

  • For your singing reel, it’s a good idea to choose contrasting pieces relevant to your casting range and type.
  • If you’re an actor-musician, you could do a video piece instead of an audio piece so casting directors can see you playing and singing.
  • When recording accent clips, choose a selection and record 30 seconds to a minute of you speaking in that accent. The focus isn’t on what you’re saying but on how well you deliver that particular accent.
  • You need to be competent enough in an accent to audition in it if called upon, so it’s best not to include clips for accents you’re still working on or practising.
  • It’s quality over quantity, so really think about what accents you can do well and sound fluent in. These will be the best accents to showcase – rather than spreading yourself thinly over too many accents.
  • If you’re good at many different accents, choose a few to include as clips and then write in your ‘About Me’ section that you have a strong ear for accents. You don’t need to list every single one you can do.

As with any new thing you upload to your Spotlight profile, it’s always best to check with your agent first – if you have one. If you’re unsure whether your new showreel or voice reel shows your off skills favourably, run it by your agent – or someone else you trust – to ensure they’re happy with it going on your profile. 

As your career progresses, you’ll find more and more great clips to use for your showreels and voice reels, so don’t worry too much about your first attempt. As long as you can be seen and heard clearly and in good quality, the clip should do the job.

Take a look at our website for more advice about showreels, including tips from casting directors.