How do I get work if I don’t have a showreel, or, how do I get a showreel if I can’t get work?


Published: 27/03/2012

by The Actors' Cafe


This week’s post is inspired by a tweet recently sent by casting director Dan Hubbard.


“Tip for Actors: If you don't have a showreel on your Spotlight you are not serious about your career.”


At the time he was preparing for a meeting with a director and a lot of the actors he wanted to push forward didn’t have a showreel on their Spotlight page. Let’s take a step back and look at this from the casting director’s point of view - they work as hard as we do to book a job, and want to give the best service they can possibly give, and when they recommend an unknown actor to a director they are putting their reputation in the hands of the actor. Casting director’s want to push unknowns forward to the director, but as the director hasn’t heard of them, perhaps they have no name or reputation and don’t come attached to an established agency, the casting director can only really push that actor forward with some evidence to support his belief - his reputation is on the line here, his career is on the line.


The actor needs the casting director to book work and the casting director needs the actor to complete his work, we need to work as a team, as actors we need to make sure that we give the casting director everything they need so they can do their job, they in turn will then be able to push you forward, get you an audition and let you do yours!


Long gone are the days when an actor’s tool kit (your marketing tools) was “headshot and a CV” now it’s a “headshot, CV and a showreel”. So yes, what he said was harsh, but the advice is solid and true! If you want to be taken seriously in this industry to you have to market yourself seriously. To be considered as a professional you must have a showreel.


After retweeting it to my followers the popular response was “How can I get work if I don’t have one?” 


I promise you it’s not as daunting as you might think, there are so many options available:


  • Student films, you work for a copy of the final piece. Bear in mind that students are learning to and some pieces will be better than others. But do your research on the college/university/school and aim for the final year and graduating projects. For example, the London Film School do a project with the National Gallery, writing a short story about one of their paintings, it’s usually filmed on 16mm and then screened at the National Gallery afterwards. 
  • Short films, again you’ll most likely be working for a copy, but you may get expenses too, however these tend to be a professional crew, usually making a short as a showreel piece for themselves before they move onto the first feature. Of course, don’t forget that working with these professionals are great networking opportunities too as they will go on to make more films.
  • Courses, there are a lot out there, you learn and then get something at the end, I can recommend Actors Studio at Pinewood, because I’ve worked with them before, they do some great courses, get you working with directors, producers and casting directors. So not only is it an opportunity to learn but also a great opportunity to create new relationships.
  • Companies, there are many individual companies out there offering a showreel service, do you research, if you go down this route make sure you get good recommendations, that you’re not wasting your money. I can only recommend one company myself Knights of Drama, run by Michael Hodell and Paul McNeilly, because Paul was my acting tutor for a time, and he’s marvellous! But always do your research, what works for one person might not always be the right fit for another.
  • Friends, get together with them, split the costs, write a piece, use something already out there, just do it! I quote Dan Hubbard again “Self taped two hander, well lit, short, sweet and effective will do. Make sure you have a variety of photos too.” Where there’s a will there’s a way.


So where do you find these jobs? Casting Call Pro, Shooting People, PCR, Talent Circle and Mandy.


It’s ok to be starting at the bottom, everyone starts there, don’t let the negative thought “I don’t have a showreel so I’ll never get work” get you down. Go out there and get the work you need to create a showreel! That’s the attitude of a professional!


Coffee Break Tips

  • It’s ok to do student films and free short films whilst your building up your showreel and CV
  • Get some actors together and create your own scenes
  • Cover all areas too, after putting up your showreel on Spotlight, put it up on your website, YouTube and Vimeo too – you never know who’ll see it :o)
  • Don’t get trapped in the ‘working for free’ part of your career, make a plan for how you intend to progress, what you need from it, and stick to it.