First of all, let's start with this statement - if you don't have an acting reel, get it done. Even if you have to try it the DIY approach, get it done. Not having headshots is as bad, but your acting reel is a #1 way to demonstrate your skill set online. So do it as soon as you can.

Actors constantly improve their skills and get better with new performances so they often have to redo their reels. Here are some hints for you:

Hint number 1:

Best way to sort each clip in your acting revel would be to find the best one and put it up front, followed by second best, third best, and so on, until your least best clips get pushed off past the 90 seconds mark.

Hint number 2:

if you ever get a better version of an acting reel, replace the old one rather than adding more acting reels to your site and to the social media and casting sites. Nobody will look at your first acting reel, see that it is so-so, and say, well maybe the next reel will be better. You have one minute to impress someone. Do it right. Having 10 one-minute drama acting reels is almost as bad as having one 10-minute drama acting reel. It's okay to have a reel for each genre, i.e. one comedy acting reel and one drama acting reel, but don't create multiples in the same genre. And don't mix genres.

Hint number 3:

Youtube and Vimeo offer jump-to-timeline links, so if you'd like to separate your clips, split them up in that way. I just did a quick search on YouTube for "comedy acting reel" and picked the top result that I will use as an example. If you were Michele Specht, you could send somebody a message that will say something along these lines, "Hey, here is my 2.5 minute comedy reel, which includes clips from Backyard Wedding, Fallout: Nuka Break, Kickin' It, Politics of Love and a few more." Notice how each url has something like "?t=113s" at the end. This means how many seconds into the video your acting reel will start playing. Similarly, on Vimeo you can use "#t=113" and it will do exactly the same thing.

Here are some other facts about acting reels:

  • acting reel length should be about 90 seconds at most, usually the shorter the better
  • always start your acting reel with the best footage
  • no need for introduction, casting directors already know what to expect
  • focus on performance
  • avoid production with too much graphics or loud music
  • do not use copyrighted music
  • similarly don't show unapproved work - make sure you get approval from content owner
  • don't mix genre's, keep comedy and drama separate
  • it helps to label each clip, so people know what they're watching
  • it's best to add your name contact information to the video at the beginning and at the end (slate / title card)
  • list your contact information in all places where video is viewable
  • avoid bad production value at all cost
  • upload it everywhere you can think of, i.e. video sites, social media sites, casting sites, your own website
  • never send the file as an attachment, always send a direct link to the video

Common follow-up questions:

  • what should I do if I'm a new actor and I don't have anything for my reel yet? - there are some companies out there that will write you a short script, shoot it and edit it for you - it's one option, but if I can be brutally honest, it's better to just get involved in some projects, find student films, do some pro-bono work for credits and footage, you'll get something in no time.
  • where can I find examples of a good acting reel? - google is your friend. We've had another blog post that teaches you how to google the correct way.  Utilize it. Here's an example query for google: intitle:"YouTube" "acting reel OR demo reel" - this will search for any page that has YouTube in a title, is not located on, has the words "acting reel" or words "demo reel" in it.
  • where can I find a profession editor to put my acting reel together? - I strongly recommend connecting with some of these on social media networks such as Stage 32. You can browse through all editors and check out their sample work as well. There's no better way than that. If you search for "best editors" you'll just find a lot of editors advertising their own services, it's best to judge them by their work rather than how they judge themselves.
  • if I wanted to do it myself, which software should I use? - other editors have their own preferences, but here are some examples to get you started, for PC you could try: AVS Video Editor, Sony Vegas Movie Studio, Lightworks (also on Mac), Pinnacle Studio, Corel Video or Adobe Premier Pro (also on Mac), CyberLink PowerDirector, Windows Movie Maker, Camtasia Studio or iSkysoft Video Editor. On a Mac you have Final Cut Pro, Lightworks (also on Windows), iMovie, Adobe Premier Pro (also on Windows). Once you pick your software, you can find tutorials on how to use them on Youtube. If you'd like one of these editors explained, post the name of the editor below and we'll get another blog post explaining it step by step.