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Acting Reels Debunked

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Author: Bob Fraser

One of the questions I am frequently asked is this one:

'What should I put on my demo reel?'

Here's the short answer: The only thing you should put on your demo reel is acting work (on film or tape) that you've been paid to do.

The biggest mistake I've seen being made, with regard to demo reels, is the inclusion of work under the AWFF contract. AWFF, for those of you who don't know, is Actors Work For Free. (Sometimes called, Actors Work For Food.)

Productions under this 'contract' are frequently inadequate when it comes to delivering a professional final product - from which you can excerpt that helpful 23 seconds of footage you desperately need for your demo reel.

Amateur footage on your reel can hurt you a lot more than it can help you - with casting people and directors and producers - who, in the main, are looking for professional actors someone else has already hired (for money). It just makes good business sense.

Why should Mr. Producer be the first one to hire an untried, experimental, newly minted, actor?

Bottom line? As a producer, I simply want a pro. Why? Because my money's going out the door rather quickly and I don't really have time to 'bring someone along.' So, your assignment, should you decide to accept it, is to get as much paid work as you can.

When they are actually paying you to act, you have an improved chance of getting an adequately lit, properly recorded, and decently photographed piece of footage. Believe me, that stuff counts.

If your footage looks amateurish, pros will dismiss it ... and all who participated. Especially you ... since you asked them to look at it.

Is dismissal the result you want? I didn't think so. The second most frequently asked question on this subject is this: 'What do I do if I don't have any professional footage?'

Answer: Don't waste your time trying to put a demo reel together.

And, for goodness sake, don't spend 100's of hours of your precious time trying to get that elusive (and quite infrequent) lucky bit of footage from an AWFF production. You're better off spending those 100's of hours, marketing your acting business to the people who can help you; agents, casting directors, directors, producers, et al.

2 weeks spent putting together an attractive, interesting, selling, post-card to send to casting directors, will most probably yield ten times the result ... compared to two weeks doing 'Amateur Night In Poughkeepsie' - wasting time playing a misunderstood street-wise street-person in a badly written, self-important, disorganized, drama about a twenty- something film-maker ... who is coming of age ...

.. on your dime! (AWFF contracts usually require you to come up with extra money out of YOUR budget.)

I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

In other words, it's probably a good idea to stop looking for short-cuts and loop-holes and start looking for acting jobs that pay.

After all, that's why you're doing this, right?

Don't worry, you'll get your great demo reel ... eventually.

Fact: No matter how wonderful technology becomes, it will never do the hard work part FOR you. Now you know the reel deal.

About the author: Copyright 2010 Bob Fraser - Bob is an actor, writer, director and producer whose credits can be found on IMDb or by searching the web. You can subscribe to his free newsletter and website and get a download of his popular book, The Show Biz Brain, for free - by going here to his website.

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