I don’t remember if this is a subject I touched on here, but today I wanted to talk about reels. If you’re new to this industry a reel can be summed up as 2 minute footage of an actor’s previous work. The premise of it is for the Casting Director and the client they represent to see how well the actor looks and performs on film. Often times when you submit yourself to a casting, you would include a headshot, résumé, and a copy of your reel.
Here are some issues that come into play with a reel: 1) you need to work on projects that will give you reel copy, like very low budget and/or student films. Even though I submit myself to projects like these quite often, I very rarely get picked. 2) In place of not getting picked for projects like these, what you can do instead is pay to have a custom reel made…however, you are looking at paying a considerable sum of thousands of dollars for a quality reel.
Now the latter half is only a temporary problem. Yes, the cost is high and I need to raise the capital first, but it can be done nonetheless.
My issue is actually with the low budget projects, because the producers are now getting very bold about requesting a reel to even be seen for an audition. Why does this bother me at all? Well, if the low budget production was giving me monetary compensation for my work on their project, then it wouldn’t be a problem at all. It’s the NON-PAYING projects that really irk my nerves in regards to a reel. This is to do with the very fact that they offer the footage of your work as copy for your reel as compensation. Do you see the failed logic here?
If a production is offering me copy for my reel and credit on their film as compensation, what makes them think I have a reel to begin with? And if I did drop the few thousand dollars for a custom reel, why would I submit that to projects that aren’t going to offer me a return on my investment?
Where is the compensation?
Now mind you, there are plenty of people in this industry that would tell you, this is a labor of love, it shouldn’t be about the money. On some level they are right, but not quite. My landlord isn’t going to accept my labor of love as rent. The power company isn’t going to accept my labor of love to keep the lights on. My cell provider isn’t going to accept my labor of love to keep my phone on. So on and so forth. I also acknowledge that there are projects that I’m going to do for free and that is perfectly normal, but guess what? I do get some form of compensation for my time.
I get IMDB credit for my time.
I get another theatre credit to add to my resume for my time.
I get training to add to my résumé for my time.
I get reel footage for my time.
I get nominated for awards for my time.
Every step brings me closer to what I want out of this career, to do something I love and be able to take care of myself financially to do it. That’s the point.
This industry gets on my nerves sometimes.