The BIG Actor Video Question: Answered!

  • Admin |
  • March 30, 2018 |
  • 12:52 p.m.

The BIG Actor Video Question:  Answered!

by Brad Holbrook
President, Actors Insite

                                                                                                           actor w_slate
You’ve been there. About to submit yourself for the role that you can play better than anyone.  Casting wants to see your reel. But…your reel maybe sucks, or maybe is just not as great as you know you are, or maybe you don’t even have a reel.

Of all the actors I work with, from the still-in-school newbies, to pros with looooooong IMDb pages, the issue they most often discuss with me is the dilemma of how best to submit video to casting.

There are, of course, many options. But almost no one that I speak to knows the actual value of those choices. And, worse, you can choose to submit something that will do worse than shoot yourself in the foot. It can sabotage your career. Which choice, you may ask, is that?

Well, like with many things: It depends.

Let’s go over the choices you have to satisfy the “must have video” issue.

1. The demo reel. Industry standard for a long, long time. All the way back to when the demo was actually on a reel. Today, an effective demo reel should be about 2 minutes long, with some leeway depending on how good the material is, and should include 3 or 4 projects, cleverly edited, easy to watch, with titles, and contact info at the beginning and end. Since casting often only watches enough of a demo reel to see if you’re what they have in mind, type-wise, which could be only a few seconds, you need to front load the reel with your best stuff. It should be online, one click away. If you have the luxury of lots of great stuff, you could have a comedic reel and a dramatic reel. Most recent footage gets priority. Any one type of character shouldn’t be repeated. No montages. Don’t put stuff in just because you have it.  Student film and web series footage is okay, but must be really good. Bad sound quality is usually the biggest problem with non-professional projects and can make casting’s ears hurt and their fingers click “next”.  

2. The monologue on video. This is a much more popular answer to the Big Actor Video Question than it was just a few years ago. A well chosen speech from a quality (but not overdone) play, movie or TV show can absolutely move you to the next round. The key here is to make sure that it is professionally shot (or at least looks as if it was). Lighting and sound (again) are the biggest pitfalls of many monologues on tape.  Should be about a minute in length. Shot in close up with a non-distracting background and you in non-distracting clothing. Perfect to submit for projects that need a character similar to what your character is in the monologue.  (Disclaimer: There are still some CDs who don’t like monologues on tape, but their number is getting smaller every year. And they’ve been in the minority for a while now.)

3.  The Self Tape Scene. The self tape revolution of the early 2000’s was a huge game changer for casting. Once CDs discovered that you really can evaluate actors for roles without meeting them in person (some were dragged to that realization kicking and screaming) it paved the way for casting and reps to “meet” actors in the way only in the room auditions could before. To create a great self tape actors can choose scenes from current TV shows, polish them up without an audition deadline looming, record them professionally, and submit them as the equivalent of (sometimes better than) a demo reel. You need a good reader, and of course the same great lighting and sound as with the monologue. I’ve seen many actors record scenes like this with tremendous results. Should be about 2 minutes in length and the best result is when you choose a scene for which you were a natural choice for casting.

4. The Stand Alone Clip. A lot of actors have one or two perfect scenes from film or web series but not enough of them to make a great reel.  When a performance is so good that taking a 20 second clip from it to put in a reel is a disservice, you can create a stand alone clip. Something similar to the Self Tape Scene in the way it works, these longer clips are very popular now. “Here’s me as the angry spouse” or “Here’s me as the private dick interrogating the suspect”, that sort of thing. These should also be about a minute in length. The trend today is for more stand alone clips and self-tape scenes than reels. But reels are still the gold standard. Many actors have several scenes and/or clips in their Actors Access profile, clearly labeled as what they are, making it very easy for casting to see exactly what they need to see.

So, which is your best foot forward, the one that has the lowest chance of shooting yourself in that foot?

Whichever of the above possibilities shows you off best. I see actors submitting demo reels that never should be shown to anyone. They’re too long, poorly edited, include too much C+ student film footage, not labeled, take 15 seconds to get started, feature the other actors, too many scenes of the same character type, etc., etc. It seems to me that their choice to submit these reels is mostly based on a presumption that a bad reel is better than no reel at all. It’s not! Not today, anyway, when the other options listed here could work so much more in your favor.

You only have one chance to make a first impression. You definitely have the chance to put yourself in the strongest, best spotlight you can. The choice is yours.

                                                                                                                      logo Blue  Gold walpha
Expert demo reel editing is available at If your footage is online or can be delivered via the internet you don’t even have to come in to the studio. Email for a free consultation on how best to proceed.

You can showcase your work to the top industry pros in the business seamlessly, easily and affordably at Actors Insite, the online actors’ workshop. No membership required. Create your actor profile at and get started today!