Do I Need A Reel?

There are a lot of different schools of thought with regard to reels. As an agent in the SE, this is my 2 cents…

The strongest footage for anything, whether it is for a reel or clips to post on Actors Access, is from current, recognizable shows. For example, Nashville, The Walking Dead, The Originals, The Vampire Diaries, Sleepy Hollow—the list goes on. The best clips showcase your character and are not more than 30 seconds or so. If you have a larger role, you can edit for the strongest clips and go up to about 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, but not much longer.

A speed reel is generally a minute or less.  It gives us a quick glimpse into a variety of your work.

The 2 to 3 minute reel gives you time to establish scenes more thoroughly and is my preference, but only if you have the legitimate footage for it. Again, the legitimate footage is from recognizable shows. Ideally, you have 4-5 different clips included in the reel.

Now, I know there are a lot of actors out there who are reading this and thinking, but I am trying to get hired.  I do not have the recognizable credits yet.  So what do I use in the meantime?

If it is not recognizable, I am only really interested in seeing footage if it is amazing quality and really demonstrates that you have acting chops. If you have done a short film or even a student film, those are good sources for you. That said, I would not spend a lot of money putting these clips together for a reel. If you are capable and can do it yourself, that makes sense.  Otherwise, I would place individual clips from these projects on Actors Access.

2-4 clips on AA can make an impact.  Clearly label and describe the clips, so that casting can glance at them and tell if there is a relevant character being showcased, that is helpful to them. Then, it is worth the $20 a minute to post.  I know that AA has said that having some footage uploaded will help to place you above the headshots of other actors who do not have footage when casting views a submission. I have never had casting indicate that it makes a significant difference for them.

In our current market, good, solid reels are most important for talent who have significant credits. Casting will reach out to us directly for a downloadable version, so they can pitch an actor on a role. This procedure has become more and more commonplace, particularly during pilot season.

In our current market, good, solid reels are most important for talent who have significant credits.

I love the fact that technology has enabled everyone to become a filmmaker these days. For most actors, there are means and ways to procure footage, but be sure it is really strong, otherwise you look unprofessional.

Surely some actors are reading this blog who are in search of an agent, and they are asking: shouldn’t I have a reel to help me procure an agent? Again, if the footage really showcases your acting, then yes.  But so often new talent send us a reel, and the footage does not show us what the actor can do, so we end up sending them a scene to tape anyway.

There are services and professionals who help talent to create reels. These are options if you want the experience of writing, shooting and putting together footage, but they are not marketable reels. If you want the experience, it is great, but the selling feature for this investment should not be that you come out with a truly useful reel.

One of my biggest pet peeves with reels is to see footage (recognizable or not) that is poor quality and grainy. There are services out there that can pull footage for you. If the quality is poor, it is likely older footage, and the current work is a big piece of having a successful reel.

And, what I say today, may not be true tomorrow.



Lisa Mae Fincannon of Fincannon & Associates was kind enough to take some time and speak with me about the TV/Film business in the southeast. She spoke several times about the importance of being generous and gracious, and she could not have been more so to me as she is a busy lady these days, juggling several projects and lots of hats. Many thanks to you, Lisa Mae.

For more information on Lisa Mae and Fincannon & Associates, please visit their website.

w/ Lisa Mae Fincannon of Fincannon & Associates

1) What excites you the most about what you do?

That’s an easy one for me. At heart, I am a writer. So when the right human being says the right word, I find that moment is magic. I am looking for the perfect union of the word and someone’s soul. This happens a lot in scripts I have a connection to. I have that with Ray (Mckinnon) in Rectify, and it happens with The Walking Dead. I have an actor tape, and I know that they are right for it. I still send on the top 5, but I know who it is when I send over the tape. Sometimes agents will also put actors in their submission; they will suggest someone, and I think, well may be the actor could be right for this role. Then I hear it and know they are right.

2) What goes into the process of choosing a project for Fincannon & Associates?

The creative voice is what feeds Fincannon & Associates. We are in a wonderful place in our careers where we are not forced to take something we don’t want to work on. If there are projects that we hear about, we will court them. I am not very interested in tent pole movies. It is not as rewarding to cast Soldier #1, but there is a place for those as well sometimes. I embrace cable, and I look for recurring and series regular roles. The growth in the market has not changed us much at all; we have not changed our approach over the years. If anything, it has given us a freedom we did not have before. In the past, if we were too busy, and we said no, they would call and beg us, and we would feel obligated. Then we get too busy and are strung out from the work. We look for a balance in things now. I will quote Craig here, he says “Competition keeps us good and healthy.”

3) Since our market is predominantly one of self-tapes, what propels a self-tape to the next level and can you describe its journey?

Since actors are no longer in the room and selling themselves, then the basic great lights, good sound and a strong reader who is not better than you are important. Actors have to take things to the next level in the world of internet casting. Creativity needs to be at play. Look for ways to bring ambiance to the scene through taping choices; create mood with the use of lighting. I also encourage actors to say something at the end of the tape, with the slate. It is nice to humanize the taping experience. Be kind, grateful and gracious. Even in the room for callback situations, it is easy to be nervous as you audition for this committee of 4 or more. If you don’t feel comfortable with taking an artistic risk in the room, be sure to make your mark in a gracious way after you read. Do not underestimate the importance of a thank you.

4) There are several new projects that will be shooting in Wilmington this spring, can we expect to see more episodics and features coming back to North Carolina?

It looks like our incentives will be eeking back in N.C. I am hoping the establishment here is seeing the error of their ways and moving towards them again. I can say that the series that are here are very happy. I expect it to grow. Craig and I are many generation North Carolinians and we can be here, and Mark can be based out of our Atlanta office. We feel so blessed that we can work in both markets.

5) When you are not casting the next big blockbuster or an exciting new pilot, what is an average day off for you?

I have 3 grandchildren under the age of 6 and 3 parental units over the age of 80, so my days off are spent interacting with them as much as possible.
The 2 things that I love most are cooking and gardening. My family calls me the sauce-o-saurus and the soup-o-saurus. On a Sunday, I open the fridge and put anything that may go bad in the next 2 days in a pot. You have a genetic propensity to love cooking or not.

***Biggest pet peeve.
It’s not in me to have a pet peeve, but I guess my one would be when a great performance is ruined by a bad reader. When someone’s grandma is louder and pulls all the focus off of the actor in the scene, I cannot send it on. Of course, sometimes it backfires if the reader is amazing. I remember the first time I ever heard Brian Bremer read with someone. I called the actor’s agent and said the person is ok, but the reader is incredible. It’s a double edged sword. You need a proficient reader, but they cannot over-shadow the person auditioning.

And people who are not gracious.

***Best piece of advice for the working actor.
The piece of advice I would give everyone, and I struggle with this everyday myself, is to live in the moment. We get caught up in the next thing and the rat race, and we forget to enjoy the moment. Don’t take anything for granted, soak every bit in and love it!

5 Questions

With this blog, I hope to provide information about the industry, but I also want to more voices than just my own.  I will be debuting a new segment for AMT-OLOGY called 5 QUESTIONS. For this segment, I will interview prominent figures working in the industry for advice, pointers and pet peeves in the business.

Stay tuned for my first interview with Lisa Mae Fincannon of Fincannon & Associates.

Taped Auditions

The audition is the win. In this world of self-taped auditions, I realize it is very frustrating not to go in a room and show what you can do.  We can spend days writing about how much this takes away from the actor and the process.  I understand, but that is not now, and it is not our market.  You will be doing self-tapes.

So, you need to find a way to love them as much as going in the room. You are an actor, and you love to act.  I assume as the adage goes that there is nothing else that you can possibly do that lights a fire in you and makes you feel completely fulfilled. Acting is it for you.

With every taped audition request you receive, you are being asked to act. Isn’t that what you wanted? Embrace it.  You can do whatever you want with this audition.  In fact, you can now mount your own full-scale production. You control the lights, sound, and wardrobe. Best of all, you are the director. You make all the choices. The only thing that would be more amazing is if you actually got paid to do it.  But with the audition, the possibility of booking is being presented as well. The audition is the win.

While you wait for the next audition, feed the artist in you. If you do not have a group of actors that you can exercise your acting chops with, then start looking for them. Write your own work, tape, critique and share. Repeat. Your success depends partially on your ability to be in the right positive space as an artist when the auditions do land. There should never be a sense of needing to get ready to audition. You are always ready and waiting for the next opportunity.

And, what I say today, may not be true tomorrow.