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  • Writer's pictureAndi Matheny

No demo reel? Create acting clips for your casting profiles!

By now, you're likely familiar with this fact of acting life: a demo reel is essential for your career. It's your calling card for casting—they want to see if you can act, what you look like on tape, what your essence is, and how you could possibly fit into projects that they cast. And if you haven't yet been cast in projects that you can harvest clips from, the next best thing is to create your own for your casting profiles. But, how do you create a clip that not only stands out but shows you at your best?

This is not just a new actor's predicament–sometimes experienced actors with credits feel like their demo reel is missing big chunks of what their casting should be, they just haven't had the opportunity to be cast in those roles yet.

Demo reels and acting clips are an ongoing discussion in my classes for both new and experienced actors. Here are my suggestions on how to create the clips that show you off the best.

 - First of all, class is essential. If you're in a class working on scenes weekly, you will start to find material that suits you. It may take a while, but at some point, there will be a scene that you will be especially connected to, that seems like it was written for you. Another reason why class is important is, you'll be inspired by the scenes that other students bring in. Maybe someone will bring in a scene from a movie or TV show that you've never heard of, and that will be a lightbulb moment for you. Pay attention to that.

 - In addition to working on written material, in my classes, my students are encouraged to write their own, starting with the Personal Scene, where they write a scenario that they experienced in their life. These scenes are always brilliant. Know why? Because the scenes are true to their name—they're personal—and because of that, the acting is always truthful and the actors easily achieve an emotional connection.

 - With the written scenes and the Personal Scene under your belt, write a new scene, inspired by either or both. For example, one of my students did a Personal Scene about a loss, and in turn was brilliant in a scene from The Way We Were, when Katie is on the phone begging Hubbell to come over to her house and comfort her after they broke up. We came up with the idea of a similar scenario for her acting clip, inspired by both, but when written by her, will be uniquely her own. (By the way, this is not so different from the screenwriter's process–using a real-life event to inspire fictionalized content.)

 - For scenes that show you off in your professional mode, like banker, doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc., write a similar scenario that you perform in your job. Whether you're a car salesman, real estate agent, or fast food worker, think of an event that was perhaps a little unusual, for example, if you're a real estate agent, maybe dealing with a difficult or hard to persuade client. You want to show yourself off as a professional, but to keep it interesting, the scene still needs to have a little meat, perhaps overcoming an obstacle or achieving a small goal. It doesn't have to be super dramatic, but shows your expertise at your job and has a little something at stake that you need to accomplish.

 - For scenes that show you off as a human being, who you really are in real life, think of a scenario with a great friend or partner in a light moment, with all of the inside jokes and quirky rituals that occur in the most intimate relationships. For example, I might use the ongoing jokey banter that I have with my husband to write a similar scene. If casting is looking for the real you, this is a great way to showcase that.

 - If you have a favorite show that films in your area, pay attention to the tone of the show and the type of people they cast. If you feel you fit into that world, tailor one of your clips to that tone, (of course making sure that your clip is similar but does not directly refer to any characters or any other details specific to the show).

Remember, everything that you create can be inspired by your life, just fictionalized versions. Hopefully the ideas in this long post will inspire you to come up with your own.

(By the way, thanks to Karleigh Chase and Luis Rivera for providing shots of their created clips. My acting clip was filmed and edited by John Jones.)

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