How to Create the Best Acting Reel…

Modern actor reel_3

The traditional actor’s reel is dead.

The term ‘actor’s reel’ soon will rest aside the, “Fax me your résumé’s” crypt. Talent agents, managers and their clients no longer share with casting a 3.5-minute historical compilation of an actor’s on-camera work. Doing so is akin to a lumbersexual parading skinny jeans at a Chick-fil-A. Très passé gauche.

An actor’s modern digital media doesn’t rely on old rules. Length? Roll back your counter. There’s a new running time for efficient, and industry-acceptable length. Fancy editing? Oh. My. Gawd. So 80s MTV. Modern actor digital media requires a new and simplistic format that directly targets specific casting.

And then there’s media real estate. Actors are being overlooked if they haven’t staked prime media real estate. The free—to nearly free—properties with the best digital curb appeal that attracts more industry views to an actor’s on-camera landscape. If you’re thinking YouTube; please rewind to 2009. Actors need to be looking to Vimeo, Actors Access or better the digital content platforms that representation utilizes to submit clients to casting: Active Pitch.

So what is the modern actor’s reel? It’s not a reel, nor should it be termed such just as a recorded sitcom should no longer be archaically termed ‘videotaped.’ The digital revolution has dramatically changed both live and recorded auditions. Reels are now segmented. Reduced to targeting projects specifically. Yes, some talent representation review an actor’s traditional reel when considering talent. But when that talent becomes a new client the reel is sliced and diced as if a filet on Top Chef. And when the talent is unrepresented the actor in relation to casting is no longer burdened by:

Reel length

Contrasting content

Dynamic editing

An actor’s digital media representing skill and work history is much simpler thanks in part to modern attention spans being compacted in the age of where 140 characters abbreviates content. And secondly, by the ease of sharing content online without need of a disc drive or the more ancient and bulky VHS player.

To further support, navigate and bring actors into the modern actor reel movement that casting and representation expect and utilize: I’m sharing the expectations for both digital and live on-camera auditions that I provide to MFA & BFA acting programs. A new master class for actors with or without screen history. A panel of film, TV, commercial and theatrical casting directors, and agents join me.

Yes, this is a post out of the norm for Answers for Actors. (And to be quite honest an uncomfortable posting by its author.) The posts here are generally of a prescriptive narrative. General advisories in text here for an actor’s digital media will not fully serve the individual. My sharing the casting clips utilized by actors on Prime Time TV, and the effectiveness of such may only be done privately in a class setting. Comparing an actor’s digital media to that of peers can only be done in a class setting. A blog post limits my ability to further advise beyond general umbrella statements.

Whether or not you’re available for the master class know that for your digital media representation to be effective to casting should:

-Target specific projects utilizing your media history that reflects the casting project targeted

– Showcase media that has production values (lighting, camera work, the work of peers) that you want to best represent you

– Have media real estate beyond public outlets that often distract the viewer from your media (i.e. YouTube is not an actor’s prime media real estate)

Master Class Curriculum:

WEEK 1: Mastering Your Media Real Estate to be Effective & Competitive (Having a reel is not necessary for participation.)

WEEK 2: Analysis of Actors’ Media Improvements


Commanding the LIVE On-Camera Audition & Actor Branding – Getting the Job

WEEK 3: LIVE On-Camera Audition Technique & Branding Follow-up


Final Analysis of Media Prior to Presentation to the Entertainment Industry Panel

WEEK 4: Panel Feedback

Lead instructor and guest advisers’ participation does not connote offers of employment or representation to class participants. These classes are for educational purposes only and will not secure or provide opportunity for employment in the field or representation by an agent. 

For details on the panel and the on-camera master class visit:


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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Elon and Wright State University. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit

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