Lately, I have been trying new things. One in particular is Video Editing, and I have been having a significant amount of fun doing it. In my alter existence as an actor, I have been hosting a Web Series which highlights things going on in the Perth Film and Theatrical communities. That in itself has been a learning curve. Presenting is not much like acting.
Now I have previously dabbled in Video Editing, more out of curiosity than an actual proper pursuit, editing little fun “show reel” clips, playing with recordings of Theatrical productions, overlaying music tracks, and so forth. Then I was offered the idea of editing one of the episodes, which I took.
A quick crash course in editing process, and a few online YouTube tutorials, and I was editing my first semi-professional video production. I enjoyed it. So I did the next one.
Here’s the kicker; being an actor, director, photographer, and being rather experienced in those areas, and then taking a look at the editing side of things cast a massive shift in perspective on those same interests. I began to understand the impacts certain acting and directional choices could have on edit options. I was always vaguely aware in the past that there were implications, but a vague awareness is nothing like actually seeing and experiencing it.
It also made something else abundantly clear; the importance of editing when it came to casting via show reels. A show reel is a video calling card for actors, models, directors, anything that revolves around visual creativity, and in these days of online communications, is an extremely useful tool. Some would say essential.
Now I have done my fair share of casting for both film and theatre, mainly theatre, and some of this has been by either a video recording, or via a show reel. As a casting director, I know I may need to watch through a number of video clips looking for something that makes me feel the actor is right for the role. While I have not had to handle large numbers of these audition clips, I can well imagine the amount of time that reviewing audition clips can take.
I can just imagine the casting consultant sitting there, with their list of requirements from the producer or director, facing the prospect of watching hours of video to find the small short-list of candidates. Daunting. If I were in that position, I would not want to be spending too long on a clip that didn’t show a certain potential within the first few seconds. My finger would be hovering over the skip button.
This ‘potential’ would come in two basic forms;
- Has the look or close to the look;
- Has a WOW factor.
If I were to see either one, I would be tempted to watch just a little bit longer than one that had neither, and that is what you want, to make the person responsible for initial casting choices to watch for longer than the first few seconds.There is not much than can be done for point one, and you can but hope that you are the right look, but when it comes to point two, this comes down to how you edit the first few seconds.
It is much like a YouTube commercial. You are forced to watch a commercial for 5 seconds before you can skip it, but if we all had the choice, we would be skipping it within three, UNLESS it was able to grab your attention within those first three seconds.
This is where skilled editing comes into play. You may be a talented actor, directed by a recognised and talented director, yet if your show reel starts with a simple and generic piece, how is the consultant going to know that? Start in the middle of something good, yet without losing the context of the performance.
One trick, which has been done a death, was to create a flash montage montage in the first few seconds under the assumption that this would grab attention, and it did, for a while. Now such montage productions are rather clichéd and will more likely have the consultant immediately hitting next without even seeing your performance piece that followed.
It doesn’t matter if you are creating a show reel for an actor, director, cinematographer, or even an editor, it needs to promote the talent of the person in question. Distractions and attempts to “jazz-up” your reel are more likely to work against you, and you don’t want to annoy the very person you are trying to impress. So you keep it simple. Find those elements that can demonstrate the range of talent, focus on them, before showing any diversity.
Have a look at this show reel I did for myself, and you will hopefully see what I mean. Working with only a few of my sample videos, I tried to find a performance which was moving, in order to have the consultant think, “This is different.” Give them a reason to pause, and then show them why they did. Then I demonstrate that this is not my only trick with clips from other productions.
Stepping outside, or attempting to at least, and trying to look as a casting director/consultant, I believe I would find this a little more interesting. It quickly establishes all that is needed in the scene. We have a mime in conflict as a small distraught child begs him to sing. His conflict is the performance, not how he got there. Earlier in the piece, there is a wonderful clip of a large mime sequence, but this is physical theatre. What I start with is the point of the show reel, acting.
Not wanting to be a one shot wonder, I decided to ask a few trusted colleagues what they thought, and had favourable feedback. So I tried it with another actor, and found a willing guinea pig. There is a rather lengthy scene that establishes the de-facto relationship, but it was at this point that the tension was about to peak, and when the acting really began. This hopefully draws the viewer in enough to see the second clip which shows a truly emotive performance, and without a word being used. Both are extreme examples of performance and demonstrate the range of the actor.
On the weekend that has just gone by, I was speaking with a colleague who made an interesting observation; because I have experience in so many different areas of film and theatrical production, it gives me a rather unique perspective. I honestly hadn’t thought of this before, and as I thought about I realised, he was right, and his comment was the inspiration for blog post.
So now I create show reels, and I am learning more about myself as I do it.