An acting reel is a great way to showcase your work once you’ve gotten your career off the ground.  If you have a project or two under your belt, you can start to compile this video compilation of clips featuring your skills, which runs roughly a minute in length.

These days, it is totally acceptable to reach out to film students in the middle of ironing out their final class project and ask to get involved so you can have at least one credit under your belt.  Student, independent, and short films are all acceptable examples, as are webisodes or web-based commercials.  If you only have one clip, this can be forwarded to casting directors while you wait for one or two others to compile altogether.

As you begin to consider what content to include, remember this rule of thumb – no reel is better than a bad reel.  If you’ve participated in a few projects but cringe every time you watch them, skip these and focus on those roles you feel truly showcase your abilities.  You’ll also want to avoid using anything from a situation that you left on bad terms, or a project simply didn’t go well.

Reels are growing in popularity, and while they have yet to be required for every opportunity, there are certain projects for which casting directors do require them.  This is way it’s important to consider putting one together and keeping it handy with the rest of your marketing materials for when you stumble upon an opportunity for which you’ll need it to submit.

After the project you were involved with is cut is the best time for an actor to request footage.  If there are contractual reasons for delaying its release, sometimes a talent will need to wait until the initial lifespan of the project is over.  Occasionally, non-disclosure agreements require the talent to wait a specified period of time before sharing any details.

Remember, casting directors don’t have a lot of time.  They are not interested in watching the entire film you starred in.  You must keep your reel short and sweet, including only your best performances.  If you can, include roles across multiple genres to demonstrate versatility.  However, if all of your best projects are in one category, just use these rather than including clips of content you’re less sure about.  “Your demo reel is your commercial,” explains Max Ghezzi of Killer Demo Reels.  “With it, you hope to convince the viewers that you, the featured product, are the one they should spend their money on.  It needs to be fast, short, sweet, and to the point.”