How to Find Showreel Scripts

Written by on | Showreels

People often ask me, what is the hardest thing about acting? Is it remembering lines? Crying on cue? Playing characters you hate? None of these things. The hardest thing I always face is finding new, fresh material to top up my showreel with, or to bring to an audition. It is a nightmare!

Particularly when you are first starting out. Finding scenes that suit you, that are 45 – 120 seconds long, with a nice character journey that require very little context is hard. Then finding the scripts to these scenes is a whole other battle. 

 If you have come to this article in a fluster after searching for scenes for hours, don’t worry. This quick guide will point you in the right direction. For those just dipping their toe in, who are thinking of building a showreel, this guide will hopefully save you some stress. 

What Are You Looking For?

The first step is knowing what you are looking for. There is no point opening up a script resource or trawling through a series on 2x speed hoping to stumble across a perfect scene. It is much better to think about narrowing your search down before you even get started. 

So, stop and have a think. What are you looking for? 

Do you need a scene that contrasts the ones you already have? Or something that plays to your strength? What are the character traits, given circumstances or genres you need to investigate? 

What makes for a great showreel scene is a whole other article (watch this space), but asking yourself these questions can help get you closer to finding a scene that is right for you and your needs. The time you save in the search will give you more time to prep and shoot. 

Can You Find Showreel Scripts Online?

Once you have some ideas, start searching for shows that fit your criteria. If you know the shows or films you’re looking for head directly to finding scripts. If you want to have a watch, make sure (before you start bingeing another series) that you look at synopsis or episode breakdowns. This can help you pinpoint big moments for characters, or help you find a scene you remember seeing. 

The beauty of streaming service algorithms means that you can quickly scan a large group of shows or movies that have similarities to one another. Alternatively, if there is an actor that continues to play roles that you think suit your own style, having a look through their catalogue can be a great place to start. 

As far as finding a script…. Well, this isn’t actually as hard as you might think! There are a myriad of databases out there filled with copies of scripts from films, television and online series. I could write a list, but honestly just making sure you’re using the right search terms is a better way to help you finding that scene you’re after. Use the full title of the movie or series you’re looking for, complete with season and episode number, followed by “script”, “teleplay”, “transcript” or “sides”. I also like using “.pdf” at the end to further narrow results to something that is usable. It should look something like this:

“Breaking Bad Season 1 episode 4 script .pdf”

“Mad Max: Fury Road script .pdf” 

From there you have options, and you will know doubt find trustworthy free databases that you regularly return to for the shows you like. Sometimes you will find full scripts, some transcripts, and sometimes even drafts, or even fan transcribed documents. Although there is a little sifting to be done, in my experience I have found almost everything is out there somewhere. 

Streaming with Subtitles

If you still can’t find the script after a search then you might have to go back to the drawing board, or in this case a word processor. Throw on the subtitles, watch on half speed and have the script dictated to you. I have even heard of some people putting the volume up and turning on speech to text, but I haven’t had much luck myself. 

Although seemingly convenient, particularly if you have immediate access to the show or movie, set aside more time then you think. However inefficient, when stuck, this can be a really solid option and also doubles as a line learning exercise! Just make sure it’s definitely a scene you want to do before putting in the effort. Unless you are an ex-court stenographer, it will take time to transcribe and format into a useful script. 

Can You Use Plays for Showreel Scenes?

We don’t often look here because the pacing and style of a play doesn’t always translate to camera. However, we are not making a film, we are shooting a showreel scene. 

There has been a big revival of realism in plays this century, particularly in regards to dialogue. Many authors start with theatre and move into television. For example, Fleabag started as a play before it was turned into a television series. Writer Lucy Prebble was a very successful playwright before working on Succession. Lots of successful authors do both, meaning you can find some awesome scenes for your showreel within a play. Just remember to search for 21st century scripts and authors as anything before this time can seem a little stale or too heightened. 

Again, I wouldn’t recommend starting your search by opening any compendium of plays and starting to read without knowing what you’re looking for. This would be a massive time sink. Instead, if you find a movie or series you like, see if the writer has also written for theatre and start from there. Finding playscripts online can also be harder than finding their film cousins, so you made need a library card (yes, an actual library card), access to a performing arts collection through a University, or an online database like Drama Online

Another hidden bonus of finding scenes from a play is that it will more then likely be unique. Rather then picking the scene that’s in vogue, from the series that everyone is watching, you have a scene which is excellently written, yet not immediately recognisable. 

Acting Class Scenes

If you are currently doing an acting class (maybe you’re even part of StageMilk scene club? Hint hint), then scenes will be put in front of you all the time. Often, we disregard these scenes either because we view them as ‘learning tools’, or because we got slammed in a note session, or we are sick of them because we just saw our entire class do them. 

However, you should remember that the showreel is not for your class. Its for casting directors, directors, potential agents and collaborators to have a look at. If you find a scene that you enjoy – or more importantly, nail – then don’t be afraid to add it to the bank. 

Also, your teachers or instructors may be able to point you in the right direction by either recommending scenes they know or helping you to find authors, series, movies or actors to watch. They spend a lot of time watching and reading scenes, and will also have a good radar of when something has been overdone. They will also help you be objective and find scenes that suit you.

Can You Write Your Own Showreel Scene?

Not many consider this, but… Can you write? If you are a wordsmith, you can simply write your own scene. 

I made that sound very simple, and of course for those that have written to a high standard you already know how hard it can be to write a roughly 2 minute scene with a satisfying arc with no context. 

Instead, I would suggest using your skills to augment or refine an already existing scene. If you find a character you like, but they are of the wrong age or gender, a few tweaks might make the scene more appropriate for you. An otherwise perfect scene might have too much exposition or need too much context to be understood. A few edits or additions might circumvent these problems. 

Although I would suggest altering an already existing scene to cater for your needs, if you are an adept writer, starting from scratch is also a possibility. Just make sure you have people you trust to look at it before you use it to shoot with. Scripts go through huge amounts of development, drafting, and editing before they get put in front of the camera. Don’t assume your writing is any different. 

Like It, Save It: Active Watching.

Finally, The best way to save time (and your friend’s and colleague’s time too, if you’re generous) is to always be looking. This doesn’t mean constantly scouring scripts, but instead always having the search for scenes in the back of your mind when watching movies or series. 

We are all consuming a stack of media at the moment, usually across multiple platforms. Finding that scene you saw six months ago can be like finding a needle in a haystack, particularly if it’s from a show with multiple long seasons (good luck remembering where to find a scene in a show size of Lost or The Walking Dead). So, if you see something you like, take note as you are watching. 

You may not always need a new scene, but taking 5 secs to note down great scenes or characters as you see them will save you heaps of time when you do need to find one. Keep a journal, bookmark on a streaming platform, or type something into your phone’s ‘notes’ section. You will thank yourself later. 

A Couple of Dont’s

There is a couple of big don’ts when searching for a showreel script, and I will go into this more when I talk about what makes a good showreel, but I should point out a few places you should not even bother with. 

#1 Get Away from Superhero or Sci FI

Just… no. 

Why? Too popular, too iconic, or needing too much context and special effects. 

I love the force as much as the next Padwan, but no one wants to see you screaming “I have the high ground!” in a showreel. No amount of self edited lava on your green screen is going to get that to carry. Same goes for all caped or mask wearing super heroes, any of the Doctor Whos, passengers or crew onboard any of the Starfleet ships, no matter how personal the moment. A showreel is not the time to deliver your version of The Joker or Harley Quinn. 

Maybe you could get away with a more civilian moment from a show like Buffy, Supernatural, or Jessica Jones, but if its got anything to do with anything remotely woo-woo or sci fi, just stop looking now. 

(Hint: if you can write, you may be able to edit around these problems.) 

#2 Stay Away from Cult Films and the Award Winners

Why would you want your performance compared to an Oscar winner? Just… why? 

Do you really want your Roman Roy compared to the guy that just won an Emmy for it? Are you really going to deliver the Diner scene from Silver Linings Play Book better then Jennifer Lawrence? Is the Mr Pink rant from Reservoir Dogs really going to carry without the all star cast?

I see this all the time, and it’s a big no. Either you are going to copy the performance, which… just don’t… or you are going to use lines that a true prodigy has already nailed. And I guarantee whoever is watching will start thinking about the person who did it first. 

These are fun scenes to study and play with, but for a showreel it is worth going a little further off the beaten track. You want people to be watching your acting, not thinking about the movie the scene is from, or comparing you to the actor that played it so well that they were given a shiny statue for their efforts. 

#3 Animation

No matter how naturalistic the dialogue, the stylistic divide is too great. Don’t underestimate how much the character design and animation play into what you are receiving when viewing. Replacing that with warm bodies will very rarely work. 

#4 Translations

Unless you are willing to do a rewrite, steer clear of translations either dubbed or subbed. Often the subtitles or dub don’t convey the nuance of the original language, making it cumbersome or clunky. However, if you don’t mind spending some time on it, using the skeleton structure and rewriting lines can make this option work.

#5 Don’t Use Audition Scenes… Yet

If you just had a self tape or audition, and you loved the part…  don’t put it on your showreel straight away! 

Scripts being used to audition with are often embargoed, not for copy or release, or simply not finished yet. The timeline for a production to go from the audition process to official release could be years, and releasing a scene from the show or movie that isn’t finished is a big no no. Casting Directors may get very annoyed that the embargoed script is now on someone’s Showcast. 

So if you really love a script, put it in the vault, and wait for the show or movie to be released. Only then it is fair game. 

Conclusion: Good Luck

Hopefully these tips will help you focus your showreel search, save you some time and get you closer to finding that scene you need for your showreel. 

Remember, a showreel is an ever evolving thing. At different ages and stages, you will need to showcase different things. This means that you will always be updating. So its important to keep looking out for scenes you could add to the bank just in case you ever need to refresh your reel. As you start getting work, your self-shot scenes will gradually be replaced by examples of professional work, but even then, you may want to intersperse some new scenes to show range if you feel it’s getting a bit stale. 

So keep looking, keep searching and good hunting!

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