Showreel Alternatives | How to Make a Showreel on a Budget

Showreel Alternatives

Written by on | Acting Industry Showreels

So you don’t have the professional footage to cut together a showreel, or the money to film a new scene. Well what’s the next step?

You need a showreel. It’s an essential part of your actor’s toolkit. So how do you make a great showreel when you don’t have any footage, or the money to fork out on an expensive reel?

Well were all about helping actors solve issues and keep their careers progressing, so here are two great solutions…

Making a showreel on a budget

making a showreel on a budget

Option #1 – Film a Self Tape

Running StageMilk has a few benefits. One is that I get to interview casting directors and agents quite often. I always like to ask them what they like to see in a showreel. The consensus is that a self tape can be as good as a showreel. There’s a few reasons why a simple, well-shot self tape can work really well as a showreel alternative.

Here are some of the benefits to making a self taped showreel:

  1. The Acting. A great self tape puts the focus on the acting. There’s no production values, or other actors to distract from your work. This can be a great way to showoff your skills.
  2. It’s cheap. Ideally you want to shoot your self tapes on a great camera, with good lighting, but other than that, a self tape is cheap (assuming you have some friends).
  3. You look cool. If you’ve worked professionally, and you cut together a reel, then that’s great. But if you’re looking at using a showreel company to film a highly produced scene from a film or TV show, it can come across as amateur. This is particularly the case when you try an do a scene that is very stylised like a crime scene or a period piece. A self tape is more casual, and I think that can work in your favour as an actor.
  4. Check your hair. When you’re shooting it yourself you can make sure you’re looking good. Check the footage between takes and make sure you are coming across your best. If not, try a new top, or go an fix your hair. This isn’t the case if you are shooting a professional reel.

Filming a great self tape [Video Guide]

More resources

For more information on how to film a great self tape

For more on self taping equipment

Option #2 – Shoot your own Reel

If you’re an actor and you don’t have friends that make films, you’re doing something wrong. Every actor should be making short films with their mates every weekend. Having a friend, or two or seven, who love shooting, editing or grading will pay dividends again and again throughout your career.

Ask a friend to help you to shoot a scene.

Choose a simple location, work with a great actor, and shoot. Make sure you’re really well prepared so that it’s easy for your mate to say yes. It will take 2 – 4 hours to shoot and probably the same time to edit. That’s a new reel all in a days work!

Here’s some of the benefits to shooting your own reel: 

  1. Affordable. If you’re pulling favours you are getting a reel for free, or at the most a couple of hundred $$$. Depending on how good your mates are, the end product could be as good as going to a professional showreel company.
  2. Creative control. Don’t like it? Start again. Want another take? Roll again. Don’t leave the creative decisions up to someone else. If you’re shooting your own scene you can make sure you’re happy with the result at each step of the way.
  3. Learning. The industry is becoming more and more about self generated work. You should be putting down scenes, making shorts with your friends, hell making feature films. Working on a scene is a great way to start experimenting and learning more about film making.

Tip: as you’ll be acting in the scene, you ideally want to have a director who can help you and your scene partner stay focused on the acting. If you can’t swing a director, get an acting mate you trust to come along. Directing and acting at the same time can be tough work.


Either of these two options are viable alternatives to forking out for a professional showreel. Remember the focus should always be on the acting. At the end of the day the acting is what everyone’s interested in. I know actors who have booked TV, film, commercial and theatre work off self tapes. I’ve also seen actors land great agents simply by sending through a few basic self tapes. Don’t get caught up in production values, and instead focus on nailing the scene.

For more on making a great showreel


About the Author

Andrew Hearle

is the founder of StageMilk. Andrew trained at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and is now a Sydney-based actor working in Theatre, Film and Television.

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