Ok y’all: if you’re having material shot for a reel (close to s.o.p. In the current NYC/LA environment), I have some unsolicited, general notes:
1) You’re doing this to show you’re set ready, so prepare well enough to have it done in 1-3 takes (per set up); you’ll probably do more—totally fine!—but prep as if you won’t. This means getting to where you feel ‘loose’ earlier rather than later.
2) Prepare enough to feel free to play (the scene may feel ‘import ‘ to your career but it can’t look that way); relax; fuck around some.
3) Be prepared to deliver your lines fast and light.
4) Don’t be afraid of reacting to what your supporting scene partner brings but which you didn’t expect (it’s your reel but let the director do her job); stay open, using whatever tricks or techniques get you there.
5) Make mistakes, which is often when the acting comes alive.
6) Number 1 again: if this reel is to get you a job it can’t be false advertising (if you can’t do it in a few takes, you’re not ready set). Do in the reel what you’re comfortable claiming you can do on the job. You CAN do it, of course, and the secret to demonstrating that is preparation (but don’t watch yourself in the mirror - save that for classroom/practice material where the focus is on learning what your instrument does; when shooting reel material you’re ‘on the job.’ Again, let the director do her job.) Notes 1-6 are really all the same: prepare well enough to be loose and playful!
7) You’re probably shooting one or more typical tv scenes in which you’re playing an archetypal character, e.g., detective, doctor, charmer, mom, dad, et.al., but you don’t have to ‘play character’ in your scenes. For the most part, the scenario does that for you. Be your own badass charming self. Trying to play a ‘cop’ can creep in subtly—vocally, physically—and make you instantly boring, if serviceable. You want to be a cop with individuality and unique purpose; having a ‘secret’ often helps with this, also fucking with the other character in as many ways as you can to ‘get what you want’; be mischievous, within the world of the scene. (I’m taking for granted that you’re the star of your own reel scenes—not a ‘costar,’ in which you might need to repress an urge to be unique.)
These notes are my two cents after having acted in a few of these for people. Everyone gets there in the end; some need to get there faster. The paradox is that the lighter one holds the work the more quickly they’re ready to do it.
I’m shooting a scene tomorrow for my own reel, which currently doesn’t serve me. I’ll let you know if I can take my own advice.