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Create the REEL that Gets You Noticed!

My mother once got Aaron Spelling to agree to look at my Reel just by calling him over and over and asking real nice.4267356010_d737f6cf79_m True story.

Did he watch it? What did he think? I’ll never know.

But I learned one thing. Be ready with a kick ass reel if someone DOES ask for it. And be up to date on how to present it.

Below are my own suggestions combined with the aggregate wisdom of the Act Now consultants.

 Ultimately when you are starting out, agents want to see what you look like on tape…. & hopefully see you have some talent as well.

If they haven’t met you before, Casting Directors are looking to see if you fit a certain role, or they may use the tape to pitch you to a director or producer.

So their needs are different, and that means you need to present the reel is several different ways.

BELOW ARE SUGGESTIONS FOR BEST PRACTICES to Create a Reel that Will Get You Noticed!

  • If you are looking for representation and will be going out for co-stars (very small supporting roles that can be filmed in 1 day) have a 1:30-2 min reel ready.
  • If you start going out for recurring guest stars and especially series regulars, have a 5 min reel ready.
  • In both cases, Put the BEST stuff FIRST. Odds are the whole thing won’t get watched anyway, so definitely open with your strongest work.
  • Also in both cases, the focus needs to be on you YOU; if another actor has a big chunk of dialogue, cut it if you can; it’s YOUR reel, so we want to see as much of you as possible- not some other rando actor! (or the series regular you had your scene with).
  • Act Now consultant Becca Leigh Gellman told me that recently a client sent a reel where he didn’t even speak until 18 seconds into it. It’s important that you are TALKING at the top of the reel; no need to open with some long, artsty fartsy, slow-motion shot, panning the skyline. A reel is not the place for that; you just want to show what you look and sound like on camera, so they get a sense of YOU.
  • Of course, the quality needs to be excellent and professional- well lit, good quality sound, writing, etc. If you aren’t sure what industry standards are like, ask someone you trust (a CD, your agent, your Act Now consultant) BEFORE you post it for all the world to see.
  • Once you have enough material you can do a comedy and drama reel, some people like it, I suggest it. If it is a theatrical reel I shy away from putting a commercial in it at all or at least not the first bit at the top of the reel. I actually have a completely separate reel for commercials as well as for comedy and drama.
  • Most importantly for Casting Directors you want to have each scene posted separately as a clip on Actors Acces NOT as a full length reel. (I also suggest posting this way on IMDB and on your own website). These can be just 5-20 seconds long and the point is to just show you has one particular character. For each scene label it with the genre and the character. For example: “DRAMA- Criminal Minds- Serial Killer.” This way, when you/your agent is submitting you, they can select the clip that is most appropriate for the specific role. I.E., if it’s the role of a killer, and you have a clips where you’re a killer, it’s much more effective to just submit that clip, rather than your whole reel, where the killer clip may not be until the end. It streamlines the process for casting.
  • When you do post your reels (and clips) make sure the thumbnail of the reel is also a clear shot of YOU (maybe even your headshot); but not a wide shot of you and someone else, or something else altogether. If it’s a clip for a particular character, make the headshot the one that matches!
  • If you need to get one made, Mackenzie Marsh, my fellow Act Now consultant recommends Relentless Filmworks. They have a consultation with you, you tell them what you want exactly (type of show, genre, etc), they write you scenes (so no one else has your reel), they can cast the other roles, do hair/makeup, then shoot, edit, done. Some scenes are indoor, some outdoor, they change up cameras to make it look like different projects. Awesome guys!!!

RESOURCES: I’ve used them for years to edit my reel, the cost is affordable and they do good work. Various editors there will help you.

When you do have something airing you need an “aircheck” service. An Aircheck is the recording of a complete television show, provided on a DVD. An Aircheck + Upload is a recording of the program with your scenes extracted and uploaded to your Breakdown Express and Actors Access accounts.  Actors Access in partnership with Edit PLUS provides this service.

Casting Director Amy Jo Berman also does consultations on reels for $75, if you feel you need another opinion.

* Patrick Donahue is a great resource for both editing and airchecks. $20 per episode capture (cheaper than Actors Access below), $75 for reel consult AND edit in the same session. (cheaper than Amy Jo Berman + you get editing!). You can contact him at *

I invite you to post your reels here, or a link to them. Comments on the reels as well as any additional suggestions are welcome. What did you find most helpful in this post? Let me know, I’m eager to hear from you!

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Why The Rut You Are In Isn’t As Bad As You Think!

What to do if you are IN A RUT imgreslike the Act Now client  who wrote me this letter…



Hello there, love!

Was hoping I could get your advice on something. I trust and respect your opinion very much, so you’re the first person I thought of.

So, I’m in one of those ruts, Dufflyn. Those “God I suck, what am I doing, why isn’t anything happening” type of ruts.

My commercial agent isn’t sending me out, which is frustrating because the three times they’ve send me out went AVAIL, CALLBACK, 2X CALLBACK so obviously I know what I’m doing. I have brand new (awesome) headshots and lots of comm/improv training, so what gives? And the “Oh your agent should be getting you out all the time, you have a great look, you’re very marketable” comments I get all the time just exacerbate the situation.

On the theatrical side, I could just cry. I see breakdowns for a ton of stuff that are a perfect fit, but no theatrical representation to get me in the door. It’s like these opportunities are out there but I have no way to grab ahold of them. Does that make sense?

I’m just getting frustrated and down on myself and I don’t know what to do.

I know your job description doesn’t include “counselor” so appreciate you reading this far, Dufflyn. Any insight you have would be appreciated. I’ll keep my head down and keep working, keep workshopping, but please let me know if there is anything further I can be doing. Thanks again. xo



Hello lovely,

I often refer to myself as a “guidance counselor for actors.”

This is perfectly within the realm of my job, and I am happy to share my experience, strength, and hope with you.

First, this industry is not what it once was. It is both more competitive and more accessible.

Largely, this is a result of the internet, cable TV, web series, youtube, netflix, etc. It has created a situation where networks must really refine marketing and compete for audiences. A lot of investment is riding on every episode. And as a result the expectations placed on actors are extraordinary. There is also more opportunity than ever before for actors who are willing to create their own material and be more entrepreneurial. But again, we are expected now to be writers, marketing directors, managers, producers, development executives, and mail room lackeys all while maintaining our acting chops and somehow paying our bills until we book.

No easy task indeed.

Secondly. It’s tough to know what producers/casting directors are really looking for when you read a breakdown.

The truth is that many times THEY don’t know what they’re looking for: except that they are ALWAYS looking for someone to come in and show them! (By bringing a part to life). So, though a part MAY appear to be right for you, keep in mind that many things could also happen: the producer decides to cast his girlfriend, they have an offer out, what they meant by “quirky” is not what you think of as “quirky” (or sexy or upscale or whatever), the part gets written out of the script, and so on.

And third, yes, you need a good agent. It’s not the whole picture, but it’s part of the puzzle.

Do showcases, go to networking events, ask friends for referrals, create GREAT relationships with casting directors who might actually give you a RECOMMENDATION to an agent, and yeah, keep meeting CDs and book more parts on your own so that you have some credits. All agents want to see credits. It’s a Catch 22, but that is where workshops come in. Once you get a few credits, you’re much more appealing to an agent because you are a proven commodity.

Finally, this business is no guarantee.

You can be fantastically talented and never make a living. Look at actors like Elizabeth Shue, who has worked on and off for years, but with YEARS between parts. It’s like that for EVERYONE. It’s not personal so don’t take it personally. Just know this is the business you’re in and if you are not comfortable with instability, maybe it’s not for you.


It’s not as bad as you think, because it’s within your power to do something about it. IF YOU CHOOSE TO! 


What I know is this: if you do not give up, and you keep improving your craft and you stay on top of the business side of your business, the parts that are for you will come to you. To some extent it is simple: YOU DO THE WORK AND LEAVE THE RESULTS UP TO THE UNIVERSE.


Do your best not to compare yourself to where your friends are, but to where YOU were a year ago. You are not competing with anyone but YOURSELF!

Comparison is a losing battle.

We always want more. You get that first co-star, you want a guest-star, you get a series regular, you want a film, you get a film, you want an Oscar, you get an Oscar, you want TWO? Don’t believe me? Ask Meryl Streep!

FINALLY, Remember that if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.


EXERCISE: Can you try something new? Make a list of five things you can try. Commit to trying at least one of these things for 30 days. Check in with yourself after 30 days to see how your results look.


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  1. The one about the time the FBI came to arrest her drug dealer boyfriend and she had a loaf of cornbread in the oven.
  2. The one about how Johnny Carson told her she looked “medicinal.”
  3. The one about how she met my Daddy when he came to repossess her car.
  4. The one about how she was hired to be a blackjack dealer in Vegas but when the day came to go she just didn’t show up.
  5. The one about going to The Nutcracker when I was two and how I ran down to look in the Orchestra pit.
  6. The one about getting high with Bill Clinton.
  7. The one about how Waylon Jennings proposed to her.
  8. The one about LBJ and Melvin Belli helping her get her kids back.
  9. The one about how I rode around our living room on my tricycle taking orders for McDonalds and when one guest asked for a Big Mac, one Filet O Fish, a Quarter Pounder and French Fries, an icy Coke, one thick shake, a sundae and an apple pie I rode around and came back and handed him an imaginary bag and he said “What’s this?” And I said “It’s what you ordered stupid.”
  10. The one about how she killed an alligator.

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Okay, so some of these were not whispered. But you get the point. These are ‘lines’ that were said to me by men whom I was in fact romantically involved with, flirting with, or considering flirting with. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I submit them for your entertainment /ridicule /emulation (if you dare).

10. “Do u want 2 go 2 Paris?” Mmm. Yeah, who doesn’t. Still, a nice invitation. Which I had to decline. Sigh. You just don’t ask that in a text.

9. “I think you underestimate your charisma.” You know this was said with sincerity, and that made it a double compliment. Charismatic and humble? Has he met me?

8. “Someday will you tell me what Stairway To Heaven means?” My high school crush wrote this in my yearbook. I was the only girl in Palo Alto who knew all the words. I did not, however, know what they meant.

7. “Jesus Dufflyn.” I had just taken my shirt off.

6. “You seem comfortable in your own skin.” I worked hard for that. Nice of you to notice.

5. “When we get married...” Yeah he stopped dead there. The look on his face–he was even more shocked than me at the words he’d just uttered. The one who (nevertheless) got away.

4. “Do you want to drive?” Yes. Pretty much always. But especially on that day. He had a Ferrari Testarosa. Red. Divine. And as it turned out, borrowed from Joe Montana.

3. “I want to know everything about you.” Nice one. Don’t say that unless you mean it though.

2. “I want to read you a story. It’s Hemingway.” I am a sucker for a man who will read to me.

1. “I’m going to kiss you now.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I like it when a fella can take charge and still be polite about it.

And one last thing. “Do you want to take a walk?” Now this goes under the special heading of Most Romantic Thing A Man Ever Did For Me. On my 30th birthday my then-boyfriend had twelve dozen roses sent to our house. Next, he asked me this mysterious question. I love a walk, so naturally I said yes. After we strolled through the park there was a horse and carriage waiting to take us to the restaurant where we had dinner that night.

So that’s my list. I’ve shown you mine. Now, you show me yours….comment below!

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