I have a confession. While I build other actor’s websites and easily advise on which clips and photographs help tell a story - my own actor website sits untouched for over a year. Why? Because it is way harder to judge your own work than some else's.
There are a thousand emotional factors that can cloud our judgement. That make the process of choosing hair-pulling difficult. While you should be choosing clips that help introduce you as a talented professional, that tell a cohesive story, that make you look awesome – sometimes you pick based on other factors.
So here is a friendly reminder to myself (and you) to avoid making decisions based on these reasons:
Maybe you ended up falling in love with your scene partner and so you know that the look in your eye is real. Of course you are attached to this scene! So with your eyes on your partner you may not realize that the boom mic is in every frame of the shot.
I am guilty of this. I kept a scene in my reel that was from years previous – it didn’t do anything to reflect my current look or work. And to top it all off, the film was a period drama that did not reflect the roles I was auditioning for. But why did I keep it? It was one of the first film sets I worked on as a lead that created a polished project and I loved everyone on that set. It was some of the first work I was genuinely proud of – and so I kept it in! Time to make some edits.
INSTEAD: Consider the timeliness and quality of the work
Behind the Scenes Intel
If you worked on the project you are privy to so much more information than the viewer and this can impact your own version of what you see on camera. This can influence you in many ways. Perhaps just out of frame was a gawking crowd of tourists – so you are absurdly proud at that quiet and intimate conversation in this clip! But your pride may be coming from working through the distractions off-camera and not just what is in the frame.
Or, in my case, I once worked for on an incredible script and we actually had rehearsals! Lots of them. We ran table reads and discussions and improvisations and built fully fleshed characters. It was one of the most dynamic rehearsal processes I have experienced for a film. So I saw the months of work, it just didn’t reflect in the finished project. Sometimes that happens.
INSTEAD: Just look at what is in the frame. Does it stand alone?
The Cool Factor
Wardrobe gave you an amazing leather jacket. And your hair looks badass. And in the scene you take a drag and hurl off a brilliant one liner at an impossibly attractive co-star. You are so cool. OR you shot in this absurdly over-the-top hotel suite you could never afford.
It happens. Sometimes you are drawn to a scene or a photo because, damn, you look awesome. Which is great! But it is not a reason to choose a clip, especially if it is not in line with your type or doesn’t highlight you.
INSTEAD: Ask yourself what message the scene sends about your type.
Volume of Work
This one goes both ways and I have been absolutely guilty of both.
When you are just starting out it is so tempting to include every piece of work you have been a part of to create a sense of accomplishment. You feel that nagging bit of imposter syndrome and want to show you are not totally green. But those clips of you as background in webseries are not helping your case.
And when you have been working for years you want to show off all your best work – even if that means four scenes of you arguing with a lover in a Brooklyn apartment from four different movies. It just becomes overwhelming and your amazing performances can get lost.
INSTEAD: Only choose your best work. If you only have one clip you love- just highlight that. If you have a ton of work you love – pick your favorite from each genre or character type.
What about all that footage that you love? It doesn’t have to languor on a hard drive. You can share it, but there are other options instead of as part of your portfolio. I plan to update my vimeo so all my acting clips are available online. (Notice I said plan-to – it really is hard to self-curate. I get it.) The film clips with a great story? Well instead of including them in a portfolio sans story – use that tale to make a blog post or make your social media sparkle with personality.
For your portfolio though – less is always more and quality over quantity.