Should I do short films?

We are always looking to develop relationships with new film-makers. Everyone has to start somewhere and more often than not short film-makers go on to other projects. At the very least once we get involved it gives us an opportunity to meet and audition actors and that’s never a waste of time for us.

But that’s not to say we jump on board every project that comes our way, and neither should you. It doesn’t matter if it is a student production, privately financed or come out of a lottery funded scheme, here are some questions you should consider:

a) does the script and role appeal to you?  Even if it doesn’t you may still want to consider auditioning just for the practice – but don’t ever let us know that!

b) is it a well organised production? You’ll be able to get a first inkling from the way a script or casting breakdown is written – does it have spelling mistakes, is it properly formatted, does it make sense? If you do decide to proceed further is the audition conducted well – does it run on time or are you kept hanging around, does the director know what he/she is after and is their direction clear? Are the producer and director respectful and polite? If the answer to any of these raises doubts then chalk it up to experience and take it no further.

c) will you get clips? All productions these days will offer to give you a version of the final film, but you should also politely ask if you could get copies of significant takes (including sound) containing your performance that you will solely use for your showreel. With all the will in the world  sometimes short films are not finished, or not finished for a very long time. If you make it clear that you won’t make the material available to the general public then there is no reason why this can’t be granted.

If you do decide to audition then it’s only fair to treat it like any other audition – prepare well, make bold choices, act professionally. Even if you don’t get the role you’ll be meeting new directors, producers and possibly casting directors – make a note of who they are because they might go on to do other projects. It’s networking-by-audition and that’s probably the best kind of networking you can do because they will see you in action.

If you do get the role then again – be professional, treat it like a proper paid job, give yourself wholeheartedly to it. There’s an enormous amount you can gain from it:

– You will develop working relationships with directors, producers and other crew (that runner who has offered to bring you a coffee may one day run a studio). All these people can get you work or recommend you for work.

– You’ll gain more experience on a film set, on the techniques required to act in front of a camera, hitting marks, creating a character and performing in disjointed takes. Even if you’re an old hand at this the practice will do you good.

– You will end up material for a showreel

But perhaps the most important benefit is exposure. Pretty much everyone who makes a short has in the back of their mind an Oscar acceptance speech at the ready, and if that happens then congratulations. But well-made shorts can be seen by a remarkably large number of influential people at countless festivals around the world, from prestigious ones like Cannes or Sundance, to short-only festivals all attended by industry professionals. They can appear on tv or be shown theatrically before features. And they will make up other people’s showreels – directors, director’s of photography, costume designers, set decorators, editors and even composers all have showreels that are watched by other producers and directors all looking for talent for their own productions.

If you are interested in taking part in short films keep an eye on the usual places (, etc) or get in touch with local film schools.

Just make sure that film-makers have the passion, dedication and ability to deliver a well-made short film. Who knows – that expenses-only gig might land you the role of a life-time – and how can you put a value on that?

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