How to make a standout showreel

Want to showcase your video work to potential clients? Pro filmmaker and zoologist Roxy Furman gives 8 tips for better showreels.
An image shot by Roxy Furman of a puffin with its wings outstretched in sharp focus, while the plants in the foreground and sky in the background are blurred.

On a trip to Scotland, filmmaker Roxy Furman was able to capture footage and stills of subjects such as deer, otters and puffins. The videos are a great showcase of her skills, and her showreel features these puffins amid other highlights from her wildlife footage. © Roxy Furman

For aspiring filmmakers, videographers, directors and anyone wanting to shoot video for a living, a well-made showreel demonstrating your technical skills and highlighting your personality and interests is perhaps the most important factor in getting work.

The kind of showreel you'll make depends on the specific industry you want to work in – documentary showreels should display storytelling skills, for example, while in the commercial industry you should demonstrate creativity and technical acumen. However, all showreels are about showcasing your work and yourself to potential employers.

British freelance filmmaker and photographer Roxy Furman, who specialises in content about animals and the natural world, completed an MA in wildlife filmmaking in 2021 and set about creating an impressive showreel in order to secure clients (a music-free clip of her full showreel is below). Roxy has grown an impressive audience via her various social media channels, and has worked with organisations including the BBC and RSPB, as well as brands such as Rolex and Jack Wolfskin.

For Roxy, filmmaking is an important way to put across her message about the environment. "I realised that storytelling through film can have a lot of impact," she says. "Often in the scientific community we have these big revelations about conservation or animal welfare, but on paper these findings are hard to digest. Presenting work through film cuts through this noise."

Roxy now not only has several wildlife films under her belt, but has also accumulated plenty of knowledge on how best to present footage captured out in the field. It all starts with creating your own showreel, and here Roxy gives her best advice on how to stand out from the crowd.

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1. Sum up what you do

"I had been sharing my work online, but it was in social media posts here and there, put out on the assumption that if people want to see my work they'll jump online and find it. However, the reality is that if you want to secure filming jobs, the people who commission them have very little time to search through multiple posts on different platforms.

"A showreel is something you can send out that sums up what you do and how well you do it in one well-presented video. It enables videographers to show more of their work in less time, which is especially important when you are starting out."

A still from Roxy Furman's showreel, showing a deer turned away from the camera with a black bird perched on its back.

2. Reveal your personality

"If you gave five people five cameras and asked them to go and film something, they'd all film it in a different way. This is why it's important to imprint your personality and filming style within your showreel. This is where your craft at storytelling and adding your own magic to the scene comes into play. When I was putting my showreel together, I wanted to show my own personal angle on the world."

3. Keep it short

"Time is of the essence when it comes to showreels, as you have to keep people's attention and make sure they are interested in your footage. My showreel is less than two minutes, but even if people watch just half, I hope it gives them an idea of who I am, my approach to filming and what I can deliver when I film.

"Some people say that showreels should be between three and five minutes, but if 10 people send through a five-minute showreel, that'll take nearly an hour of someone's day to watch them all."

4. Stick to your subjects

"I shoot a few different genres – along with the wildlife, I have created films about women in society and also some food videos. When it comes to the showreel, though, mixing these projects together didn't work to produce one that flowed. So I made the decision to compartmentalise these genres and keep my main showreel solely for wildlife filming. This then allowed me to really drill down into which clips I wanted to share: ones that would tell the best story."

5. Vary your footage

"Having a range of shots in your showreel is important, as it demonstrates to potential clients that you can capture a real variation of footage. In my case, this meant including some more technically difficult scenes, such as filming in backlight. Varying focal lengths, compositions and lighting styles will all help add that mix, which will ensure that your showreel keeps the viewer's interest and doesn't feel too one-dimensional.

"That said, it can't be too jarring, so the trick is to keep that variation while making sure each scene flows to the next and feels like a natural progression through the showreel – remember, this should feel like a complete film rather than a collection of clips."

6. Introduce yourself

"Your showreel isn't just about the footage you capture on your camera, it's also about you as a person, so finding ways to introduce yourself is important. For me, the way I found to do this was to include behind-the-scenes footage of me working with my cameras. I was lucky as I had quite a lot of footage like this from filming videos with various brands.

"If you don't have this footage, another mechanism to add some of your own personality is to perhaps include some voiceover audio over the footage. You can even use the showreel to include elements of your own personal signature filming style – for example, taking the time to show close-up detail shots and not just focusing on the big wide landscape scenes."

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An image shot by Roxy Furman on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV of a floating flamingo surrounded by tiny water droplets.

Roxy suggests mixing up the composition and styles in your footage. Remember to include close-ups as well as wider views for a more engaging showreel. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at 182mm, 1/1000 sec, f/5 and ISO100. © Roxy Furman

Filmmaker Roxy Furman stands in woodland, next to a Canon EOS R5 C camera on a tall tripod.

Roxy uses her Canon EOS R5 C to capture a huge variation of wildlife footage that features not only in her showreel, but also in films for brands around the world. © Roxy Furman

7. Don't forget the music

"Shooting the footage is only half the job; editing the showreel together can take just as much time. My approach is to start by collecting all the footage I want to use into one folder. I watch through the footage I've captured and I mark up the in and out times where I think it would look good in the showreel. Next, I move on to selecting the music, which is hugely important because the footage needs to fit with the timing and beat of the music, not the other way round.

"If I'm creating a showreel or some other shorter video, I use music from a stock music site, but if I'm creating a longer video, then I work with a composer to create some bespoke music to act as a soundtrack for the film, as this gives me more scope to tailor the style and length of the music to match the footage. Think carefully about the tone and pace of the music – does it match the feel of the footage and the message you want the film or showreel to portray?"

8. Final touches

"Once you've created your showreel, don't forget to add the final touches, such as colour grading the footage. I've been using the Canon EOS R5 C, which gives me a big choice in the look of the footage I capture. For example, I can shoot in one of the default Picture Styles and this allows me to add more of a stylistic feel to the footage there and then, so I can see it while I'm filming. Alternatively, I can record using the Canon Log profiles, which I will then grade back at the computer."

Roxy's tips should help you focus your approach for creating your first showreel, which will act as a 24/7 advertisement for your videography. This is your opportunity to not only show who you are, what you're passionate about and how well you can capture your subjects, but also to show how you can make the most of the features and functions offered by the latest hybrid and cinema cameras.

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