Every actor who's been doing this for long enough knows how hard it can be to get footage from films you've worked on. Most indie films offer little or no pay but promise the industry-standard "copy" for your reel. Much like a political campaign, promises flow like honey up front but after the lights go out and the shoot is wrapped, no one answers their phone or replies to email. Those sweet promises of footage turn sour.
I have lost count of the total number of films I've done, but I know I have footage from less than 40% of them. Fortunately, I have done enough films and had enough people follow up on their promises that I've been able to put a solid reel together, but I still don't have some of my best work.
For example, one of the features I was the lead in had an amazing DP and production sound department and would be perfect footage for my reel. The film first hit the festival circuit a year ago and has won awards at nearly every festival at which it has screened. Two years after filming wrapped, I still don't have the footage. The director has given me a good reason for why he can't let me use the footage yet - distributors are wary of anything from the film being online before they purchase (even if it's just a clip in a reel). But by the time I get permission to use it, I may no longer need it.
Sometimes the reasons the footage is not produced are less understandable. Response times to actors' emails generally drop off 300% after shooting is wrapped. Some directors fall off the face of the earth completely. Some projects never get completed (we can use the footage though!!). Ugh.
Ironically, the larger the project, the more likely you will get timely, usable footage. I've asked several of my acting friends about this and they all concur that small, no-budget projects (where all you get for your services is a copy of the film for your reel) tend to be the most difficult to wrangle footage from.
One way to get footage is to become the squeaky wheel. Pester, pester, pester, pester, pester, pester until you get it. If I'm not getting paid or getting paid very little, I shouldn't also have to grovel for usable clips of my work.
That said, I have had some fantastic experiences with directors and/or editors getting me footage incredibly quickly and with a smile!
That reminds me, Chris, when can I get that footage from this weekend?
What's the most difficultly you've had getting footage for your reel?
(photos courtesy of David Carangan and Keith Wood)
-- Gabriel Voss