So what exactly is the Chicago Virtual Showcase?
It’s a service for both Chicago actors and Chicago industry folks (e.g. casting directors, agents, filmmakers) to find each other. You can think of it as the digital equivalent to a traditional headshot mailing only waaaay more cost effective. Industry folks receive an emailed link to the latest showcase every month and they can reference a full year’s worth of showcases whenever they have a project.
How much is it?
The cost is $85 per actor which covers the recording session, studio rental, editing, email release to the ever-growing industry distribution list, and one year of posting. We have been told many times that we could charge substantially more for this service, but we’re committed to keeping this a low-cost marketing option for actors. This business is challenging enough already! For vetted industry folks and filmmakers, access to the showcase is free.
Is this the same thing as a demo reel?
No, it is not the same thing. The footage for the Virtual Showcase is more similar to audition footage. Still valuable, but very different! An actor reel or demo reel is generally comprised of clips from finished projects (e.g. films, TV shows, commercials) that an actor has auditioned for, booked, and shot. Not everything an actor shoots is reel worthy; the best reels feature work that gives the viewer a strong sense for the type of roles the actor tends to book and their general experience level as an actor. Ideally the Virtual Showcase helps actors land an agent or get an audition for a film project and the subsequent work they hopefully book could then be featured on a demo reel.
Do I get a copy of the video file at the end?
No. Neither the actors nor the industry folks who receive the showcase get the actual video files. There are some legal reasons and some financial reasons for this policy. However, actors do receive instructions on how to share the link to their specific showcase and profile page.
How long is the Virtual Showcase online?
Each showcase is online for a full year.
Who sees the Virtual Showcase?
Over 250 Chicago industry people and the distribution list is always growing. Actors receive the distribution list for reference after their recording session. For starters, the link is sent to all the major casting directors in Chicago, every SAG franchised talent agency, a good amount of non-union talent agencies, a mix of theatres of all sizes, and over 100 individual directors, producers, photographers, and independent filmmakers.
After the recording, how long before the link is sent to industry professionals?
The showcase goes live approximately one week after the recording date.
Is there any guarantee of work or representation?
No, but the odds of these professionals viewing your work is far greater than just cold submissions in the mail. We have personal relationships with the vast majority of these industry folks which helps a lot.
Will this help me get auditions in New York or Los Angeles?
Nope. This is a Chicago focused service.
Anything that actors should do before they participate?
This is definitely not a class or a coaching session so some prior on-camera training is very important. If you do not have at least an introductory level on-camera class under your belt, we strongly recommend you wait to participate in the Virtual Showcase until you do.
How often can I participate?
As often as you'd like, but you will need to pay the fee for each showcase.
I already have an agent. Is this a worthwhile service for me?
Yes. If you have been working out of town for awhile or taken a break from the business, this is an easy way to get back onto everyone’s radar. The showcase can also be a great way to expand casting director perceptions of you and perform a type of role you like to play but maybe are not getting called in for currently. Participating in the Chicago Virtual Showcase is also a great way to get onto the radar of many young filmmakers who use the service for casting.
Can kids participate?
Yes, we devote several showcases a year to kids and teens.
How long are the recording sessions? Where are they held?
The recording sessions are 15 minutes which is plenty of time to record everything if you are prepared. Again, this is not a class or a coaching. Actors must show up memorized and ready to perform their pieces. Recording sessions generally take place at a studio in downtown Chicago. We rent studio space so the exact location depends on availability month to month.
Can I see a sample?
Sure. A screen grab of the actor profile page is at the bottom of the “How It Works” page, but to see the live showcases just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you the current access code. It’s good to look at the showcases before you participate and get a sense for what you think plays the best.
What's a great local Chicago secret?
If you go to Crisp Chicken on Broadway and order the 3 piece boneless tenders (with Seoul Sassy sauce, natch) they almost always give you 5 pieces. ;)