This is such a common question & concern. And it’s not quite a black & white answer. Let’s break it down and first start with what matters most in your reel:
What matters most in your reel is by far, the quality… of your ACTING. After all, that’s the overriding purpose of your reel, right? To show us your ABILITY as an actor. That said, there are some things to take into consideration, the most important one being: the distraction factor.
As casting directors, we’re used to watching everything; from scenes filmed on your iPhone in your studio apartment’s kitchen to a beautifully shot Roger Deakins scene. And we’ve seen some amazing acting happen in either of these scenarios!
HOWEVER, if you are looking to add “outside footage” to your reel (footage not acquired from an acting job), A GREAT self tape (pending that episode or project has already aired!) can arguably be less distracting than a scene shot in your living room without proper lighting and/or sound. Have access to a more professional setup? Awesome! But don’t think going into a full-blown production is necessary to create a great reel for yourself.
Keep in mind the PURPOSE of your reel: to show us what you are capable of as an actor. That’s it! So whether that’s great footage you’ve acquired throughout your career or an amazing self tape you once did, the main focus should be on your ACTING first (and always).