So, it seems you have a choice- show the industry what they want to see OR show the industry you are an artist with ideas, offerings and stories.
A million times we hear it from agents, casting directors etc: “Have you got a show reel? Show me your show reel?”
Then you go out frantically – and expensively- filming a scene that will “show you off”. Well how about you stuff that idea and start writing a short film for yourself with a story that connects to your truth. One that you can share with an audience. If you are going to spend the money to film a professional show reel then I say you use that money to create.
Of course there are obstacles in this path. Fear of failure stands out as the main one. I mean the show reel path is less scary as you can just choose a scene and find a partner then get someone to shoot it for you and hey presto – a scene. Imagine though if you were a casting director or an agent- someone sends in a show reel, and so do many actors every week, but then you send through a 3 minute short film that you have produced AND acted in yourself. What do you think is more appealing- the short film right?! You can also do the short film festival circuit just for the fun of it. I bet you have a million script ideas every week- capture one! Sit down and write it! Make it as easy to shoot as possible! Use your imagination.
What you're going to want to do is what's called reverse-engineering. Take the resources you have available, and then write a film to match those resources. So you have one character, that looks like you. Find an idea that fits within those restrictions, and you're good to go! I saw a great short once about a guy trying to record a new answering machine message. I remember a Pixar short about an old man playing chess against himself. These were memorable because the content was entertaining and relatable, not because of any grand concept with a big cast or crazy camera moves.
Think of things that only require one or two people: painting, writing, rehearsing, making something, gardening, exploring, camping, photography. Make a comedic short of your character trying to meditate for the first time. Or a dramatic short about your character alone in a new place, feeling homesick and trying to connect with his roots.
Think of things where there should be more than one person, but there's not: waiting for a blind date, a town with no people in it, etc. Use the fact that there's only one character to build the premise.
Use things like phones and mail to bring in outside characters who we never see in person. Give your character a pet to talk to.
The possibilities are endless. The fundamental part of a good short, like all films, is a good story. Keep it simple, capitalize on the fact that there is only one or two character/s on screen, give it a beginning, middle, and end, and you'll come out with something that you're proud of and people like to watch.
in conclusion- you will learn a hell of a lot more from making a short than doing a show reel. Please yourself, not others.