A talented director I have worked with many times before once said, "As the saying goes 'we either do it for the pay check or we do it for the reel.'" Truth, such truth. As a struggling actor focused on becoming a working actor, I find myself in the middle of a balancing routine. What am I balancing? I am balancing paid work with work for my acting reel.
Yes, of course we would all love to be in constant demand for juicy character roles on the stage and voice overs and day player roles in movies and recurring roles in TV, but before that happens, people have to know about you. You get yourself known by networking. You network by acting with people and having a great reel.
Remember actors, just because producers can't always pay you with cash, they can usually figure out another way to hook you up. Is the project edited by a professional? If so, ask them to put together your reel for you. Is the sound mixed by a pro? If so, as them to put together your VO reel for you. Does the director work for a big office of some sort? Ask her about temping by the hour so you can leave for auditions when you have them. A reel can cost $1,000.00 - so having someone make the reel for you gratis, is a really good thing. Good survival jobs are hard to find, so a flexible temp job in a friendly environment would be very beneficial.
I hate to use this phrase but.....think outside the box. Think about what you need and use your free acting work to get it. Does one of the producers work as a personal trainer? Have him give you 5 free sessions. Who knows? Just ask.
And by all means, get it in writing (email is fine) that you will get the footage when the project is done. You can't have a reel without footage? Am I right, or an I right? Right? right!