Landing an acting role or a position on a film production crew is much like any other job application process; you supply those who are hiring (including potential agents) with a list of your qualifications, education, and experience. But those in charge of casting and hiring for a production don’t just want to read what you’ve done – they also want to see what you can do. A demo reel can be an excellent tool to show off your skills, whether in acting or in motion picture production, and help set you apart. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to create a demo reel that gives you an edge.
Grab Attention Right Away
Chances are, your reel is not the only one that will be viewed – in fact, the person viewing it likely has a huge number of reels to go through, and not a lot of time. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you stand out of the crowd by grabbing their attention immediately by leading off your demo reel with your best sample. When under time pressure, directors may only have the time to watch the first minute or so of your reel to see if they’re interested, so if you don’t make an impact off the bat, you may quickly be forgotten.
Don’t Forget Title Cards
Casting and hiring directors should never have to wonder whose reel they just watched; the beginning and end of every demo reel should include a title slate that clearly includes your name, contact information and agency (if applicable). Use title cards according to your specific reel. A film/theatrical demo should have the title of movie or television show whereas a commercial reel really has no need for title cards. If your reel is for motion picture production, the title card should display the name and date of the production, as well as the job you held on the production– for instance, a film editor might specify how they contributed to the editing of the piece.
Narrow the Focus
Most job search experts and hiring managers suggest that applicants tailor their resumes to the job they’re applying for – don’t clutter your resume with job experience that has nothing to do with the current position. The same logic applies to demo reels. Since demo reels are more difficult to quickly edit than a resume, it may be helpful to create several different versions right off the bat. For instance, an actor may want to create separate demo reels for commercial acting or film acting purposes.
Keep it Short
When it comes to your demo reel, the key is to keep it short and sweet. Opinions on the “perfect” length vary somewhat and will depend on your field (Pixar limits animators’ reels to four minutes), but the general consensus is that your reel should only be a few minutes long. Your reel should highlight the best of the best of your work, and move at a steady pace to both keep viewers engaged and ensure that they have enough time and attention to view a variety of your work samples and get an idea of the talent and skills you have to offer.
Present a Polished Final Product
Your demo reel should be more than a collection of clips of your work; it should be a considered a presentation that puts your best foot forward. Would you submit a resume with fonts or formatting that varied randomly from one sentence to the next? Similarly, your demo reel’s packaging and presentation matters. Focus on high quality images and videos, smooth transitions, and any other editing necessary. If you decide to include music, make sure that it’s appropriate for the reel and unobtrusive enough to not be distracting.
Still Have More Questions?
KD Conservatory has acting, musical theatre, and film production programs to help prepare students for careers in the entertainment industry. Contact us with any of your questions, or check us out on Facebook for ongoing updates and information!