Let's face it, in this day and age with technology being what it is you need a demo reel. In the past, all actors needed was a good looking headshot and a resume but those days are coming to an end. With just about everyone utilizing fast internet connections, demo reels via the internet are as important as headshots. Casting directors would rather see your talent instead of looking at headshot with resumes that everyone knows that people tend to stretch the truth on just a bit. Don't take it from us, hear it from the source:
"Not having [a current actors reel] absolutely decreases an actor's chances of getting hired. It looks like you've never worked in film or television. And what better way to see how an actor looks on film than to see their reel?"
- Mark Sikes, casting director
A good demo reel has to show off your acting ability and do it quickly. Casting Directors and Producers don't have time to sit through every Demo Reel they come across so you got to get their attention quickly. Since we also do Independent Films we know exactly what Casting Directors and Producers are looking for. We work with great care to not only make a great demo reel but we also make sure it packs the punch that is vital to any actor in the business. Our goal is not only to make you a great demo reel but create a work of art. Something that is not only watched more than once but something that people will be talking about.
How to create a good actor's reel
Start strong! Make sure we know WHO you are… your NAME should be the first thing we see. Your demo is a professional tool. It can be artistic but it must never be confusing. Your name must appear in clear type within the first 3 seconds and be clearly visible long enough for the casting director to write it down. This is not the time for dazzling video effects. Billboard the name first, then a quick montage is usually OK. If you want to include a longer fabulous, fancy, slow-motion, music-video-style, effect-laden montage you usually are safer to keep it for the end of the reel.
Make sure we see YOUR FACE first, featuring you at your very best… You can open your video demo with your great professional resume shot as a title screen. We need to see you clearly right away. You should also be the first face, voice and motion shots that we see. If you want to re-use a bit of the opening later as part of longer scene or set-up that’s OK, but start hot, start strong, and start with putting your face right in the casting director’s face!
Put your “best acting bit” and your “most cast-able type” first on the reel. Don’t save anything for later… grab our attention now. We don’t need to see elements that set-up or explain the scene. Don’t worry about context. Just cut to the good actor bits.
Give us a quick, strong contrast next. Once you’ve established yourself, your look, voice, and your most cast-able type, move on! It is great to see you doing something “light” or comic and something heavier and more emotional, or vice versa. Strong contrast in characters is good but it’s not life and death. Usually most good demo’s don’t feature really unusual stuff, strong make-up or odd characters or accents right away, although you can go to them after a minute or so.
Be selfish! Cut out that other actor when and if you can. BUT don’t cut out your reaction shots. We don’t just want to watch you talk, we want see you react.
Keep it tight, sharp and short! Most of the bad demo’s we’ve seen are simply too long and linger too long on weak work. We would rather see a tight 90 seconds than a bad 5 minutes. A good rule of thumb: Total running length over never MORE than three minutes. Leave them wanting more. This is a movie-trailer advertising the feature length movie that is YOU! Don’t overstay your welcome.
Use the most professional shots you’ve got. Why not steal those million dollar set-ups when you had 3 lines on a big feature or 6 lines on a series? Even a commercial sometimes can show you at your best. Use the shot! Even 5-10 seconds where you’re looking good is useful. Always remember that you are selling to a sophisticated audience that’s highly visual and technically demanding.
OK, it should be ALL REAL WORK! Be aware that most casting directors expect to see MOSTLY professional work on your reel. But the reality is that most actor’s demos will include some non-professional content. Add to your “reel” work with a less-than-professional clip ONLY when it’s really good. A clip from a decent on-camera class, a very short monologue you’ve shot with a good video camera, good cuts from student films are all OK but shouldn’t be the only stuff we see on a working actor’s reel.
Go for great quality first… but don’t always reject a clip just because you only have a poor dub of it. [A good video editor can sometimes help “beef” up a technically weak bit of tape.] Still you must try to get professional level copies of all your work, every time… that takes persistence! Start the process on the day you do the shoot. Your personal reel is at the very bottom of the list of priorities for any producer but they often respond to courtesy, warmth, persistence and puppy-dog eyes! Always offer to pay for the cost of the dub.
We need to see your eyes! Medium and close-up shots are the essential shots for your reel. Long or wide shots are good for film-making but weak for demo-making.
NO LONG MONOLOGUES! Don’t try and do a long 3+ minute monologue straight to camera [unless you have been specifically asked to do that for something like a theatre school video audition.] Even the greatest actors in the world don’t try to carry more than 90 seconds straight to camera without editing, cutaways, or a change in shot. You are better to do 2 or 3 short contrasting monologues rather than one long one. You might shoot for 3 minutes and edit it down to one.
LISTEN! Be alert to the audio quality. Bad audio, mixed-up levels or weird music will distract more quickly than even a bad image will on video. Spend time on mastering and mixing audio levels. Use music but keep the music under, not over, the top of your performance and your voice.
Finally, maybe you should get professional help. Yes, you may be able to edit this yourself on your own computer but it isn’t the technology, it’s the vision that a skilled editor brings that will help you build a winning reel. And yes, you may already perform pretty well but a good director will push your performance into ranges and depths that you haven’t imagined.
For those of you seeking a professionally made actor's reel, we work with a talented and experience producer who is surprisingly reasonable for friends of ours. If you or anyone you know is looking for a professional reel, contact us for a referral at firstname.lastname@example.org