Things To Consider When Creating A Demo Reel
Let’s face it; every actor needs a reel of their best work to send to casting directors, agents, and producers. When directors cast film talent they want to see a clean short reel that spotlights what an actor can do. What a lot of actors do not understand is how to put together a reel that will get them noticed. Many actors do not know how long your audition reel should be? The answer may surprise you! When a director sits down to watch hundreds of reels and choose the top talent to come in for an audition they are looking for a short simple highlight reel. The best reels are one minute in length or less. I know; that is not a lot of time to showcase your best work. But if you take the footage you have gathered from shorts and student films you can build a reel that will do the job.
Ideally, your audition reel should only feature you. What I mean is; use footage where you are the only person in the shot. Why? It is simple. A director who sees more than one actor in the frame may choose the other person to be in their film instead of you. Now, you might be thinking the other actor I am talking to is in the frame, but the camera only sees the back of their head or is looking over their shoulder. Great! As long as you are the focus of the conversation or action, then that clip will do just fine. Be sure to avoid wide shots of multiple actors or strange camera angles where you are speaking but are not the central character in the shot. I should mention there are always exceptions. For example, if you are standing next to an A-List actor when you deliver your lines, then by all means include that footage in your reel. You want to show that you can perform alongside a recognized talent, but make sure you have a line to speak so anyone watching your reel will see you perform.
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You might be concerned that even if you have footage of yourself with the camera trained on you, that your clips are not very long. This is exactly what you want. Instead of having a full minute of dialog from one scene as your reel you want to break up your reel with 4 to 6 different clips of you on camera. Each clip should be about ten-seconds long. Five or six ten-second clips of you in different costumes and on different sets show that you have worked on more than one production. Directors that cast film talentwant to see a range of acting within your reel. If you show emotion on camera, use it in your reel.
Editing your reel does not require special wipes or transitions. In fact you want to keep the reel as simple as possible. You do not want to waste time fading from clip to clip. Instead just cut to the next clip. Oh, and don’t add any sound effects or music. That only hides your voice and distracts the viewer from what they are seeing. The only thing that should be added is your name at the beginning and end of the reel. Contact information for your agent is important too. If you put your personal or direct contact information on your reel you give the impression that you do not have an agent and you come across as lacking experience and being unprofessional. When directors cast film talent they base their first impression of you on your audition reel so make sure your reel shows what you can do.
The following video was made by casting director Amy Jo Berman and we also find it helpful.