Hey, future Hollywood star! Still in the process of creating a resume for an acting career in LA? Have you already got a great headshot done? Well done! But it is not enough. It’s time to complete your resume with a demo reel, which is another kind of a calling card for an actor. Wanna know how demo reel serves your acting career?
What is a demo reel?
Briefly, a demo reel is a video collection of your previous acting work that lasts no more than 2 minutes. Imagine that it is an audition where you do not have the script. The casting group gets a real sense of how you act without your physical presence in the LA casting agencies. They evaluate your abilities based on what they see in your reel, so you may understand that it is a pretty significant thing. In some cases, your demo reel may be what determines whether you will be invited to an audition in Los Angeles or not.
Why do you need a demo reel?
You should remember one thing before applying for an audition. Casting directors are truly busy. They do not have much time to read every applicant’s resume . For that reason, except for a headshot, demo reels are a perfect solution for them. They will know everything they need to know about you in only 2 minutes. You understand that your demo reel should perfectly demonstrate your acting skills, right?
With a demo reel, you can show the casting directors both your experience as an actor and the skills you possess. Moreover, the casting director will understand how you look on the screen. However, your demo reel should not only show the range of your skills, but it should also design kind of an emotional response to yourself that will motivate the directors to give you the part. But never consider this as a necessity to stage too emotional appeals. The most important thing will always be naturalness.
Demonstrate your best, but never be artificial!
One more thing. Let’s say you successfully impressed the casting director during your audition. Your camera presence, your performance, your consistency were all perfect. However, there is one more candidate who made the same impression on the casting director as you did. Who would they choose, what do you think? Correct, the one with the better demo reel. So, let’s start making the best demo reel ever.
What should your demo reel include?
To begin with…
For a start, provide some personal information in your demo reel. Even if you have the coolest video in the world, your watchers should know who you are. Just a couple of seconds, including a headshot made by a professional photographer in LA, your name, and contact information will be enough for the beginning.
The best part
Right after the introduction part, you can move into the best components of your demo reel. Here you should include the highlights of your career. You may ask, but why not leave the best for the end? The point is that Los Angeles casting agencies may need time for watching only some parts of your reel. Logically, they will watch the first part, so you would better give them the best in the beginning.
You should include 4-5 clips in your demo reel. They should not be long, just some 15-30 second maximum. The whole demo reel should also be short. The casting director will never dedicate more than 3 minutes to watching your reel. So, 3 minutes is the absolute maximum.
Don’t introduce each clip
There is absolutely no need to talk about each clip you are going to show. However, not to talk does not mean not to make reference at all. Just put a one-line-long description of what yo show so that the casting crew knows what the meaning is.
How long should my reel be?
The most important thing you should be aware of is that casting agencies in Hollywood do not have much time for you. Yes, it may sound rude, but it is the reality for every starting actor. You have to impress the casting director in a short time. As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Even though he talked about a letter, the principle is the same. You should take time to prepare a shorter demo reel, which will be more impressing than if you did a long one.
I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead. Mark Twain
An ideal demo reel will contain 5 different scenes and will be less than 3 minutes. 3 minutes is OK. However, when the casting director sees that your reel is 2 minutes and some seconds, they appreciate it. Visually, the number 2 seems more pleasant for them, even if the next number is 59.
You may say, but what if the director does not get the whole plot or does not fully grasp your experience. No and no. You are not making a short film. It is a bigger plus if you are able to make an impression with a 2-minute-long video than if you did a half an hour-long documentary with fascinating special effects.
What are the main qualities of a great demo reel?
You may already have some kind of an understanding of what a good demo reel is; there are still certain concrete qualities you should take into account.
Your demo reel should follow some moral standards of honesty. This is not the case when creating something significant out of nothing works. Here you should show who you are in fact, without imitating any great accomplishments. Be yourself, and it will be appreciated.
This is not the case when creating something significant out of nothing works.
Your features should be as new as it is possible. An acting career in Los Angeles is a concept that gets old really quickly. You, as an actor, are expected to develop throughout time. That is why, if you include features of 3 years ago in your reel, you will be removed from the shortlist immediately.
Sound and Visual Quality
The quality of your demo reel talks about your professionalism. Good actors should understand the significance of quality videos. If your video lacks sound and the visual quality is below average, you will be considered amateur.
This is about yourself. Your headshot is not capable of making a good reputation for you by itself. The demo reel gives you the chance to market your best qualities. This is to say; there should be something special in your reel. Something that is unique and differentiates you from other candidates.
Focus on Yourself
Concentrate the focus of the reel on yourself. This may sound obvious, however, experience shows that it is necessary to highlight this point. Some actors come up with real high-quality reels. However, in the end, it is not clear who the reel was about. So, make sure that the scenes of your clip start with you on the screen and finish similarly. The shot should be on you rather than the environment or other actors.
Some actors come up with real high-quality reels. However, in the end, it is not clear who the reel was about.
Do I need to hire a videographer?
Even if you have some understanding of video making, it is much better to hire a professional videographer in LA, as it will guarantee you a professional demo reel. All the technical requirements of a professional reel will be satisfied. You will not have to worry about the quality of the light and sound, as the videographer will take care of that all.
It is very important to highlight your professionalism in the eyes of the casting director. If he/she finds your reel amateur, you will most probably not be selected. You can consider this a small investment in your acting career in Hollywood.
A tip for you! While filming the introduction video of your demo reel, it is a really good idea to invite a headshot photographer. The point is that you may manage 2 things at the same time: to get headshots and a demo reel. Your professional photographer in Los Angeles will make some amazing headshots for you.
Can I edit my own reel?
Well, if you have experience in editing and you believe that nobody else in the world can do that better than you, then go for it, why not? OK, so here are some tips for you to do the editing of your own reel in the best way.
Share the Screen Just a Little
The casting directors want to see you primarily. So, keep the focus of the video on yourself. Start with a scene of your face from the very beginning so that the directors know who to look at.
Your footage should be the first in the reel. No backstory, no plot. Just you in the beginning. Nobody in the LA casting agency is interested in where you are or who are the people surrounding you. The only thing they want is you.
Have footage as concise as possible. One scene should not last long; otherwise, you will lose your audience. Yes, the concentration should be on you, but the scenes should change.
However, there is a huge problem in editing a personal demo reel yourself. You may never know which parts to keep and which ones to eliminate. This is about objectivity, which one can never have toward himself. This is why it is much better to trust the editing of your reel to a professional who will be able to distinguish between important and trivial parts.
How many reels do I need?
You may ask, “Do I need to make many demo reels just as I do with headshots?” You ask an interesting question. The answer to this question depends on the content of your reel.
Here are the main points:
Drama and Comedy
If you had a chance to play both dramatic and comic characters throughout your acting career in Hollywood, then it will be a better choice to make 2 separate reels for each of them. If a director is casting a comedy, for instance, he/she will hardly be interested in your drama experience. In that case, he/she will not be satisfied with your demo reel, as there will be not enough information for them. However, if the director likes you and wants to see your other abilities as well, they may turn to your second reel.
Either Drama or Comedy
If you are specialized only in one of these spheres, you should absolutely have only one reel. The casting directors will not be much happy if they know there is one more reel to watch about the same actor. They may conclude that you were not able to fit everything into one reel and disqualify you as a professional.
What should you not include on your reel?
As you may have noted, there are a lot of requirements you should follow to have a good demo reel. However, what dos without don’ts? Here are some things that should not be in your reel.
Never ever include 2 things from the same experience. Each clip in your reel should be from a different show/performance and of different time periods.
Well, probably you were not going to make a sci-fi reel, but this mainly refers to special effects. They are actually not needed. The casting director wants to see you, rather the amount of money you paid for an expensive video with special effects.
No Flash Drives!
Do not even try to give your reel to a director in a flash drive. They will simply not take it. Instead, have your reel online and open access for them. The same refers to CDs.
A demo reel, just like a headshot and resume, serves as a calling card for you and helps the casting agencies decide whether to hire you or not. It is extremely important to be natural in your demo reel and follow the requirements so that the casting agencies of LA consider you a decent candidate.
P.S. Before making your demo reel search for as many demo reels on Youtube as possible.