Tips From the Pros
The following text is excerpted from a Los Angeles-based Theatrical Agent @Agentadvice on Twitter.
Please note: the original text has been edited to replace abbreviations, misspellings and where necessary periodic [insertions] and changes to the chronological order in which the tweet originally appeared have been made for clarification purposes.
Today we’re going to talk about demo reels.
When compiling your demo reel, look at all projects you can pull from. You [will] want to showcase your range effectively. Do you have drama? Comedy? If you have the material, have your reel showcase your range. Show your drama AND [your] comedy, it doesn’t have to be equally balanced. But you should be showing that you can, at least, DO both.
Casting may not have time to watch the ENTIRE demo reel, so [you should] front load it with projects with the best production value/notoriety. TV shows, Soap operas, high production value films… that’s what should be shown at the beginning.
Now if you have a SAG ULB [or Ultra Low Budget Film] that you did where the production value was great and your acting was the best of all your tape, still start off with a small, high profile project [AND] then go into that good footage.
Casting will CAST off of just demo reels from time to time.
[SO] Remember, business first. It shows that you have network experience (even if it was a co-star). Lure them in… then show them you can act.
Also, key the projects. Assume I don’t watch TV/movies. [How will I know] what project is this from? [Put the project name in the] bottom left corner. They’re called lower-thirds for a reason! OR, better yet, use a clip from the opening. [For example] lead in with that “CSI Miami” sound bed & fade up on the end of the title sequence where we see “CSI MIAMI”, then cut to your scene. [In another example] one client’s film won a big film festival. He starts [his reel] off with a shortened trailer (so [it] has [the] title & all awards it won at [the] different festivals).
[Generally] a demo reel should be around 2.5-3 minutes for CDs, 5 minutes for agents. A 1-minute speed reel is always helpful too! A speed reel is exactly what it sounds like…. a speedy reel. 1 minute demo reel. Bam! In and out.
[Some other notes:] You only get 1 montage. This isn’t Rocky IV. Save it for the end if you must. No cheesy music. This is a demo reel, not a video yearbook. [On keeping swear words to a minimum and or bleeping them? It] all depends on the scene. If you had a guest spot on the Sopranos… I don’t wanna hear no bleeps.
If [you don’t have] amazing footage or network shows, I’d advise doing a speed reel. Quick, a minute at most. [However] if you are completely dissatisfied with the tape you have or you simply don’t have enough tape, I’d advise going without [a reel].
[The same goes for scenes from your classes.] There’s no absolutes…but as an agent, I wouldn’t put it out [there]. [Regarding shooting a “fake” reel if you don’t have good quality stuff yet, well] like I said… no absolutes, but as an agent, I couldn’t stand behind that. At the same time, I’m not in the business of starting careers, but building upon existing [ones]…I’m not with a starter agency. Perhaps an agent [at a smaller or boutique agency] would be more receptive to something like that. [I’d] rather see your work in professional projects.
[So how do you get an agent like me to actually look at your reel when submitting?] Great headshot, some good credits, interesting look. That’s what would get me to watch!
Remember, besides your headshot, [your reel is] one of your best marketing tools.