Monday, September 14, 2009

How to make an acting DEMO REEL!!!

The blog post you've ALL have been waiting for!!!!! (myself included!)

DEMO REELS!!!!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Dun dun duuuuunnnn.....

It's a great mystery, and just like a documentary on Sasquatch, I'll do my best to inform you on the information I've gathered, but this DOES NOT MEAN I HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS!

With that said, I'll tell you my personal take on how to make a decent demo reel, and I will show you the one I've come up with for myself, as well as other actress's demos on youtube...

So, first, we have to clarify the objective of an actor's demo reel. The purpose is to show a casting director, director, agent, or manager (in 5 minutes or less is best) your acting range, emotion, different looks, how you interact with other actors, and your overall film "presence".

The key to a good demo is getting to the point! Pacing is important. If you linger too long on one scene the viewer will get bored because they've already seen what they needed to see from that character and situation... move on to what else you have to offer.

Demo Reels can range from 1 minute to 5-6 minutes... rarely over or under that amount.

Once you've accumulated all your footage (and don't hesitate making a demo just because you think you don't have enough footage... a demo is ever-evolving... it'll never be perfect and it will never be your last demo...)...

So, once you have all your footage to date, find an editor! A lot of people try to screw you on price so make SURE to shop around and compare prices, I wouldn't pay more than $300 for an AWESOME demo... and make friends with all editors and that way you can pull favors. I've had 3 demos made before from friends for FREE, and my latest demo I made myself because I learned how to edit... it's not as hard as it looks!

Show the editor all your footage and pick out what you think best shows your range, look, emotion, different characters, and the best quality of films you've been a part of. Some of my favorite acting performances had terrible quality and I had to cut them all together. It sucks, but it's better to not be associated with that bad of quality.

Rule of thumb: put your "biggest" job first on your demo. If you were on a popular TV show, in a good movie, or acted with a recognizable actor, put that first or second in your demo.

Also, in every scene you use in your demo, try to be the one dominating the scene. This may mean cutting other actors lines short or out completely, so that it looks like the scene is all about you.

Some people choose to do montages of footage with music in their demo. I like doing this because I can show various "looks" faster without having to show the whole scene. I definitely recommend always putting the music and montage at the END of the demo. Some people do it in the beginning, and most casting directors don't like this because they just want to get to the meat of the performances. That's why you should always show your best work first and go from there.

Some people choose to add the title of the film at the bottom of the screen when the clip is being shown. I find this distracting (especially when it's an unrecognizable film, that has no real notoriety), but still many people do this, and it's just a matter of preference...

General note: always start the demo with your name in CLEAR text and end the demo with some kind of contact info, whether it's your agent/manager or your website info. Refrain from putting your personal info (email or phone number).

Okay, without further ado... let's see some examples!

Here's my personal demo reel (I JUST made... today). Please comment and tell me what you think (what works and what doesn't, etc... it's ever-evolving...)

The strongest part about this girl's reel is that she has big stations (NBC) and big actors involved. That's always the best way to lead your demo reel. Start with the most recognizable show or movie, or anything with recognizable actors, and it automatically makes you look like a pro.

This girl's demo is good considering the interaction between the different people. For whatever reason the quality doesn't seem the best, which a lot of times is out of your control. And I noticed she doesn't really have any close-ups on her face, which would be ideal, but if you don't have the footage, you don't have the footage! No worries, just work with what you've got...

This is probably the best demo of all. Great pacing, great scenes, shows all the best parts, and simple. No fancy effects, no fancy transitions. VERY VERY nice. The reason these long scenes work is because they are high-quality, are mainly about her character, and they're with recognizable actors. If any of those things were not true, then the length of the scenes would be too long. Everything works in this demo!

This girl is just a fabulous actress which makes the reel all the better, of course. I do think some of the scenes could be shortened, but that's just an opinion. The great thing about this reel is you know exactly the kind of character actress she is, and she has great range within her character.

The beauty of this demo is the length, 1 minute 30 seconds. Quick and to the point! Good variety of characters and all of the footage seems to be good quality. Not bad at all...

This one is pretty long with footage that is not very necessary (example,: the first scene should be cut after she dies, no need to still be showing her motionless for that long). After the first scene, the pacing speeds up nicely and she has a good variety of footage. The end is an example of a montage of footage with music and no dialogue. Her montage could have been drastically shortened, since there is some footage repeating itself.

Okay, there's a lot I want to say about this one, but I'll try to keep to the basics. Putting her acting aside, and just looking at the edit job: The transitions with the title and where the film can be seen are unnecessary and time-consuming. The crazy "special effects" transitions are very distracting and just in bad taste. Simple is better when it comes to transitions. I'm not sure if the editor added some of the music, but it was over-powering a bit. As a general rule, if you already show a certain character from a film, don't show the same character again, unless they're in a different extreme situation. Example: if you show being a ditzy blonde in one film, don't show a ditzy blonde from another film again, unless it's a totally different or extreme emotion being shown with that character. A casting director's time is valuable and they just want a slice from all the different ranges you have. Oddly enough, with better editing, this girl could have an AWESOME reel. Seriously!


Anonymous said...

ALmost all the reels do not work.. Please repost!!!!