I've seen some good ones and some not so good ones. Where can you get one? How to do it yourself. Post your questions and comments.

Yes to Demos
Total posts: 9
Joined: 14 year(s) ago
Posted 11:59 AM Nov. 22, 2009

Like your headshot this is another tool. However I would only put together a demo reel if it is really good production work. I would stay away from student productions and extremely non existent budgeted projects as most will say unprofessional.

There are a few people here in town that can do them and pretty much all are with a film production crew that use.

Demo's should be in min or less clips, this comes from NYC and LA stay away from the montage's and music.

Total posts: 1
Joined: 14 year(s) ago
Posted 9:26 AM Jan. 12, 2010
Lovely Jon! Thanks for your good advice!
Total posts: 38
Joined: 14 year(s) ago
Posted 11:33 AM Jul. 7, 2010

Jon makes some valid points about demo reels, but let me expand on this a bit.

We all have headshots that we submit for auditions, but one problem with headshots is that they’re a frozen moment in time. If the face in your photo is serious, whimsical, seductive or whatever, you may find yourself limited to roles that fit that expression. If you’ve done your homework and know your type, that may be okay. If you’re still finding your type, that may be a problem.

A demo reel is a headshot in motion. It gives casting directors a range of what you look like on camera, how you move, the different expressions of your face, what your voice sounds like. It can show how you react to your scene partner and whether you avoid obvious errors, like rushing your lines.

Your demo reel should look professional, so resist the temptation to add gimmicky graphics or distracting screen wipes of the kind often seen in video editing programs for computers. Keep it simple; transition with dissolves and overlapping audio, for example.

Try to create a unifying theme or some logic in the way you organize your clips. Because of the expense involved in producing a demo reel, giving some thought to structure can save money later on, especially if you can switch out clips as better ones become available without having to recreate the whole thing.

Fox puts out a Collector’s Preview of great classic films that it uses to intro a lot of its DVDs. (I’ve seen it on My Cousin Vinny.) It’s a montage set to that great old ‘30s-‘40s song “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons” and opens with a shot of Ingrid Bergman from the film Notorious. If you’re creating a demo reel, it’s worth studying for the way it’s put together and the kind of information it conveys.

For example, note that most of the shots are action/reaction and involve little or no dialog. The actors are coy, sexy, charming, surprised, comic, angry, cocky, kissing, a range of emotions and character types. Aside from Bette Davis saying “Fasten your seatbelts,” there are no signature lines. When actors are on screen, the screen titles are very simple so that the viewer isn’t distracted from watching by the need to read. The cuts are quick or quick dissolves. The music creates a unifying theme and sets up the closing line. Most important about the music, it makes you feel good about the people you’re seeing on screen, and the total package makes you want to see more.

I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand the idea of doing a montage or adding music (although few of us can afford a copyrighted song). Just remember that the elements you include must add something to the whole and not distract the viewer from looking at your most valuable asset, your face.

I wouldn’t rule out using clips from student films either. I was just in a student production shot in 16mm and it’s beautiful. Besides, you can always get a usable clip if you’re looking for action/reaction or a well-lit, well-framed shot that makes you look in some way unique.

Keep your demo to 3 minutes or less. Put yourself in the shoes of the director and ask yourself “What do I need to know about this person to cast them in my film.” Then try to convey that.

Good luck with it. Remember, a demo reel is just one of many tools in the business of acting. You won’t get hired on the basis of a demo, but you might get called in to audition – and that opens another door.

p.s. Actually demo reels and virtually everything else you need to know about the business side of acting can be found in a terrific book called Self-Management for Actors: Getting Down to (Show) Business by Bonnie Gillespie. It is absolutely encyclopedic in the issues and information it covers. I recommend it on my blog www.thoughtsonacting.blogspot.com

Total posts: 2
Joined: 13 year(s) ago
Posted 7:43 PM Jul. 30, 2015

Good advice... thanks!