Demo Reel Tips

Creating Demo Reel Scripts

creating demo reel scriptsWhen creating demo reel scripts, we need to answer the question “What is your casting?”

We recommend speaking with representation first and foremost. If you’re shooting with us in order to get representation, then talk with teachers, coaches, and mentors. Ask a friend, but be very open to what they say.

The casting you are targeting will help define your character. Your character’s wants and needs will help form one extremely significant sentence: the premise line.

Creating Demo Reel Scene Premise Lines

When writing and creating demo reel script options, we work off of a “premise line” that you will provide for us. That premise line will consist of three components:

  1. The Character
  2. The Situation
  3. To Whom It is You’re Speaking

Give us some conflict!

Watch any good scene between two characters and look for the conflict. One character wants or needs something from the other character. They might have different viewpoints, varying beliefs or are working with different bits of information or perspective.

A minilogue is a great opportunity for your character to really “lay it all on the line.” When a character has focus on screen for 20-30 seconds, they are usually presenting a case.

Examples of wants and needs

  • To express feelings or emotions. (“I’ve always loved you.” or “I hated you for walking out on us.”)
  • To provide information (“Frank is cheating on you.” or “I lost my job and have nowhere else to go.”)
  • To take action. (“Leave your wife.” or “Give me the launch codes or I’ll pull the trigger.”)

Whether your character wins or loses the conflict, we may never know. But the “case presented” to the other character will definitely change the course of action in the story. When creating demo reel premises, think of a case your character will present that is compelling. If it’s something that would make the other character stop and think, it’ll probably do the same for the viewer.

Start with a sentence

A simple sentence will do, such as: “Smarmy lawyer tells opposing counsel he’ll do anything to win the case.” You’re basically telling us what you’re saying, and why it’s important. We’re also getting a feel for this character’s motivation and situation. We’re seeing a pivotal scene in this person’s storyline; a poignant moment.

But Wait! My premise needs more than a sentence!

If you cannot convey your premise in one sentence, it might be a good sign that you’re trying to fit too much into your scene. You also might be providing more backstory than can be shown in 30 seconds. Backstory is excellent for the actor’s preparation, but the writer needs something precise. Think what are we seeing in the present moment.

Target a specific show

Once you’ve got the premise line down, you can then tell us if there’s a specific TV show you’d like that scene to emulate in tone or vibe. Let us know if you want that medical drama to feel more like Grey’s Anatomy as opposed to House. Or if you’d like your sitcom to be more like a single-camera Modern Family than a multi-camera Big Bang Theory. If it’s a film actor that you liken yourself to, let us know which actor in which film since they’re all very different from project to project. All of this information helps us understand your expectations for each scene.

If you’re creating demo reel scripts for more than one scene, you’ll also have to consider the range you like to show.

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About the Author:

Retta Putignano is partner and head writer of Create Your Reel (CYR), the Los Angeles-based demo reel production company, which writes, shoots, and edits custom footage for actor demo reels. Since launching in 2009, CYR has created reels for more than 800 clients. CYR was voted “Best Demo Reel Producer” by the Backstage Readers Choice Awards, and is happy to continue serving Los Angeles talent and the many actors who have flown in from all over the globe to shoot with them. Follow Create Your Reel on Facebook, Twitter @CreateYourReel, and at www.createyourreel.com. Originally from Chicago, Retta is also an actor, producer, and graduate of the Second City Chicago Conservatory. She has appeared in more than 20 short films and three features. One film earned the Best Drama Award from the Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences. She has been a writing mentor for nine years with the Los Angeles-based non-profit www.WriteGirl.org, and her work has been published for as many years in their award-winning anthologies. Follow Retta on Twitter @RettaPutignano.