You’ve gotten as far as shooting your own reel footage. Huge congrats! Or perhaps, you’ve finally gotten your hands on footage from past projects. Now you’re on to the daunting task of getting it all edited into a solid marketing tool that really nails what you do well. Because anything creative is subjective, this is the time you may encounter different opinions on how you should cut your reel together. Here are some demo reel editing techniques to keep in mind as you’re editing a demo reel.
#1. Retain focus
To impress casting directors, agents, and managers, you have a limited window to showcase your talent on your reel. Therefore, it is crucial to minimize the use of screen sharing and instead, concentrate on featuring yourself prominently. Your reel should not only begin and end with your face, but also make it clear to the viewer who they should be paying attention to. So, the question arises: how can you effectively showcase your skills in just 60 seconds while prioritizing your own presence on screen?
#2. Hold their attention
Secondly, maintain viewer engagement by keeping your video footage concise and not letting any scene drag on for too long. Remember, a longer video doesn’t necessarily mean a better one. Based on feedback from various industry professionals, including casting directors, agents, and managers, they can often determine whether an actor is suitable for a role or their roster within the first 30 seconds of viewing the footage.
#3. Put your best footage first
Start your demo reel with a scene from network TV or one featuring a recognizable actor, giving the viewer just enough to acknowledge their presence in the scene with you. If such a scene isn’t available, lead with a scene that highlights a role you frequently audition for or book. Avoid the risk of saving your best for last and remember, montages have become outdated. Ultimately, if you feel a montage is necessary, position it at the end of your reel. Always remove any dated or low-quality footage, prioritizing quality over quantity.
#4. Don’t be afraid to trim footage
Often, actors hesitate to shorten a scene, fearing it might confuse the audience. However, it’s crucial to remember that viewers don’t have the time to delve into your character’s backstory, the plot, or the events before and after the scene. Therefore, keeping the scene brief and concise is essential. Keep it short!
#5. Consider scene splitting
In modern submission sites, a new and increasingly popular practice is to split scenes into individual clips and label them accordingly. This is particularly useful for casting directors who can quickly and easily review specific scenes, such as a “Dramatic Lawyer Scene,” rather than having to sift through a full reel. By providing these “casting-efficient” clips, you are saving time and energy for casting directors.
Remember the four basic demo reel editing techniques
Finally, when creating your reel, focus on four things. First, how do you look on camera? Second, what’s your sound like? Third, are you believable? Lastly, what roles fit you? If your reel shows these clearly, it’s a powerful tool. It can help you thrive in our fast-paced, ever-changing industry.