Here’s the deal with demos…if I had one to pick a single tool to receive from actors it would be demo reels, 100% of the time. Period.
The great leveler
The great thing about demo reels, from a casting perspective, is there’s very little room for actors to hide. Headshots can be edited into an oblivion, represent a role you wouldn’t usually be called in for, or be out of date. With footage, not only does casting get to see how actors look, we also get to see how you move, what you sound like, and (hopefully) get to see your skills.
For example, if I have two actors I haven’t seen in the room before, and only one slot in the day to give, I’m usually going to give it to the actor with footage. My job is to collect data and a headshot is only a fraction of the data I need, meaning I’m taking a more of a risk on an actor who only has a headshot than I am on someone who I can see, hear, and get an idea of their skill.
Quality over quantity
Unless someone specifically asks to see more footage, brevity is key. Make sure your edits start and end a scene when things get juicy. I don’t need to see you walking into the room, closing the door, walking over and then starting a fight. Just let me see when the fight starts.
Attention spans are short. Get to the good stuff quickly and let us enjoy your performance without having to scrub through footage that doesn’t need to be there. Keep in mind, the longer a clip is, the less likely people are to watch it.
When I’m casting a horror film I don’t want to sit through comedy. The good news is, with sites like Casting Networks, you can upload clips to specific resumé credits and we can watch little snippets. Outside of those sites, having smaller compilations is ideal.
Perfect world, you’ll have a few different demo reels to fit any scenario:
Sizzle Reel - This is a compilation of everything you’ve done, edited to be no more than ~90 seconds. It can be anything from commercial to drama, comedy to stunts. It’s edited with quick, snappy edits to show us you’ve done a lot of things.
Full Reel - Please don’t send this unless someone asks to see more footage. A full reel has less editing, gives scenes more room to develop. This is great if a producer/director/casting director asks to see more of you work without having to go find each project on their own. Again, there are going to be longer, so don’t send them first and scare someone into not watching it. You wanna watch someone else’s 12 minute YouTube clip?
Dramatic Reel - Dramatic clips only.
Comedic Reel - Comedic clips only.
Commercial Reel - Commercial, industrial, or hosting work goes here.
Put the best stuff first
Don’t save the best for last. If you have footage from network TV or a great small project that shows you off, put that stuff up front. Draw us in and make us want to watch more. If you save the best for last we may never see it.
Send Links, Not Files
Please don’t send your demo as a file. Video files are huge and crash emails when they aren’t sent correctly. Upload your footage to a free hosting site (YouTube or Vimeo) and send a link. Could be cool if you named the video something like: Actor Name Demo Reel (eg. John Smith’s Demo Reel) so I know what I’m about to watch.
Please get those demos! It makes opportunity givers’ jobs a lot easier.
Good luck out there!