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All professionals in the world, no matter the field, utilize certain tools to help accomplish their goals. Chefs have all sorts of utensils, mechanics have boxes full of wrenches, and actors have… well, actors really only need themselves to do their job. However, the film and television industry is a tricky one, where the question of talent and skill can fall short of marketing and good timing. An actor’s tools usually focus more on helping them get the job rather than do the job. We’re all beautiful, talented little snowflakes (or so our Mother tells us), but we need examples and materials to demonstrate that fact to Casting Directors and Producers. Head Shots, a nice resume, your social media; all of these are tools to showcase your talents, but nothing does this more than the Actor’s Demo Reel. A Demo Reel is a short (1-2 minute) collection of clips from your previous work. It showcases your talent and really gives prospective collaborators and other industry professionals a clear picture of what you can do, by simply letting them see you do it!

The difficulty here is, however, that many actors are caught in a Catch 22. In order to get work, they need a Demo Reel… but in order to make a Demo Reel, they need to get work! This frustrating scenario can be mind-bending and has been known to break the spirits of more than a few hopeful actors. But there is hope! A few options stand out for those of us just starting out.

First, there is never a shortage of work being done by students and young independent filmmakers. Self-submitting through Actor’s Access, LA Casting, Backstage, or any number of other online utilities can usually garner a number of auditions for smaller projects. It’s a tough grind and a pretty significant investment of time and energy, usually with no pay (or payment in the form of pizza), but it’s a sure way to get some work done.

If you’re not interested in working the student film angle, or if you have been working it but fallen prey to a poor quality content or creators not sharing the copy, there are also a number of content creation services that will help to create content specifically for you and your reel. They usually have an upfront cost, but a quality team with an established process can take a lot of pressure off. Just make sure to take your time, do your research, and make a sound investment. A high-quality company can make some truly professional looking work to make you look the best you can, but it will come with a price tag. Be careful to know exactly what you’re paying for and who you’ll be working with.

For those feeling particularly ambitious, an actor can always create the content all on their own. Technology has gotten so accessible, it’s easy to get a hold of high-quality equipment. There is a significant amount of work involved in creating content, but it can be a very enlightening experience for anyone who’s willing to put in the legwork.

Whatever path you choose, here are a few tips to help ensure that your Demo Reel really works for you. Although there is no technical “industry standard” when it comes to Demo Reels, these are some good guideposts:

• Keep it two minutes or under. Most reels these days are about a minute long. One can argue that a two-minute reel is still okay for sitting on performances a bit longer. Just remember that Casting Directors are watching hundreds of demos and clips a day to find the talent. Don’t frustrate or bore them with an overly long demo.

• Always put your best work first. That’s just a given. A strong opening will keep them watching and let you leave a lasting impression.

• Have a minimum of at least 3 clips, preferably where you are speaking. You want them to focus on you and see what you can do. It doesn’t really help if you walk by in the background, even if Brad Pitt is standing in front of you.

• Loose the headshot at the beginning or end. Not a rule, just an opinion. The thinking here is that if you are on sites such as LA Casting and Actors Access, they already know what you look like. Your reel should be as short and sweet as possible. I believe in a “less is more” mentality. My editing preference is to just start the reel placing the actor’s name in the lower left or right third (depends on your framing) and then placing your name in white letters over black for 5 seconds or so. Clean and simple. Doesn’t waste any time.

• Start a Youtube channel and sign up for a free Dropbox or Google Drive account. YouTube is one of the best ways people can see you these days, and in HD to boot. Also, Dropbox and Google Drive are great ways to share and store your content. So, whenever somebody needs to see it, you can just copy a link and they can download it onto their computer. Welcome to the future. Don’t fear it, start making it work for you.
Find out more at www.rapidreelz.com

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