Demo Reel Basics
A demo reel, at its core, is a video resume. Too often people lose sight of this fact. Before we can discuss The Mistakes of a Demo Reel, it is important to understand what exactly a demo reel should be. Some of the same concepts that make a good paper resume make a good demo reel.
Good paper resume guidelines:
A good resume is short- no longer than a page. It is easy to read and only lists items that sell you. Not only is the resume tailored toward whichever job you are applying for, it has a little style. Subtle fonts can add to a resume, whereas fancy loud fonts can leave a potential employer thinking about the font rather than you.
The same can be said for demo reels:
A demo reel should be short. There is a push for 1 minute demo reels. They can be great, depending on the scenes and footage. However, 1 minute demo reels are often too short to demonstrate any real talent. In the past it was the rule of thumb that a reel should never be over 5 minutes. Today, while 5 minutes is considered on the long side, under 4 minutes is best (LA Casting or Casting Networks Inc. will automatically trim your reel to 4 minutes if it is longer).
The more enjoyable a demo reel is, the better it is to watch. Only put things in a demo reel that make you look good. An acting reel should sell your performance. As much as looks do sell, bad acting does not. So remember that just because you lost a bunch of weight or got ripped for that scene with Denzel, it doesn't mean it should be in your reel. On the contrary, star power has its merits. A hot bod can do a lot for you, if that is the kind of character you can sell, but it is not the end all to what does or does not make a good scene. A skilled performance on your part is usually best, even if it is just one line.
Sometimes it is best to create multiple reels. Actors often choose to divide up their comedy work from their drama work. Another option is to post clips. This option is good in cases where strong but lengthy scenes are cut short or left out of a demo reel because of time constraints. As casting has moved to the Internet, different casting websites have provided the ability to create a link to a clip right next to a particular credit. If your performance is strong then it is always a good idea to take advantage of this added opportunity to show off your skills.