Acting reels, demo reels, sizzle reels... call them what you will. Right after your headshot it's the second most important thing you need to convince a stranger you are a perfect choice for their film. Before we jump into video reel ideas and hints, there are two things I want to cover - importance of acting demo reels and a new implementation/service coming to Web For Actors that handles acting reels.
Importance of acting demo reels - how important are they? Let me put it this way. If you have enough material to have your reel done and you struggle with the choice "should I get my acting reel or actor website" I will tell you get that reel! That's right, I'm not here to get rich off of you, I'm here to help, so if that's a choice you need to make it's an easy one. Get that reel, get a YouTube channel - not for Social Media purposes per-se, but because you want people to be able to find you online and find your work, and be able to evaluate your skills. Why YouTube? Because it's owned by Google, and google DOES show videos as a search results. YouTube also allows you to embed subtitles that are searchable and you can either utilize those for slating or to put actual subtitles for your reel. There's many other benefits to it, but it's crucial that if you interact with people remotely they'll be able to see your body of work... FAST! Ergo your acting reel. Get it and make it rock.
New Web For Actors service - reels.link - first of all let me tell you that this service will be implemented into all (or most) of our premium templates, so you're in good luck as this is not a type of service I've seen ANYWHERE. Yes, I'm tearing down walls, I know. What does it do? Well this page itself is a self contained actor reel that is INTERACTIVE. What do I mean by that? Just click on an example from Aaron "Quick" Nelson to see it in action. Or if you're a voice-over actor, check out Michael Dostrow's reel here. It (1) shows your reel in an S.E.O. friendly format. It (2) adds slates to your videos so people know what titles are included at a quick glance. It (3) utilizes quick jump-to links allowing everyone to jump to next scene. When the video hasn't started or is done playing, it (4) lists your contact information below the video. And last but absolutely NOT least, it (5) links up to your IMDb credits so that a preview of the project shows up beneath the video as the person watches your reel. Do we think it's awesome? We do! Are we tooting our own horn right now? We are! If you are a premium member and want a reel like this either email us or leave a comment below.
P.S. We had someone ask if we can do the same with acting reels on Vimeo - absolutely. Here's one I created adhoc for Ewan McGregor - why Ewan? Because he rocks and if you don't think so I challenge you to an old fashion pistol duel!
P.P.S. If you want to get some views on your sizzle reel video, don't forget to list it on Karmalicity.
Without further ado, acting demo reels... I've asked a few YouTubers who have added their reels on YouTube if I can use their reel as an example. I thank them all for prompt responses so that I can finalize this article. Cristina, Ignacyo, Alexandra, if you are reading this now, feel free to reach out to me and I'll be happy to hook you up with a reel.link video at no charge. So... what do we need to know about acting reels on YouTube.
#1 - You may want to disable the comments for your actor reels on YouTube.
Why would one want to disable comments? Many reasons. If you get no engagement on your reel, you wouldn't want people who look at think that no one is interested in your reel. Casting directors MAY chose one person's reel over another if one person has one comment from Aunt Tete that she misses you and the other person has 40 congratulatory comments from your subscribers. BUT... if you disable the comments altogether, you can say, hey, maybe I'd get 40 comments too, but my comments are disabled so you don't know!
Despite your professional behavior, YouTube is still YouTube! The reason why trolls troll comments is because they can stay anonymous, say what they want and get away with it. Imagine you send your YouTube link to your agent and he/she submits it to the casting director who in turn goes to check it out, but minutes before that, some troll comes to your video first and leaves a nasty comment. Ouch, right? Well, again, this may be a good reason not to send your agent your YouTube link but a reels.link instead.
#2 - The shorter the actor reel, the better... but why?
First of all, when we say "the shorter, the better" we don't mean squeeze your 5 minute material into 30 seconds, but you have to understand that if a casting director is going through 200 reels, they won't have enough patience to watch your full short film! They want to see your showcasing the skills that you say you have, and if you've listed multiple roles, they want to see your range so they want to be able to skip ahead and jump to the next one to see what else you did. So while we're here let's look at some examples:
- Cristina Martinez acting demo reel (which by the way is the main photo for this article) was uploaded to YouTube last September and is 2 minutes 39 seconds in length and includes 9 clips
- Ignacyo Matynia acting demo reel is just a little over a year old and is 3 minutes 44 seconds long and includes 10 clips
- Alexandra Swartz acting demo reel from last December is 3 minutes 45 seconds long and includes 10 clips
- Aaron "Quick" Nelson acting reel and his reels.link reel is 2 minutes 19 seconds long and includes 6 clips
So... what do the "reel experts" say? Some say 2 minutes max. Some say 3 minutes max. Is your reel longer than that? Don't freak out just yet. How many clips are you covering? Can you trim it? Each clip should be no longer than 30 seconds. Ewan McGregor may not be the best example, but if you look at his reel, his demo for "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones" is 5 seconds long. Sometimes all you need to say is "yeah I was in that movie". A good example of a skill-highlight is demonstrated by Ignacyo - at timestamp 0:38 he has a 10 second scene that covers his voice (speaking role), shows the award he won for the role and demonstrates his skill - crying on cue. 10 seconds, that's all it takes guys.
Again, if you want to make it easier on whoever is watching the reel you can add places to jump to within the reel like our new product does it. For instance, Ignacyo could list the 10 scenes in bullet points and link one saying "Crying on demand" and point the link to his video with "?t=38" at the end of the link. People who have to see 200 of these in a single day have very little patience, and they would appreciate it if you made it easy on them.
#3 - Best stuff up-front of your acting reel is a golden rule.
If you're making a reel from scratch, and let's say you're sticking 10 scenes into it - rate yourself on the quality of your performance, and the quality of overall project. If you have one short scene where you're running away from Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-0 and another scene where you're delivering a moving monologue in a short recorded by your buddy with his iPhone in a portrait mode (seriously?), well the quality of a project takes precedence over your skill level. First tell them - hey, I've been cast before for a prime-time TV, then show them you can make them feel.
#4 - Slate your clips by adding titles to each one.
Are the titles important? Well, it depends. If you have 8 clips in your reel and 7 of them are from the same film and it's a indie low budget project that no one has ever heard of... fine, in that case I understand you may not want to show the titles, but if all clips are from different films, you are demonstrating that casting directors have picked you over others time and time again. Be proud of it by adding these to your reels. But don't go too crazy, just a title and genre is sufficient. No need to list other cast members or director.
If you look at the examples above, you'll see that Ignacyo made a bold choice by not adding any titles. I can tell by the amount of his facial hair and a haircut that the scenes are from different films, but it still is a matter of deciphering. Why not make it easier on the casting director. Show range, shine through those awards, but also list the titles, a quick slate will not steal the focus. All other examples use titles, I'm not sure how they've done it, but you can add the subtitles right in YouTube with their editor. Here's a quick tutorial showing you how to do it.
#5 - Contact info typed into video? Move it to the end.
A lot of reels I've seen start with an intro card: headshot, name, website and contact info. Well, it's great that you have it in there in case someone came across it accidentally, but 9 out of 10 times, your video was submitted to someone with your info already. Why waste few seconds on an intro screen, when sometimes few seconds is all you're given? If you're sending someone your reels.link reel, you don't even have to worry about that as your information is listed below, but for the purposes of random YouTube visit, well, just move it all to the last few seconds. Those who make decisions to call you in would know where to look for it.
#6 - Focus on yourself - don't share the screen.
Same rule as with actor websites, just like you don't want to have ads on your actor website, you sure as hell don't want another actor stealing your spotlight. Casting directors, agents, and managers want to see you on your reel so it should start and end with your face. There shouldn't be any double guessing if the reel belongs to you or someone else who was in the scene.
Just before I sign out, I encourage you to share your own reel in the comments. If you are an authority on sizzle reels and think I might have missed something, hop on in and let me know, I'll gladly make adjustments and give you credit for it.
Tom . Hi, I
Smokey . Hi Tomasz, Great info. I am interested in this new service and I would like a
Tomasz . Thanks Smokey. I will get you set up today and I'll put you in touch with Tom.