Demo Reel
September 1, 2009 9:29 AM   Subscribe

What do you want to see on my demo reel?

I am putting together a demo reel as a cinematographer and want to make it as fun, simple and uncluttered as I can for the prospective employer.

I have the following footage:
Lots of dailies from a tv show that I did 2nd unit on recently

A few complete scenes from movies I have worked on as an operator, but shot a day here and there on second unit.

My old reel which is pretty dated.

I am working with an editor and he is putting together an overall montage of footage, basically just making the best 5 minutes he can.

I also think there should be one or two scenes that are complete, showing coverage and my ability to design a scene properly.

What else? One idea is whether to make a second, shorter montage of just the most recent TV show I did the 2nd unit work on, it is by far the slickest of the material, is it excessive to have two montages?

My experience in reels is that folks don't look at much, they watch the montage and that is it (if you are lucky) I think often they watch the first two minutes of the montage and then move on. So, is the rest really worth spending much time on? I don't know.

People put stills on, but I think that seems useless, they are not hiring me to shoot stills, but moving pictures.

I shot some demo spec spots, but they are really dated and I think they do not stand alone very well.

All input appreciated.

posted by silsurf to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ask the editor to make a short montage 2-3min and then include longer samples showing complete scenes. Create a dvd with menus and if a prospective client wants to see more complete stuff then they can.
posted by jade east at 10:02 AM on September 1, 2009

Seconding Jade East - As an editor myself, prospective employers do not want to sit through a 4-5 minute reel. The reel should be approx. one minute, a minute a half tops, and highlight the work that you think best shows your talent.

Think super-wow holy-s**t in as compressed time allowable, without compromising the quality.
posted by helios410 at 10:18 AM on September 1, 2009

I think you're right about most people only watching the montage, but I don't think it would hurt to include a couple of scenes or sequences separately in case they're still interested. At that point I'd try to play up the things that you can't really see in a montage, like how the shots complement each other and accentuate what's happening in the scene (or whatever). Flashy stuff is cool, but personally I'd also like to know what you can do with just a standard scene, since that's probably going to be what you're doing more often.
posted by shammack at 10:25 AM on September 1, 2009

Love what Jade East says. Give them some very cool stuff up front, then the choice to delve further. I am an editor also, and my perspective is this - they are looking for a few things.

1) Can you move a camera? Can you use a crane, dolly, steadicam in your shots? Is it smooth?

2) Can you make a frame look good? Can you light the crap out of it and make it look uber-cool? For some reason, smoke, leaves, snow, feathers, or anything else drifting through the frame also helps, although much of that is directorial, and out of your hands.

3) Does your work *help* tell the story or hinder it? This is tough to show. But if your work is big and flashy to the point of getting in the way of the story, they'll know it in a hurry.

4) What does your specific cinemagraphic eye bring to shooting basic coverage in a scene. Can you make it pop? Or is it just....basic...coverage?

5) Is your footage relevant? You may have some cool stuff, but if it's from when you shot the A-Team series back in 1985, people will move on. Not me, of course. Because The A-Team rules.

6) They will most likely want to see a WOW shot. If you shoot music videos or effects heavy narrative stuff, try to show them something they haven't seen before, or not in that way.

7) Star power goes a long way. If you have stuff that you shot of Brad Pitt, it's going to up your employability significantly in their eyes, whether consciously or unconsciously. If your stuff consists of mostly footage of that guy who played Screech on Saved By the Bell....well....not so much.

Good luck!
posted by Spyder's Game at 11:17 AM on September 1, 2009

I've had to go through a lot of animation/compositing reels, so this might not apply as much to an editing reel, but it always drove me nuts when the sound on a reel jumped around a lot - people would have 10- 20 seconds of music, then jump to different music, and again - it gets really irritating. Make sure that there's a flow to the sound on your reel - would it be listenable if you had your eyes closed? When you're hiring someone and have to watch 20 reels in a row, this makes a big difference.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:05 PM on September 1, 2009

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