Welcome to week four of the five-week series on Critiques! Don’t worry, those of you who feel bored to tears with this series. We’ll be back to normal programming on April 5th. And for those of you who’ve submitted content for review, again, thank you! I so appreciate your generosity.

This week’s critique is of demo reels. I did not critique any taped monologues, live theatre, standup comedy sets, or Actor Slates. Those — while each absolutely informative in some way — are not demo reels (and should not be advertised as such). When you send someone one of those other samples of your work, please be sure you identify the content correctly. Meaning, call that section of your website “clips” or “work samples” or “media” or anything other than “demo reel,” because a demo reel — as I’ve said many, many times — is a trailer for the movie that is you. It’s a selection of footage (even if only one or two pieces) in which your professional-level acting work can be evaluated, quickly and easily. Sure, we can evaluate your work somewhat with those other types of clips, but they just aren’t the same thing.

I talked about file type, in cover letters and resumes, over the past two weeks (yes, we prefer PDFs to Word docs), and where reels are concerned, the standard for web-based footage is the good ‘ol .mov file. We can watch that using pretty much any viewing software native to our computers, no matter what platform we prefer. Flash vids and other fancy content may look really cool on your website, but what if we want to save locally to watch later, or to watch your reel on our iPhones or other next-generation smart phones? A tip: I keep a .mov/.m4v version of the trailer to every film I have cast in my iPhone. I can load ’em and play ’em (or email ’em around) as needed, anytime. You should do this with your reel. No, it’s not every day you’ll be asked to show off your goods, but it’s one time at one networking event when you realize you could answer an agent’s question with a quick access of your reel right there that will make you understand what a no-brainer having it handy is.

As I’ve said earlier in this series, your headshot, your resume, your cover letter, your demo reel, your website, and everything else about your marketing package is all a part of teaching us how to get you, how to cast you. The number one biggest mistake most actors make with their reels is going way too long. It’s the scrapbook syndrome. You remember how it felt to be on that set. You have great affection for that particular clip. You love that one last look you gave in that scene.

Yeah. Get over it. No one else looks through your scrapbook, your home movies, or your demo reel with the same emotional attachment that you have. Save the long version for your family and friends, who cherish every frame in which you appear. Your marketing tool — which is what your demo reel is — must get to the point. Show us how to cast you. Don’t linger. Don’t dillydally. Get to the point and then get out. Leave us wanting more, but having enough of an understanding of what we’ll get when we invite you in. Think of it like a trailer. Include all of the best stuff to make us want to buy a ticket to the movie! Do not feel like you need to be “true to the story” as it unfolded on screen. You’re not telling the story anymore. You’re showing off YOU.

Another major mistake in demo reels is not letting us know who we’re looking for. Sure, we may be viewing your reel on your website, so we should know whose face we’re checking out when a big crowd scene starts, but be smart about how you edit your reel. If you refuse to start with a still of your headshot (and your name, contact info, union status — a still that should also be at the end of your reel), at least start on a clip that is YOU. And for the love of all that is holy, please don’t put extra work on your reel. Seriously. I can’t even! It’s just such a bad idea. I have more tips. They’re matched with particular examples submitted for critique.

So, here again, we’re in for a visual experience (and this one will take longer than previous critiques, since you need to watch the reels to understand some of my notes about what’s being done well and what could be done better), so here’s the visual! Check back next week for the last in this five-week series on critiques. Wanna see last week’s piece on cover letters? Click here. And the piece on resumes? Click here. And the piece on headshots? Click here. Thanks and enjoy!

Oh, I’d like to mention that my friend and colleague Nancy Bishop is seeking “audition bloopers” from actors, for a workshop she’ll be conducting here in the states later this year. Read about all the specs at her blog.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001162.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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