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Old June 25th, 2003, 07:52 AM   #1
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Actor's demo reel

I have a couple of actors here that would like me to put together a demo reel for them...but not necessarily showing too much footage of what they've done since it's always been low budget/low production quality stuff. They want to market themselves to bigger directors and not have the poor material hurt their chances.

So what would you recommend? An interview perhaps...with some still shots and stats? Would that suffice? Or do they absolutely need to perform? (If so, we'll probably have to come up with something new for them to do just for the demo)
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Old June 25th, 2003, 08:06 AM   #2
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I would include even the low budget material, but only the choicest scene. Add to that interviews, stats, history, and maybe a body shot.

P.S. I would do it as a website or a DVD, giving prospective employers a choice as to what they view.
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Old June 25th, 2003, 09:32 AM   #3
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But would that work? I've never heard of casting directors watching videos when looking for someone. They have thousands of headshots to look at. Although my son sent in a video once when requested, I just don't know it would be appreciated.

I'm seeing a (well known) casting director today and I'll ask her. Of course, if these guys are paying you to do this, it doesn't matter what the reality is.
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Old June 25th, 2003, 09:43 AM   #4
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I agree 100% with you Rob... But I really have no experience. From what I have heard, "Head Shot" photos and a portfolio or resume are what is requested. But if these actors want to pay for a demo tape, who is to say no?

The very least you can do, is to make it viewable by the Directors, or whoever is doing the casting.
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Old June 25th, 2003, 10:59 AM   #5
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I've been thinking about this as a business. Does anyone else do this?
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Old June 25th, 2003, 11:37 AM   #6
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In L.A., this is a staple breadwinning activity of struggling editors. There's an inexhaustably tappable client pool, depressed only slightly in recent years by the proliferation of cheap editing equipment (actors become their own editors or get friends to cut their reel for free...).

It might be slightly more difficult to do this in Vancouver, but there's probably a nice base of actors there as well, what with all the production flight from California.

With all the things you can do, Keith, in terms of nice graphics and special effects, you could add real value to the reel. It would probably just be a matter of putting it on your business card and then passing them out like mad at all those crazy parties you go to.
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Old June 25th, 2003, 12:22 PM   #7
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I know there's a market but I'd like to figure out the proper pricepoint and package. Those actors are scrungy lot :)
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Old June 25th, 2003, 02:00 PM   #8
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I didn't get to see her and my son was supposed to ask and forgot. Now that I think of it, a number of years ago, an actor friend told me that he could show him how to put together a reel. So I guess it's done but pretty sure it would be after interest was already expressed from a headshot.
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Old June 25th, 2003, 03:14 PM   #9
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While this is no longer my field, it was once (and for a long time), and I sincerely doubt whether things have changed that much in the 15 years or so since I quit the business. Actors' demo reels should contain only one type of material: clips from professionally-produced films and television shows. If all these actors have is low budget stuff, put together a reel of their best scenes. Casting directors don't care about, and will not look at, interviews, stats or still shots. You can include a headshot as a beginning title, and should also identify each clip. I used to use a short portion (5 seconds) of the title sequence from the televisions shows that I did. Demo reels should be _short_. Casting directors are deluged with these things. Look for scenes that best show the actor's craft, rather than the craft of the original producer.

When I was in the business, there were a couple of video houses that specialized in these things -- you'd bring them your airchecked tapes (there were also business that specialized in that), have a session with the editor where you'd decide what scenes to use, and then the editor would put together the reel. Back then, everything was on 3/4". I don't know if that's changed, but I suspect that it has.
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Old June 25th, 2003, 04:11 PM   #10
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Gee Paul... Is there anything else you haven't mentioned? I never realised you was famous!
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Old June 25th, 2003, 04:27 PM   #11
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For the last film I did part of my deal with the actors was a VHS and DVD copy of the project.


For the lead actress (since she was a trooper) I cut together a couple of her short scenes with her name and message service number at the bottom of the screen and threw it on DVD for her and made a couple of VHS copies as well.


She's done some soap work but she only had VHS copies of it and they weren't the best so I didn't include them, I only used the quality video so that it wouldn't distract from her.

For the one sequence I used a shot that was only her talking to someone, didn't use the edited version that had an actor sitting across from her and only used one small reaction shot from him.

Big thing for this stuff is to make sure the name is all over the place. On the DVD label, on the VHS label and on the video. I'm told that if it's too hard to figure out casting directors will move on.

I'll ask her or any of my other actor friends what they've heard about the best reel format.
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Old June 25th, 2003, 06:55 PM   #12
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Lots of great info...thanks!

Rob, I think their intent is to leave this as a sort of calling card for contacts they meet... the idea being that something is better than nothing. I don't think they expect doors to fly open... too iffy a biz for that.

Putting it online as well as on tape and DVD is a good idea...provided they'll pay for the web design and hosting as well.

Kevin, you've hit the nail on the head...put the actor's name all over it. Actually, I was thinking of having the name AND e-mail all over it. And I'm considering putting a headshot on the DVD itself and on the jewel case...if I invest in a printer that can do that (considering it).

I'll see if we can include bits of their previous work. Maybe if they see it cut into short segments they won't be opposed to using it.
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Old June 25th, 2003, 09:12 PM   #13
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I made a reel for my lovely girlfriend who is an accomplished actress not long ago. After having made my own (for operating and DP work) for years, I applied the same rules to hers:

1) Keep it to 6 minutes or under.
2) Put the best material at the beginning. No point in saving it. As Paul pointed out, producers and casting people are only likely to keep watching if they really like what they see.
3) Creative cutting can minimize the amount the other actors are on screen, thus maximizing your client's face time.

We have prepared both VHS and DVD's, not everyone is DVD equipped just yet (although it's so bloody obviously the best way to view a reel). On the DVD, I have added the option to watch two of her better short films in their entirety, if the viewer desires. DVD's rock.
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Old June 26th, 2003, 08:58 AM   #14
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The reel is necessary for any actor, especially on the high end/pay side.

1. If the actor doesn't have a lot of material, what do you do? Or in my case, I have a ton of theatre. Theatre generally looks awful on the television. Unless the production was specifically designed for that. However, if its all they got...

Everybody has to start somewhere, some actors have more experience than others. So cut the material they have. If its a bunch of extra crap, forget it, its no good. Unless that is what they want to do.

2. VHS and DVD copies are needed. The casting directors are behind the times.

3. Showcase the actor, not effects.

4. Agree with above, Name and number all over the place. Picture and contact information on the cover and VHS and/or DVD disc.

5. Keep it to around 3 Minutes. Unless the work and material is excellent.

The MAIN calling card for the actor is the headshot. Only one thing better exists, getting someone (producer, director, other) to see an actor's work and making a recommendation.

There is some $ to be made here.
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