From the experiences with our own showreel showcase Clipland PRO Showreel hosting and by watching hundreds of reels through our day to day work, we at Clipland sat together to compile a short guide on how to compile a showreel to make a lasting and successful impression with your "video pitch".
Why produce a demoreel at all? Sending out showreels as a short showcase of your work as a reference of your style and experience is pretty much standard today. And: don't get embarassed when your reel gets turned down - film is a creative medium in which visual style is a question of individual taste. You can't hit the mark on every job.
The package. The first thing a potential client has in hand is your package - so this is your first chance to make a good impression. But don't put too much effort into this. Make it clean and tidy. No scratches, no dog-ears and you're on the winning side. But most people know how to do a good mailing. The other thing is presenting your showreel online. As it seems, handling html to make a solid impression is another story. Many artists, filmmakers and such do great films but fail at compiling a clean, easy-to-navigate website. So, if you feel you can't do it yourself seek for someone to help you get the reel online. Of course, a good way of solving this is to use a professional service that specialises in putting showreels online. BTW: Did we mention ourShowreel hosting solution Clipland PRO yet? ...
A cover letter? Some tips: If you decide to add a few lines of writing to your showreel, keep in mind what you would when you apply for any other job in the world: Be honest and clear. And most of all, don't forget to tell your future client what your expertise is and why you are the right person for the job. Narrow the image of yourself down to fit the job. As with your reel it is the best thing to show your experience in one specific field, than to show what else you can do. Be an expert! Not a generalist.
The opening slate. Most reels, in fact all, start with an opening slate inserting your name and your main profession. But as easy as it is to insert a few characters in a video image, just so easy is it to do it the wrong way. Please make it clean and simple - as with everything in your showreel. Forget all those fancy video effects, wipes, dissolves, color filters and such. No 2D or 3D effects, no demonstration of your VFX skills and please - no lens flares! Especially when your real is full of VFX-work, maybe you want to apply as animator or similar, contrast this with a boring black and white slate of your name and leave it like this. It will be enough and after all, this section of your demoreel is just to tell the boardroom of people which reel they are watching right now.
What to put on the reel. That's the hard part. But maybe the boardroom image we just used can help. Think of your showreel as a showcase of your skills. And remember what your aim is with your reel. Do you apply for a specific job? Then the best thing to do is to show your skills at just the type of things the client looks for (you can mark these customized reels with a date or a keyword: "beauty shots reel", "fight sequences reel", etc.). And if you do a general showreel put everything on it you think that give a complete picture of your work and skills. A good anekdote is that Tony Scott was just hired for "Top Gun" because he had a bit from a Saab commercial in it that featured a fighter plane. And guess what: Bruckheimer/Simpson were looking for a guy who could handle jets... It may not be so high-key but try to compile good stuff and give a good average of your broad spectrum of work. A sure way to bore your "boardroom audience" is to put just excerpts from one or two movies on the reel. This will surely light the rookie-signal.
A word about sound. Try to be consistent in your showreel. Do a good editorial job, and if you can't do it yourself - again: get external help. Try to arrange a steady flow of interesting imagery and avoid hard gaps in lighting, tone or speed - unless you want to get this effect. Also to the domain of sound belongs the selection of the music. Try to get a matching track but keep away from mainstream music, it may appear cheesy and it shows that you might not care about the intellectual property side (or legal side) of things. See below for that.
And a word about length. Yes, you've got a lot of material and surely most of it would be great. But, keep it short! 3 minutes are enough to get an impression of your work. Nobody will ever watch an 8 minute reel all to the end. Even 5 minutes is too much. If you don't believe this: Clipland PRO Showreels has an interesting feature that enables you to get statistics over the average attention span on your reel. Our overall statistics show that most reels are watched for about 200 seconds, that means about 3 minutes - learn from that!
Rights, clearances and such. Compiling a showreel and exhibiting to a group of people or even over the internet raises a lot of legal issues. Every usage that leaves the limits of your house or the sphere of your family is public perfomance and has to be treated as such. So be a clever camper and get the rights to put excerpts from films, commercials etc. on your reel and show that you did so. Also it might be that your original contract contains a passage that regulates the usage in demo reels but be sure to check these releases! Same for the music. You need the permission to use that top10 track on your reel! A great way (and the more creative one) is to compose or let compose music just for your reel. This will guarantee for a great fit. An alternative might be to use royalty-free music you might obtain from special CDs or sources on the web.
The right format. VHS tapes were yesterday! Today, the format of choice is the DVD or at least a Super VideoCD. If you do it all online, Quicktime in good quality is it. Everything from 300kbps and up is acceptable. And try to make sure that the video is embedded properly on your page and will start in the client's browser.
A bit of creativity. All rules, all recipes, all good tips can't hide the most important rule of all: break the rules if needed. But be careful. You don't have to and sometimes a reel by the book will get you the contract. But if you got an idea for a great concept - try it! After all, the demoreel is a creative medium.
That's it with our short hints. We hope these thoughts about showreels help you get the next job. And tell us your great anekdotes about the pitch and showreel process!
Showreel hosting here at Clipland PRO