If you’re preparing to submit for an agency OR casting, you absolutely need a demo reel. A demo reel is a short sample of you acting on camera. In years past, demo reels were harder to come by simply due to the fact that we didn’t have the ease of digital cameras on every corner and in every smartphone. Also, in my experience, filmmakers have been and are are likely to remain rather tight-fisted and extremely slow to let go of footage from films that you will work on — and this for various justifiable reasons.
This will mean that you have to stay on top of things, be persistent, and like many actors, produce your own material in order to get seen by an agency or casting director (CD).
These days, many casting directors aren’t even doing live auditions with actors until they’ve seen their demo reel, and most first auditions are via self-tape. And further, they don’t seem to take Actors seriously who don’t have a demo reel. This makes it even more crucial than it was in the past. One reason this is trending is that it’s more practical for the CD, but maybe more importantly, they are aware of how much easier it is to produce a demo reel these days. They are behaving as if you have no excuse NOT to have one. And I think they’re right. You have no excuse NOT to have one.
Today, it is much easier to fabricate your own demo reel material than it was in years past. And, let’s be honest, Most of you have a 4K camera in your iPhone. And small, HD cameras, DSLRS, Go Pros, etc… are everywhere.
DEMO REELS BY FWAS
FWAS has been helping people create demo reels since we opened our doors in 2014. Each year, we’ve experimented with the most practical way to do this for Members.
In 2014/15, we produced material in and outside of class. As classes grew, we decided to forgo in-class production due to practical reasons. These days, we’re shooting in-class scene-work on a gray or blue-screen for ease, and these scenes CAN work temporarily on a demo reel, though, once you have more cinematic demo footage, it will behoove you to cycle the class material OFF of your demo. Agents & managers won’t mind, but casting directors would probably prefer to see you IN AN ACTUAL MOVIE CLIP.
These scenes or clips have been produced, both with and without scene partners. With a scene partner, we often cut the costs per person, and without a scene partner, we’re usually working from monologue material.
These scenes and clips are most often developed by the Actor within our demo reel film lab or clips lab.
In 2017, we produced a short-film “Here’s What We Know” –which was later an official selection of the Lone Star Film Festival, and we cast most of our advanced Actors who were ready for demo reel material. And, ironically, it took about eight months for Actors to receive their material due to the lengthy post production process. Even this short film experiment proved to create a rather slow delivery process for demo reel material.
When you get cast in something, keep in mind that the Director/Producer’s primary intention and focus is to finish his/her movie —NOT to spend time cutting demo reel material out of the film for each Actor. This can be A LOT of extra editing time that the production team doesn’t have the budget or time for. This is the main reason it’s difficult to get your material from a Director and I speak from experience. I Produced and Directed Aria Appleton in 2015-2018, and I didn’t over demo reel material to most Actors until 2019. My reason wasn’t that I didn’t have the time, but that MY film was produced for a very niche market that would have frowned upon distributing the film if our Actors were slinging clips from an unreleased movie all over Youtube.
No matter how challenging or difficult it may seem to get your material, produce material, get it all edited together into a nice package, be persistent. Remember that as an Actor, you are your own product and YOU ARE THE BRAND. Be willing to do whatever you have to do to market the product in a way that will appeal within the marketplace, and be willing to do whatever work is necessary to get that product to market. Simply choose to maintain your integrity as you go.
You are the CEO, the CFO, the President, the Manager, and the marketing department, etc…UNTIL you’ve ‘Made it,’ and then MAYBE, only MAYBE will you have the clout and money to turn this process over to others. Don’t get the cart before the horse.
PRODUCING A DEMO REEL WITH FWAS
So after experimenting with producing reels in class, shooting short films, etc… and especially following the quick growth of the studio, we decided that the most practical way for us to get you what you need is simply make ourselves available to you at an additional cost (but at a Member’s Only Discount). This may seem unfair considering that you’re already paying for class, but that’s just it. You’re paying for class, instruction, mentorship— not for the production costs of shooting your demo reel. And I don’t know a studio in the world who includes such an extravagant thing within the price of a two hour class.
If the costs involved in shooting a demo reel with FWAS are prohibitive to you, then PLEASE attempt to do it yourself. Remember, you are your own brand. Invest in your brand. Buy a camera. Rent a Camera. Surround yourself with people with some filmmaking or editing know-how and ask them to volunteer their services. Learn how to shoot. Learn how to edit. iMovie is on EVERY Mac Laptop & iPhone, and there are several apps available for Android. You CAN do this on your own, but we (FWAS) are simply making ourselves, our equipment and our know-how available (at a discount) to Actors Studio Members in good standing.
Keep in mind, IF you produce a demo reel on your own or with us, you will need to consider ALL of the following factors in the equation.
1.) Pick sides that realistically represent the archetypes you can and desire to play. Let us consult with you on this choice to verify that the scenes are appropriate for a demo.
2.) Produce your locations. FWAS has access to a few on site, but you will need to gain access and legal permission to utilize ANY location that you produce. Remember that liability for ANY production, even something as small as a ‘student film,’ or demo reel falls on the Producer. The Producer is YOU.
Always get permission ON PAPER to utilize any location.
3.) Pick a Camera and resolution. Buy it or rent it. Consider hiring a Director of Photography who knows how to use his/her own camera.
4.) Pick lights that you’ll use or hire a gaffer.
5.) Rehearse your scenes with a SOLID scene partner. Don’t use scene partners who may make your demo look cheap. In fact, find another Actor who needs a demo and consider splitting the costs.
6.) Plan your production by planning for Actors, equipment, and all tangible items. Consider feeding your team.
7.) Plan your shot-list, shoot schedule, capturing footage, storage of footage (hard drives)… Do you have enough storage space for your digital files? Keep in mind that moving files around online via dropbox is generally NOT practical. Video files in their raw form are too big and usually you’re dealing with too many individual files. USE HARD DRIVES until Internet upload speeds catch up. FWAS WILL NOT provide you a hard drive. Provide your own.
8.) Consider who will Edit your final product. Consider Color, Audio, Foley, and Score. ALL ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for a quality looking and SOUNDING product.
LOTS TO CONSIDER
So as you can see, there is a lot to consider when making a demo reel. Don’t forget little things like… Who’s gonna boom audio? Who’s gonna script-supervise? Will you need a PA to hold a bounce disk or flag? It takes a lot of people to get all the details right. This is why FWAS has chosen to make this an add-on service for Actors — not included within the price of class.
This being true, however, we ARE providing this service to Members in good standing at a significant discount. We would charge considerably more for an outside request for this service or to a third-party client.
So make sure you know what you’re going to get yourself into if you’re self-producing. If you want FWAS to produce it for you, keep in mind YOU WILL STILL BE A CO-PRODUCER. View our pricing guide for Members within this document. Keep scrolling. Email or call if you have questions.
Read this document at least twice so you really understand what we’re talking about. Look at demo reel samples on the website as well. Then plan your attack. 😉
Nathan D. & D’Lytha