The Truth About Demo Reels


Let me set the record straight about “demo reels” because I’m tired of seeing the wrong thing.  Filmmakers pay attention.  Here’s what producers are looking for:

1.  Finished pieces.  We want to know if you can tell a story and if you understand the totality of a project.

2. Specifics.  Tell us if you ran camera, if you directed, if you were production manager, or whatever.  Don’t send us a commercial you catered and lead us to believe you were the director.  Trust me, we’ll find out sooner or later.

3.  Easy to watch.  Send us a link, but don’t make it a tiny thumbnail screen.  Make it big enough to view. Vimeo or Wiredrive size is fine.  We don’t need DVD quality right off the bat.  First we want to know if it’s something we’re interested in.  Send a DVD and it will sit on my desk for a month or two lost in the stack.  Send a link, and I’ll watch it pretty quickly.

4.  Make it current.  If your graphics and effects look like the 80’s, get it off the reel.

What we don’t want:

1.  Those  quick cut “compilation” reels of your life’s work set to a hip current song.  Total loser strategy.  You can compile anything and make it look decent – especially if you’re pulling from your last 25 projects.

2.  Someone else’s work.  I had a director send me a reel that included spots I had directed.  Boy, was the meeting awkward for that guy.

3.  Appropriate stuff.  Don’t send me hot tub spots if I’m looking for a director of serious drama.  In fact, don’t send me hot tub spots – ever.

Edit mercilessly.  Think about it.  It’s not about how cool you think your work is, it’s about what a producer is looking for at that moment.  Step back, breathe, and take it all in perspective.  I love Francis Ford Coppola’s quote after he directed Apocalypse Now.  He said that after 2 years up to his a*s in alligators, a star having a heart attack, and the nightmare of shooting a Viet Nam war movie, after the screening, the first thing the audience thinks is “OK, where should we go eat?”

I’m not sure what that has to do with demo reels, but I love the quote…  :-)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Mary Hutchinson

    I had the same thing happen to me on the print side — a clown I worked with years ago sent his resume and samples to me looking for freelance work. Funny thing, I had married and had a new last name and he had no clue who he was mailing it to. His resume claimed to have had my job; and the samples from that part of his life were all mine.

    I could not help but call the guy up….

  • Jay

    Item #3 – You can send the hot tub stuff to me…

  • CDF

    #3 is very important, i.e., APPROPRIATE STUFF. Don’t send a producer your SPORTS interviews if you’re up for a COMMERCIAL, or GIFT OFFERS if you’re being considered for REALITY. It’s confusing, and won’t get you the gig.

    One of the beauties of Vimeo is one can create “Albums” of one’s different clips based on genres. I have 8 Albums, ranging from commercials to fundraising to travel. I send a link to the proper album based on what the producer or show execs are looking for genre-wise. If it’s a travel show, they get the travel album. Period.

  • ChURcHwORlD 2.0


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