Reel Time

Time for a new gig. Like everybody else. Been thinking about going freelance (shooter mostly, maybe cutter). Never needed to make a demo reel before. Any ideas on what to include?

Only your best work. Quality is far more important than length; it’s not a career retrospective. If there’s a type of project you’re not interested in taking on anymore, remove those examples no matter how good they look, because invariably those will be the calls you’ll get. If your work includes celebrities or familiar campaigns, feature them up front, even at the expense of better material. Name recognition raises eyebrows and implies professionalism. And as you know, some unique POVs or exotic locales can supercede image quality as well. While too many people focus on proving they’re a jack-of-all-trades (at the expense of impact), if you’re looking for a full-time gig, highlighting your diversity can be an asset.

Be clear about the role you performed in a shot or sequence. Don’t let us assume you were the DP if you pulled focus. Don’t feature CGI if you’re a Steadicam op. I once received a reel full of dazzling ESPN graphics, only to learn the applicant was a producer who made the phone calls that got the work done. Why she even had a reel I’ll never understand. Depending on the jobs you’re going after, you might create multiple cuts to narrow the viewer’s focus, especially if you’re a freelancer: editing, sound design, cinematography, viz fx, etc. Or even by market if you’re that guy: commercial, retail, corporate, docco, etc. But only if you’ve got the goods; don’t stretch yourself too thin.

Oh, and don’t steal your music. Drop a little money on some royalty-free cuts or find a friend who could use the exposure. Setting the right tone without distraction is important.

As for how to get them seen, you’re on your own. YouTube will probably degrade the image too much. There are some dedicated hosting services (that’ll place yours right alongside your competitors, for better or worse), but I’m not really in the loop on those at the moment.

About Gordon

Gordon Highland is the author of the novels Flashover and Major Inversions, with short stories in such publications as Word Riot, Black Heart, Noir at the Bar Vol. 2, and Warmed and Bound, among others. He lives in the Kansas City area, where he makes videos by day and music by night.
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