How to create an actors’ demo reel

What is an actors’ demo reel? How do I create a demo reel? Do I need one? What should I include in a demo reel? Is a video of my theater performance enough? These questions and more in today’s article.

“I got a headshot and resume. Why do I need a demo reel?” Well, yes! These two things are essential for actors. With a resume and a headshot, you can definitely start your career, but you will need a demo reel if you want to apply for any serious acting job. Because demo reels show to agents, producers, directors, etc. how you behave on camera, what are your acting skills, your emotional range, your style, your look, how amazing you are on a camera, and more more more. The more the merrier to share who You are to attract what they seek.

If you don’t yet have a resume and headshot, check out my articles to help you start:
How to write an acting resume
How to get the right headshot

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“Wait, wait, wait, so I cannot start just with resume and headshot?” Yes, you can! You need these two things to start applying for student movies and independent movies, and because of this, you will build your portfolio, and you will have footage for your demo reel. But let’s start from the beginning.

A demo reel is the thing that is selling you! And you should present the best work you have done so far there! Maybe you are asking, “what the f#ct” is the demo reel? Well, you are in the right place; let’s dive in.

What is an actors’ demo reel?

An actor’s demo reel compiles your best work in video form. It is also called showreel or sizzle reel. The footage length is up to 2-3 minutes. Good advice from many casting directors is to keep it short. So one to two minutes for an actor’s demo reel is the best way to go. Short and sweet!!!

What is actors’ demo reel used for?

The agents, casting directors, producers, managers, and people looking for new talents are watching demo reels to find one. So, in short, really important people who can boost your career potentially will watch your demo reel to decide if you are the right fit.

“Cool, so let’s do a compilation of my YouTube videos, where I am eating the hottest chili pepper with my best friend. That will convince them I am a serious method actor, right?” Well, I think you are clever enough to read through my sarcasm in this note…

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No, you have to show your best serious acting work. The highlights of your acting career so far! No worries if you don’t have any experience, keep reading.

Does theater work counts for demo reel?

No, theater videos don’t count for actors’ demo reels. It could be a fantastic performance, but sorry, it doesn’t matter. I have so many theater videos I would love to put there, and it will show a lot about my acting, but no. This demo reel is for movies.

There are different requirements for theater auditions. They do not usually require a demo reel, but if you have one, send it to them along with your other material when applying for theater work. Extra work always shows you are serious about your craft.

Another reason not to use theater performance videos is that they are usually of terrible quality, captured somewhere from the 10th row of audience seats.

Sell yourself as an actor

The actors’ demo reel is selling you as an actor and should show the best of you.

Talent agents decide to represent you or not based on your demo reel, but not only. Be aware that demo reels are doing a lot. Some agents do not even read the applications without a demo reel. So it’s more than essential to have one.

How to create a demo reel?

Well first, we need 4-5 footage of 20-30 seconds of your on-screen performance. You should include your name, headshot, website, and contact information at the beginning of the video and continue with your footage.

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It would help if you start with your best performance right away, as many busy people in the industry won’t watch your whole demo reel. So try to sell yourself as soon as possible with your best performance. The people who decide if you are suitable for the role or not will determine in the first few seconds of your demo reel, so be picky about what you put at the beginning. I mean the best clip in terms of acting skills.

Make sure that all your work is professional quality – picture and sound have to be great! You have to show that you are professional and the star in the video.

Update your demo reel, so you do not include a few years old videos. The updated demo reel shows you are presently hardworking and improving your skills.

No clips/video/footage to use? No worries. Let’s create some.

How to get/create a footage?

You have many options to do it. You can create your own, be part of a student/indie movie, or be cast by producers.

1. Student/indie movies

Book any role you can and ask the director for the footage for your demo reel. Take contact information from them to text them later to ask about the footage. If you don’t know where to find auditions, check out the links later in this article.

2. Create your own! Do it yourself or with “a little help from my friends.”

The Beatles sings: “with a little help from my friends.” Just ask others. Find another actor who needs a demo reel, and do it together. Rent the professional gear, share the expenses, and record something you write together to suit your type. Or ask others friends to help you. Or find filmmakers and ask them to cooperate.

Take charge of your acting life and create your stuff! With all the advantages of the present time, you can do it very cheaply with great gear and amazing people.

3. Hire somebody to create demo reel for you

Yes, you can hire an acting coach who will create a demo reel for you and help you with your acting. Isn’t it amazing? So if you don’t have anything or want to create something more suitable for you, go for it! Of course, you have to invest in this option, but it is an investment into your future as a successful actor.

For actors in Vancouver, I would recommend Al Miro as he taught me a lot, and he is a fantastic person/coach and actor to work with. Check out his classes here.

Where to look for auditions?

Vancouver, BC

New York

Los Angeles

London

How to edit the demo reel?

You can do it by yourself, and if you stay tuned to our magazine, I will create some tutorials on how to do it. It is pretty straightforward. Also, there are so many tutorials on YouTube on how to do it. But if you don’t have time or don’t feel it is your cup of tea, you can always hire somebody to do it for you. Check out Fivver to find editors who can do it for a reasonable price. Or support locals, ask friends or ask your acting coach.

What to be aware of during editing?

Focus on yourself.

Don’t be afraid to cut off parts of others actors, even if they are famous or fabulous. Just keep it focused on yourself, but don’t cut the video so the scene will lose its sense.

Tips for demo reel

Focus on yourself, the demo reel is yours, and it is about you. So the first picture in your demo reel has to be YOU! Your face or you are standing/sitting whatever it is it has to be you! So that everybody knows this is your demo reel. So whether another actor is starting in the scene or a famous actor, IT HAS TO BE YOU! Because you are selling YOU!

Check out tips of experts on demo reels.

Try to have variants of your performance, from drama through horror to comedy. Show what you are capable of and not stuck in a one-way type of character. But don’t forget to be always with your character type as an actor.

Read more about how to define your type as an actor here

Include strong character types in your demo reel to show you are the lead!

Don’t use videos from your acting classes because the demo reel has to look professional! If your school creates a video for your demo reel specificity, that’s a different story, and of course, you can use it. I meant the videos captured on your friend’s phone during the class.

No introduction on camera. Please don’t introduce yourself on camera. I meant a written version with your headshot by information at the beginning. That’s it.

I hope you learn something about the demo reels today, and now it’s time to continue pursuing your acting career. Because:

“Greatness comes by doing a few small and smart things each and every day.”

Robin S. Sharma

Break a leg with your new demo reel!

About the author:

Website | + posts

I am a never-ending fighter for the perfect ART, enjoying the process of unperfectness. I am many things and nothing, but my main focus is acting. I've studied at the Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts. I've been an actor in Theater Around The Corner, Moravian Theater Olomouc, Theater DiGoknu, or Mlada Scena II. And I am working hard on my craft.

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