Not everyone needs a show reel to showcase their talents, skills, abilities and proficiency. However, sometimes a show reel is exactly what’s called for, and when it is, how do you know what should be included?
Think of your show reel as a living, breathing resume. Instead of a cover letter and a print or digital portfolio, you have a show reel. A compilation of your best material. A display of the varied styles and techniques you have mastered.
The first thing you should do is get written permission from the copyright holders of any copyrighted materials you’ll be using in your show reel.
Why get permission? Because copyright infringement is not only unlawful but frowned upon by professionals. If you have no problem breaking the law at this point in the game, how can other professionals trust you won’t break the law if they hire you to work with them on their project?
Why get written permission? Because it’s always best to have a paper trail that supports your understanding of whether permission has been granted by the coypright owner(s). Willful copyright infringement is unacceptable, but when it happens because there is a misunderstanding of the terms by you, and as set out by the copyright owner(s), can be worked through without too much damage to your reputation.
It’s important to keep in mind that the initial show reel should only be between 60 and 120 seconds in length. Yes, seconds. That may seem short at first, but when you break it down into segments, you can get 6 to 8 15-second segments into a show reel.
Studies have proven repeatedly (as have audiences for decades now) that the first thing they see in a string of items and the last thing they see in a string of items are those that will make the biggest impact on them. OF course, a truly memorable bad performance will as well, but the idea behind a show reel is to present your best work. Make sure that you bracket all the clips in your show reel with impactful, memorable beginning and ending clips. Leave the viewer feeling he or she was wow’d from start to finish.
If you’re adept at using hi-tch DVD technology, you can expand on the initial show real by creating chapters that will give more in-depth details about the initial clips used in your show reel. If your show reel is sufficiently compelling, whoever has viewed your show reel will want to watch the extended versions found in those chapters.
If editing isn’t your forte, pay the extra money to have someone who has a proven track record with editing show reels do the job for you. Sure, you’ll pay money up front, but it will save you money in the long run and hopefully generate reasonable income for as long as you make use of the show reel.
Don’t dismiss the editing magic a professional can bring to your show reel, even if all you’re working with are low-budget movies and student films. Edited by the right person who knows what he or she is doing could spell the difference between a “pretty effective” show reel and one that has a lot of “muscle” and “appeal.”
If you’re using music, keep a few things in mind:
1. What you like may not be a good choice of music for your audience; and
2. Be sure to have the music copyright cleared before adding it to your show reel.
One last suggestion: Just as it’s important to update your resume, print portfolio and/or digital portfolio on a regular basis, it’s important to update your show reel.
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