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Breaking it Down: Demo Reels

Why do I need a demo reel?

Casting directors do not waste time. That means calling in the best actors for the role, and only working with those who prove themselves to be the strongest overall. With thousands of actors vying for auditions and roles, it’s important to set yourself apart and use every advantage available to you. In the industry today, headshots alone aren’t enough for an actor to get cast. If you want to stand out and get noticed, having a stellar demo reel is definitely a must!

What belongs in my reel?

Ideally, a demo should consist solely of high quality clips from professional projects, such as feature films, commercials, or network television. However, if you’re a beginning actor with little to no experience and no professional credits, acting in student films is a great way to get footage. Although most of these jobs are nonpaying, they’re great for obtaining high quality film clips for your reel, as well as practical on-set experience for your resume.

Another great way for inexperienced actors to add footage to their reel is to record a short TV/Film scene in a professional studio. Many studios in NYC offer HD picture, sound and lighting quality, along with editing services and professional actors as readers. Some great options for recording a mock scene are The Actor’s Green Room and One on One NYC.

How long should my reel be?

Generally speaking, a reel should consist of two to five scenes of various lengths that show a range in acting. However, one professional scene can certainly be enough to send to a casting director as long as it markets your “type” well and showcases your best acting ability. Casting directors are very busy and constantly screening talent, so try to keep your entire reel under two and a half minutes in length.

8 Tips for a Top Notch Demo Reel

1. Make sure the clips you choose clearly identify whose reel the casting director is watching. Scenes should always start and end on a shot of you, rather than the other actors in the scene, and it’s important that the clips never show more of other actors than of you. If possible, include scenes with actors who aren’t the same age or type as you are.

2. Always begin the reel with what you feel is the strongest scene. A casting director might not have the time to watch an entire reel, so start with your best.

3. It’s a good idea to vary the style/character between scenes. Show casting directors the range of your ability and keep them engaged as they watch your reel.

4. That being said, although a little variety is good, it’s best to make separate reels for comedy and drama. If a casting director is working on a comedy, they want to view only your comedy footage, rather than wasting time looking through dramatic clips. If casting directors want to see your range, they have the option of watching the other reel.

5. Trim down your scenes as much as possible. The scene should move quickly, regardless of whether the viewer is able to understand every detail of the plot and backstory.

6. Never include a flashy opening montage, music or photos. Casting directors do not have time to wade through a long opening while looking for your clips. It’s best for your reel to start with your name and contact info and then transition directly into a scene.

7. Your reel should be compressed into a standard, easy-to-send video format. Stay away from CDs or flash drives. Instead, put your demo reel online somewhere easy to access, such as Vimeo or YouTube.

8. Make sure to label each individual clip so the casting director knows what TV show or film the scene is from. Most importantly, don’t forget to include your contact information at the beginning AND end of your reel.

Written by: Catherine Melillo

Let’s Talk About Voice Overs!

Here at Take 3 Talent, the more we work on voice overs, the more we realize how difficult it is to book a voice over job! It seems easy… you might have a GREAT voice, maybe you’ve booked some cool on-camera jobs, but booking a VO is a completely different animal. The key to successfully making the transition into voice over is understanding the voice over industry as well as knowing what is expected of great voice actors. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the world of voice over and start booking work!

WHAT TYPE OF VOs ARE RIGHT FOR ME?
Find your niche. VOs range from Commercials (Radio/TV/Online) to Animated Series. Think about what type of VO auditions you would like to focus on first. Once you’ve decided which area you’re best suited for, try focusing on how your natural voice can translate to VO. A great way to achieve conversational speech in a recording is to listen! Pay attention to the way people speak in everyday life. One helpful technique is to ask your friends’ or family’s permission to record them having a casual conversation. Listening back to natural, everyday dialogue can increase your awareness of how your voice comes across when reading VO copy.

RANGE
Can you do accents? Different characters? Can you sound like an 8 year old girl or an 80 year old man despite your age and gender?  The more voices you perfect, the more marketable you are as a voice actor. Along with mastering a variety of characters, it is also ESSENTIAL to stay up-to-date on trends in voice over. Real and conversational is the name of the game these days. Casting directors aren’t looking for actors who sound as if they’re trying to sell a product, but rather actors who are able to bring listeners into their private conversation and make the copy sound as if they’re chatting with a friend.

WARMING UP/ PREPARING FOR YOUR AUDITION
Remember, VO is all about communicating the copy through the intonation of your voice! So it’s important to do a few diction, mouth, and vocal warmups before attending an audition. This way you’ll be ready to speak clearly and with perfect diction in the booth. Even if you’ve warmed up ahead of time, remember to arrive to the audition early to familiarize yourself with the sides. Make all the important decisions about the tone, pacing, and energy of the script so you’re prepared to do a flawless first take!

SELF-RECORDED AUDITIONS
Very often we ask our actors to do a self-record for a VO audition. Once we receive the MP3s, we send them off to the client. If you do not have access to a professional studio/booth, it’s very important that you can record a clean audition on your own! Cell phone recordings are generally NOT acceptable. Look into buying an affordable mic ($75-$150 range at most!) and a pop filter (somewhere between $20-$40). You can also download the outstanding, FREE audio software Audacity. By investing a little bit into a home studio, you’ve GREATLY increased your VO opportunities.

CLASSES/COACH
Practice makes perfect! If you’d like to book more voice overs, or just become more comfortable in the booth with VO copy, look into taking some classes or finding a coach. There are also some great one-night seminars and workshops at Actors Connection, Actor’s Green Room, and One on One NYC.

DEMO REEL
Sometimes casting directors will call or e-mail us looking for a specific voice type. Instead of waiting for you, the actor, to record an audition and send it, they’ll ask us to send them a DEMO REEL, ASAP. If they hear what they like from your demo, it could turn into an audition or even a booking. VO demos are expected to be professional quality as well as an accurate demonstration of your voice capabilities. Whether commercial, animation or both, an effective demo should showcase the sort of work you excel in. Although a voice over demo should be of professional recording quality, just because you were paid to record a VO, does not necessarily mean it should be included on your demo if it doesn’t showcase your best ability. It’s likely you’ll voice certain projects that don’t necessarily show the best read you are capable of, therefore, you will not want to include them in a demo. Your demo may be the first thing a casting director hears from you, so remember to find voice over copy that is exemplary of your “type,” of a variety of styles, and national network television caliber!

Written by: Catherine Melillo

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