It’s been a busy couple of months for me, but I finally got around to cutting a new demo reel. Check it out!
Cutting your own reel? Here are my thoughts, having just gone through the process
This reel is focused on narrative work as opposed to music video or commercial. It starts out with a brief montage and then highlights a few projects. The opening montage is important because it offers the viewer a number of different looks and shows versatility, plus it makes the reel feel more exciting and hopefully keeps the potential client watching. The montage shots don’t have to all be epic landscapes, but can also be ECU’s or texture shots or anything that can lend some quick ‘eye candy’.
Trying to boil down my work into a handful of shots was a daunting task, and it took a full week to put this together after going through many revisions. When I first started on it, I remember feeling disappointed with my work and thinking that it wasn’t good enough, but now I’m happy with it all again. I can’t be the only DP that goes back and forth between hating my reel and being proud of it, so don’t feel alone if you have the same emotions.
It’s important to have one or two people give you honest feedback. In this case it was my wife and my good friend Benj who gave me excellent notes and pushed me to keep improving it. Occasionally, friends will show me their demo reel while they’re in the process of putting it together, and I believe it’s important to offer honest but constructive feedback. Usually I suggest they cut out a shot here or there or re-organize the material a bit. It’s hard to be objective about your own work . You may know how tricky a shot was to execute or how you made it look like daytime when the sun was long-gone, but that may not come across to the viewer. In this case, my first edits were boring and not varied enough. I kept looking for little shots here and there that could add movement, emotion, and variety.
Another thing newer DP’s struggle with is not having a large volume of material to work with. In that case, I suggest more frequent updates to your reel and don’t feel it has to be that long. I’d rather see a solid 90 seconds verses a mixed and repetitive 3 minutes. Keep working at it, keep shooting, and your work will get better and better. You’ve got your whole life to continue improving your reel. I know my best work is still to come.
Also, I’m not particularly fond of editing but I think it’s important as a DP to understand the process. I’ve learned a lot about shooting when I’ve had to edit the material as well. More importantly, I like to be in control of all my marketing materials, so I’ve had to learn to edit and also how to do my own website. When I was starting out, this wasn’t totally possible because you needed expensive equipment and tape machines. Now, it’s easy for me to keep my reel and website up-to-date without relying on someone else.
A final note: Maintain a complete backup hard drive with all your work and edits. I had a drive crash on me one time a few years ago, and while I was able to recover most everything, it was not easy. Hard drives are relatively inexpensive these days and they will most certainly die at some point.
Enjoy the new reel, and if you’re working on your own reel, I hope this advice helps! Please feel free to share your own advice and experiences in the comments below.