Sunday, September 6, 2015

Demo Reels - reels or clips?

I just redid my demo reels on Actors Access, so I thought this would be a good time to discuss the changes in demo reels.

So, what's new? Most casting directors prefer that demos be no longer than a couple of minutes and less is better. That means two minutes for a mixed demo (one that has both comedy and drama on it).

But there's an even better and more preferred way of doing things. And that is separate, one minute comedy and drama demos with two or three clips of your best (and fairly recent) roles on each reel.

And this makes sense - if a CD is looking for an actor for a comedy role, they really don't want to sit through all your dramatic stuff to see the comedy, and vice versa.

On my comedy reel I have two clips - one over-the-top and one very dry. The reason this is the way to go is that a role may have more than one level; the character may have a story arc that takes them through a range of emotions or reactions. A clip (especially a short one) often only shows one type of emotion or attitude. Of course the CD must watch both clips to get this, but the larger and more complex the role that they are casting, the more willing most are to do this.

This is the same with drama - you really only need two or three different clips to show a range. And don't make the mistake of falling in love with a particular scene - if your clip shows only one type of emotion, reaction, or attitude, there's no reason for the clip to be a minute long. I have seen actors use a clip that is 3 minutes long and they are sitting at a table having a low-key discussion with no change in emotion. A busy CD will most likely watch about ten or fifteen seconds of this and bail.

There's one more way that demos can be placed on an acting site. I don't think it's as good as the one minute comedy or drama reels, but here it is. Actors are putting up individual clips (scenes). So instead of a comedy reel with three clips, the actor will have three separate clips on the web site. The idea is that your agent will pick the right clip to submit (just like he does with headshots).

Here's the main problem I have with using separate clips:

If a CD is looking for a dramatic actor with a range - for a larger role - they are not going to look through all your clips to see that you can do a range of dramatic acting. 

Note: Your other clips are up on the actor site along with the one that is attached to your submission. But, just like a CD is not going to look though all your headshots, they're not going to click on all your other clips. That's why I think it's better to have all the comedy clips in a one minute reel and the same with drama.

Hope this helps you think through your online presence as an actor.




  1. That really does help! Thank you. I'm currently updating my reel and was debating putting on individual clips. However, I think you're right and a casting director wouldn't wan't to click on that many links.

    1. Glad I could help. I wrote this post 4 years ago, and I still use one minute reels separated into comedy and drama. While more actors are using individual clips, it means that one's agent must be very familiar with all the clips in order to submit the best one. And it really only works for a larger role if there is a range in that one clip.


Please share a question or comment.