Cutting a killer showreel
Every week I make time to watch every showreel that gets sent to us.
There's always been a strange air of coincidence about when I receive reels, and there have been multiple occasions where I've needed someone at short notice and their reel has landed in my lap - landing them a job. This isn't to say we are always hiring freelancers, so how do you make a reel that's good enough to stand out from the crowd, and be memorable enough to stick out in a producer's mind?
Focus on your best work and your strengths. Quality over quantity. Always.
1. Keep it short. This is so important. Aim for 90 secs and if it's a little over that's ok. This is an advert for YOU. We can always look at your portfolio later. Be aware that anything over 2 minutes is very unlikely to be watched until the end. Using speed-ramps and generally speeding up clips is a good way of packing more in, where appropriate of course.
2. Start with your best piece of work, a real show stopper of a shot. Pack the first half of your reel with your best material, be aware that with each passing second the viewer's attention could be falling. End on your 2nd best piece of work, so you're going out with a bang.
3. That amazing drone shot at the start is cool, but were you editing it? grading it? flying the drone? Write on it what you did.
4. If you are approaching a studio, like Studio Giggle, that is largely geared towards a corporate market, include corporate examples. Sounds obvious doesn't it. If you are targeting different industries then why not have 2 or 3 different reels.
5. There's a phrase we hear a lot with freelancers: "you only get hired for the work you've done" - so think carefully about what you are including. A lot of people can't see past what's in your reel.
6. Try and build a narrative. Start by grouping similar shots by composition, colour and mood and create a beginning, middle and end. This could be via a drop in the track.
7. Think about standing out. Consider transitions and bold, interesting cuts. Try make your viewer smile at least once.
8. It can be nice to include a before and after shot when it comes to grading or animation, and a behind the scenes shot for crew - as long as they are shot well - it adds some personality and to the air of expertise.
9. Spending time getting the music right and cutting to a beat is important but don't get too bogged down with your music choices. Personally, half the time I'm watching showreels mute. Visuals should have an 80% weighting in terms of importance.
10. Include your email address and website at the end. Add your mobile number too if you are comfortable doing this. I wouldn't include a title at the beginning, instead, get straight into the action.
11. Review and refresh your showreel at least yearly (bi-yearly if you have the time). The wonderful thing about Vimeo is that you can replace the your video file and retain the same URL. You can also tweak it so, if you've sent your reel off to a producer and then noticed a spelling mistake, no worries!
12. The most important piece of advice is to get colleagues to watch your reel. Play it to them a couple of times all the way through and ask for feedback on what works and what doesn't. As with anything you've been editing for hours on end, sometimes your judgement can become a little blurred.
For some inspiration here is Studio Giggle's showreel, enjoy!