The Power of a Short and Sweet Demo Reel

Shane Hurlbut shares his tips for an effective demo reel and shares some of his from his early career.

In December, I had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with hundreds of filmmakers in Austin, Texas at Masters in Motion. It was an amazing event with an incredible list of educators. I am looking forward to next year.

One of the seminars presented by Vincent Laforet was “Deconstructing The Demo: How to Stand Out in a Saturated Market.” I heard from many people who took their reels down for scrutiny. Vincent was honest in his feedback and gave great advice. You have to be brutally honest. I had Lydia, my agent and the editor as my feedback team, and their advice about order and which spots to include was hard to hear. So much of what you create is held close to your heart. You want to show everything, but short and sweet is simply the best advice I can give.

“The Montage”

This is essential until you get enough content so that the content can stand alone. It took me about three years to lose the montage and move on to just showing commercials and features.
• Making a good montage starts with the music. You need something that assists your visuals, not too powerful to over shadow, but like a good soundtrack to a film.
• I would suggest that the montage is not more than three minutes long. Pick your most cinematic shots, best composition. Movement is huge.
• It is best not to have people talking, if possible. This can be distracting. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but do your best. If you are trying to show how you light interviews, see if there are moments before you call action; grab a serendipity piece.
• If you shoot a lot of interviews, ask your talent to do some poses that you can use for your reel. Maybe add a slider move to it. Showcase your lighting and unique composition, instead of a talking head. Voila. Magic!!!

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