Demo Reels for Actors: Why You Need a Reel & How to Make One - Careers in Film
Start Here:

What are you most interested in? arrow pointing down

Get Started

If you’re an aspiring Actor, a demo reel is a must.

The acting world is one where you need to show more than your acting resume to prove that you’re the right person for a role. Casting Directors, Directors, and Producers will want to see you in action to figure out if you can play the character they have in mind for you.

So let’s dive into the ins and outs of the demo reel, shall we?

What Is a Demo Reel?

A demo reel is a montage of your best acting work. It might also be referred to as a showreel or sizzle reel.

The important thing to focus on here is the word “best.” Casting Directors and anyone else looking at your demo reel won’t be all too concerned with whether the footage in it exactly matches the role that they’re casting for. They just want to make sure you have the talent, screen presence, and other relevant acting qualities to do the job.

It’s also important to remember that people–including Casting Directors– have short attention spans. You need to show them not only your best acting work, but also your best acting work first. Don’t save your most impressive bit of acting for a big demo reel finale because it’s entirely possible that a Casting Director or Director won’t make it that far.

What Is the Purpose of a Demo Reel?

As we’ve laid out, a demo reel demonstrates that you can actually do the work of acting.

While a personal connection or impressive resume may get you on a Casting Director’s radar, they may never even bother to call you in for an audition or ask for a self-tape if they don’t get the chance to see what you can do.

In short, be prepared. Get that demo reel together before you start going out for paid work.

How Do You Make a Demo Reel?

It’s a question that can strike fear into the hearts of many emerging Actors if they think they have nothing to show. But no matter how green of an Actor you may be, you still have options.

Include student films.

Have you worked on student films or school productions? Get that footage. Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t have studio-backed feature film production quality. When you’re short on experience, make what you have work for you.

Seek out indie films.

Maybe you’re a few years out of school or have already spent time connecting with local filmmakers. Either way, if you have the chance to be in an indie film–even if you have just a single line of dialogue–take it.

Not only will the experience provide footage for your demo reel, but also you’ll be forging professional relationships that could translate into you being asked to act in future projects.

Produce your own footage.

Still scrounging for demo reel footage? Why not record some scenes yourself? It’s a legitimate way to beef up your demo reel–and best of all–you have total control over how it’ll be produced.

You can pick a scene or two where you know you’ll shine, as well as have complete authority over elements like your wardrobe, lighting, and makeup, which can also make a huge impact on the first impression that a Casting Director has of you.

Hire someone to help.

Demo reels are so important to Actors that many entrepreneurs have started companies to help make them. And we’re not talking about just Los Angeles or New York City.

Likely your own town has a company that specializes in making demo reels or at least a production company that is more than capable of making one for you. So if you need help, it’s there. While it may mean more initial expense, if it gets you jobs, then it was worth it.

Edit your demo reel.

Regardless of where you get your footage from–student films, indie films or otherwise–it’s critical that you edit your demo reel in a way that truly shows you in your best light.

Though you can edit a demo reel on your own, if this skill isn’t already in your wheelhouse, consider out-sourcing this final step. Because while you might have wildly impressive footage to show off, if it isn’t cut together in a professional manner, it could be a deterrent to the Casting Director watching it.

What Should You Include in a Demo Reel?

As you’re assembling your demo reel, don’t forget that you must be strategic with what you put in it. You have very little time to make an impression, so every single frame of footage counts.

Focus on you and your character’s POV.

You may not have footage of a lengthy, scene-stealing monologue to include in your demo reel, but make sure that whatever you do include is a moment in the film where your character has the focus.

Include a range of performances.

As stated earlier, variety is good. You’ve likely heard the phrase “they have range” given as a compliment for a given Actor or Actress. That’s what you want to strive for as well. If you have the footage available, show a Casting Director that–yes!–you can do drama and comedy and horror.

Include strong character types.

Do you rock at playing an angsty teen? Have you been cast as the go-getter type several times over? If there’s a character you know you excel at–and you want more of those roles–include those examples in your demo reel.

Just keep in mind that you should always be showing different roles. Don’t have several scenes from the same project; rather, include one scene each from various projects, even if it’s the same type of character you’re portraying.

Start with your best footage.

This is so important that we’re telling you twice. The unfortunate reality is that a Casting Director, Director, or whoever else is watching your demo reel may not screen it the whole way through. So don’t wait to wow them.

Whatever you feel is your most impressive footage (maybe it’s a two-hander moment with a well-known Actor or that character type you know you can nail) put it first.

By the way, keep in mind that great acting isn’t always the most dramatic acting. Your best stuff doesn’t need to be a scene where your character has a total psychological breakdown or an emotional waterworks moment.

Make it two minutes or less.

Again, strive for being concise because you won’t have a lot of time to impress that Casting Director. If possible, aim for 90 seconds. In that time, have between three and five different scenes that you showcase in your demo reel.

Site Search
We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content and advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.