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Demo Reels for Actors: How Long Should They Be?


So you’re making a demo reel. Fantastic! But here’s the ultimate question - how long should it be? Maybe you have a lot of great roles in the can, and you want to show off all of them. But, that’s the last thing you’ll want to do. 


A demo reel needs to be your absolute best highlights - the best of the best. 

What is a Demo Reel?


A demo reel, or sizzle reel, is a short video containing multiple clips from the projects you’ve done in either theater or film. You typically choose 3-4 projects that you’ve been in for the reel. It is something that you send digitally to casting directors, usually via an unlisted (but not private!) YouTube link. This may be included in the casting call, or something your agent may send to casting. You’ll also send this to agencies for talent management consideration. 

What is the purpose of a demo reel?


A demo reel showcases your talent to casting directors. They’re able to see what you look and sound like, as well as your acting abilities and versatility. It also lets them know the quality of the productions you’ve been in so far, and tells them much more than just an acting resume and a headshot.

What should be included in a Demo Reel?


A demo reel should include your very best work, displaying as much versatility as possible. You should include at least 3 projects, but no more than 5, to include in the reel. It also needs your headshot and contact information.


If you don’t have professional footage yet - no problem. You can include anything you’ve done before, that you feel is good quality and showcases just you and your work. This includes local theater and student films, and web projects. (Again - as long as the quality is very good and the focus is on you. You don’t want the casting directors to be confused about who the reel is about.)


How long should it be?


Ah, the question we’re all here for. 

A demo reel should be under two minutes in length. Anything longer than that, and the casting directors don’t have time to view it. They see hundreds, if not thousands of actors regularly. They cannot afford to spend all day watching long reels. 


You’ll want to catch their attention off the bat, too - put your very best clip first.


You don’t want it to be too short, either. Perfecting the amount to showcase in your reel is something that will come with time and experience in the craft, so don’t sweat it as you start off. If you don’t have at least a minute of content for your reel, try setting up a neutral background, and produce some footage for yourself - such as performing a dramatic monologue or part of a scene. 


Can I have more than one reel?


If you have some really fantastic moments on screen or the stage that you can’t stand to keep hidden, you can make more than one reel to have on hand. You can send the reel you feel is most appropriate for the casting in question, or the agency at hand. 


Editing your reel


Don’t include any music, transitions, or frills. Your demo reel should begin with a still image of your headshot, with your phone number, name, and email VERY clearly shown. This should remain on the screen for 4-5 seconds, before going directly into your first clip. 

Each clip should go straight into the next, with the title of the project at the bottom of the screen. 


After one-two minutes of your clips, include a screen at the end with your phone number, location, name, and email. You can also include your website (if you have one) and your agents name (if you have one).


Protip: always make sure that the director you’re working with is keen on getting your footage to you. Oftentimes with student projects, they’ll “pay” you with your footage for your demo reel. With larger productions, this won’t be the case, but watch for the project to be released so you can download your footage. 


Creating your demo reel is exciting and rewarding. As you continue to get more work in the industry, you’ll continuously be able to rework and re-edit your reel until it's a glorious showcase of your talents and experience. Try not to get frustrated on the journey - it takes a lot of patience and hardwork to gather experience and footage. A demo reel is a consistently evolving work of art that demonstrates your talent. Enjoy the process of watching it grow and change!

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