Cutting a Demo Reel

An editor’s demo reel is a chance to quickly show potential clients who they are and that their resume is worth taking two extra minutes to read.  But what makes a reel worthy of a viewer’s attention?

Here’s my most recent demo reel I just cut together this week. Some of my clips at the end will be replaced with color-corrected versions once I can get my hands on those.

There are a lot of ways to cut a demo reel — this time I decided to use the straightforward approach and not do anything too fancy. I wanted to give an idea of the variety of footage I’ve had to work with (clearly I emphasize in documentary editing, with some animation and motion graphics experience under my belt).

However, there are a few guidelines that are generally good to follow:

1) Put your contact info both at the beginning and end of the reel — you want to make sure whoever sees it will know how to find you!

2) Put your most impressive and/or prettiest work at the forefront and at the very end.  You want to “wow” the viewer as much as you can from the get-go so that they’ll want to keep watching, and then end with a bang to give a sense of satisfaction and round everything out.

3) Limit your demo reel’s total running time to about 60 to 90 seconds — no longer!  The goal is not to show everything you’ve ever done or even your qualifications — that’s what a resume is for.  The demo reel’s purpose is to show the type and scope of projects you’ve cut, and QUICKLY grab the viewer’s attention.  If you want to go into more detail on the projects they’ll be glimpsing, provide a secondary link to creative samples in the case of web embedding, or include said samples on a separate DVD menu if you are sending a physical disc.

Any other thoughts or comments on cutting a successful demo reel?  Discuss in the comments!