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Arts & Entertainment

How to Make a Demo Reel: An Actor’s Guide to Sizzle Reels

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: May 13, 2020 • 2 min read

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Samuel L. Jackson Teaches Acting

Most actors—from fresh-faced theater school graduates to seasoned veterans—have a demo reel to sell themselves to casting directors. Choosing the right scenes for your demo reel and assembling them correctly can help you land a dream audition.

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What Is a Demo Reel?

An actor demo reel (also known as a “showreel” or “sizzle reel”) is a one- to two-minute-long edited video collection of an actor's best performances. Talent agents, managers, casting directors, and potential employers view demo reels when searching for new acting talent.

Talent agents and managers view acting demo reels when deciding who they want to represent, and they send out their clients' demo reels to producers in order to procure them jobs. Casting directors use demo reels to get a sense of an actor's abilities and gauge their on-camera charisma. A great demo reel can convince a casting director to call an actor to audition for a role.

How to Make a Demo Reel

When assembling your demo reel, remember that it's a compilation of your best work. Make sure that the footage is high-quality, and only include performances that showcase your abilities.

  1. Book any role you can. Self-taped scenes are acceptable for a demo reel, but clips of professional work are ideal. Look for opportunities to get cast in a web series, student film, or independent short film. You may not be paid much for this type of work, but obtaining high-quality clips for your demo reel can make these early jobs worthwhile.
  2. Obtain your acting footage. Once you wrap shooting on a project, tell the director or a producer that you'd love to get a copy of a scene for your demo reel, and ask for their contact information. Since the post-production process takes time, wait a couple months before formally reaching out and asking them to send you a video file of your scene.
  3. Hire an editor or learn to use editing software. Your demo reel doesn’t need to look fancy, but it should still appear polished. If you don't know how to use editing software, hire someone who specializes in demo reel editing, or ask a friend with basic video editing skills to help you. Alternatively, you can learn how to edit yourself.
  4. Keep your reel short. One to two minutes long is the sweet spot for a demo reel. Aim to include three to five scenes that showcase both your comedic and dramatic chops.
  5. Lead with your most impressive credits. You never know when the viewer will stop watching, so place your most recognizable credits first. This means movies and TV shows belong up front and short films, web series, student films, and self-taped scenes go later.
  6. Keep the focus on your own performances. The majority of the reel should shine the spotlight on you rather than other actors in your scenes. Choose scenes where you speak the bulk of the dialogue.
  7. Include your contact information. At the end of your reel, include your contact information: your name, email address, website, and representation (if applicable).
  8. Keep improving your reel. As you gain more acting jobs and your career flourishes, update your acting reel with new footage so you're always putting your best foot forward.
  9. Make your reel easily accessible online. Post your reel online to your personal website and casting websites so that anyone searching for you will easily find your reel.
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