How 2 Create A Demo Reel
How fast can it happen?
Members like yourself...are taking the fast lane to building 'effective' demo reels. Due to the uptick in reel development, activity on FORUM4DANCERS has never been more productive. Daily, members are giving and receiving feedback for upgrading their reels. They want the same outcome that members like ALEX STURRUP, KELLY P. WILLIAMS, EMILY DANN, GARRETT MINNETTI, and ANTONIO MARTINEZ are having... direct bookings based soley on video submissions.
HERE ARE SOME GREAT TIPS TO CREATE YOUR DEMO REEL
See Cydny’s 10-steps on a single page
Cydny’s 10 easy steps to help gain the perfect reel!
1) Gather all your dance footage, everything from past performances, rehearsals, headshots and photo clips.
2) Decipher if your footage represents you well, or if you need more. If so,
(a) Remember to get clips of your strong points
(b) Be Creative, choose settings that aren't all the same throughout the video.
(c) Choose clothing that help you stand out from the background.
3) Music, pick music that describes your personality, your style, and blends nicely with the choreography represented in your reel. Also choose music that will keep your consumer motivated to watch.
4) Standout! All the time, this is about YOU! We only want to see you! If you have clips where we can't tell who "you" is, then be sure to find a way to point yourself out with an arrow, a highlight, etc.
5) Do your homework on the video editing program you decide to use, you will be surprised how many tools there are and how creative you can get with your footage if you take the time to learn about your program. Examples: Slow motion, Speed up, Add Text, Smooth transitions, etc. Check the "Pros Helping Pros" page for tutorials on frequently asked questions.
6) Be sure to state you name and info! Very important, we must know who you are and how to contact you.
7) Keep reels short and to the point, you have 2 minutes max to prove to the world how amazing you are.
8) Be creative!
9) Take your time, it’s hard to get everything correct in one shot, you want your reel to represent you in the best way possible.
10) Add your contact info like your email or website.
Dakota Montavon's approach to a demo reel
See what members say about Dakota's vid
'Organizing Pays Off' says Jessie Douglass-Smith
See what members say about Jessie's vid
See what members say about adding voice to your reel
What to shoot & how to shoot it.
Here’s an outstanding example of camera work enhancing the choreography:
In Alexa Marie Gentile's video 'Stay'...two elements caught our eye. Her performance and they way her camera operator (Tommy Tibball) captured it. Together, they decided that the camera should move with her instead of being static. They produced footage that allows viewers to get inside the movement….thereby enhancing the impact of Alexa’s performance. If you want results like this, show this vid to your camera operator. It's outstanding! BTW: Tommy is responsible for more than the camera operation….he did the choreography as well.
See what members say about Alexa's vid
More examples of what works and what doesn’t
NOTE: Be aware that the Images below are not linked to videos.
Due to the light source, the dancer here is in shadow and difficult to identify. Instead of shooting into the light, it would've been better to have the source of it behind the camera instead of in front of it. Remember… to feature yourself, not the setting or the production values around you. You must be the star of your video. Camera placement determines how well the viewer sees you. Avoid placing the camera that results in a visual like the one below:
Footage in this ratio frustrates and annoys viewers. Medium shots like the one below allows the viewer to see how effective the performance choices are. This angle is better. More are posted below.
A combination of close-ups and dance shots work well. They will feature you, your performance, and how much life you generate when you dance. Here, you can see how Emily Dann blended closeups into her dance footage, both complimenting each other.
It’s easy to see why Emily’s professionally-edited shots are easier to watch than wide-angle home-editted shots like this:
Clearly, the dancer’s performance is diminished by the unfortunate flat-on camera angle. How close should the camera be? Consider this medium shot below as the minimal distance you will accept.
Here’s more info about the use of wide angle group shots. The biggest challenge happens when the viewer has trouble locating you…instantly it takes them out of the “enjoyment” mode and into a “search” mode. Too often, videos are submitted with high-energy footage displayed and suddenly a group shot like this appears. Even text directions (see below) can’t return the viewer to enjoying your performance. Shots like this are a no-win, unless the camera quickly zooms in and features you.
Group shots like these belong on a choreographer’s demo reel. They do little to enhance a dancer’s reel. It focuses the viewer on a full stage instead of a solo dancer.
If singing is one of your skills, here’s the kind of visual impact Jessica Doll made on her demo reel. As you can see, her personality leaps into the camera and grabs the viewer’s attention. That’s what you want.
What will it cost to shoot the footage I need?
The range can be dramatic. It totally depends on the resources and support you've got at your fingertips. Five years ago, an inventive 17-year-old (Tony Testa) created a 'killer reel' using his mother's Hi-8 camera propped on a chair in his hometown studio in Colorado. He talked friends into volunteering time and talent. Out-of-pocket, the reel that got him booked on Janet Jackson's World Tour cost less than $50. Amazing, right?
Other resourceful dancers made miracles happen by tapping into relationships. Cruiseship and Reality TV producers have been known to release professionally-shot footage when a relationship between parties warrants it. Imagine. All that good lighting, scenery, and camera work added to a dancer's reel...and it's free! These are not only dream situations...they are incentives to booking the next cruiseship opportunity that comes along. Team-players rule!
Okay. You don't have access to cruiseship or reality TV footage. What else is available? Competition footage? Hm. Let's look at it. Yes, there you are... performing full-out at the top of your game... but wait a minute. Are you comfortable with those huge, visually-dominating logos on the backdrop behind you? Will casting directors and agents be looking at you… or at the attention-getting logo that fills the screen? Another consideration. To some employers... competition footage implies they are watching a dance student... not a professional dancer. Depending on the project being cast, there will be times when that implication works in your favor... and times when it doesn't. Choosing the right footage is essential.
Should you think about hiring professionals?
New technologies are changing the 'reel' game. In tough economic times, dancers are acquiring the skills for self-generating effective demo reels. It's simple and rewarding. In most cases, the process works like this. What dancers don't know... they 'google' or track down amongst friends. Taking on the job is not a big deal. Choosing between doing it or blowing what's left in the bank account is a no-brainer. Doing it wins every time.
As the producer-director-editor-choreographer-star of your reel... you are in charge. If you don't have an HD camera, you find a friend who does. You pull in favors. You negotiate. You communicate and collect useful info. You pick outdoor locations instead of paying for studio space. You experiment with iMOVIE software and discover it's easier to use than you thought. You find a song that moves you. You found red high-top sneakers, patent-leather tap shoes, and the perfect long-sleeved white T that will help you stand out when you perform in front of the brick wall behind your family's home. The 'creative streak' in you is coming out.
You're almost ready. As you arrive at your first location, you get caught up in revising a phrase of choreography. Inspired by NaTonia Monet's playfulness at the end of her reel, you try inserting some of your own. Someone reminds you the camera is recording everything you're doing. You laugh it off… and get down to business. Twenty minutes later, you entertain an adventurous thought... creating a reel is one of the best growth experiences you ever gave yourself.
Tips about finding music 4 your reel?
TONY TESTA GOT IT STARTED!
HOMEMADE REEL SECURES GIG WITH JANET JACKSON
At 17, dancer Tony Testa used his mother’s Hi-8 camera to record his work from a home studio in Colorado. Book-ended by a personable lead-in and lead-out, Tony’s homemade reel was shown to choreographer Gil Duldulao. In days, it led to being booked as a dancer and choreographer for Janet Jackson’s World Tour. This reel confirms what an effective reel can do!
WHY DOES THIS REEL SHOWCASE TONY SO WELL?
Tony’s physical presence totally fills the screen,” adds Grover Dale. “His performance reveals a dancer fully-engaged in showing what he has to offer. His style is natural, multi-faceted, and distinctly his own. Technique is present but doesn’t get in his way. He frames himself inside a clean, simple dance studio that’s free of distractions… no windows, no dance bags, no posters… just Tony dancing full-out in front of the lens. He charms us with his lead-in and lead-out. A win-win…”
WHAT'S THE BEST APPROACH TO CREATING A REEL?
Remember that a demo reel is a selling tool... and the people out there buying are in a hurry to find well-rounded, personable dancers who are a natural fit for their projects. Your personality, “look,” and editing choices are just as important as your dance ability. Within 20 seconds, most casting directors will know if they’re interested in watching more. What should you do? Present the best footage you’ve got and put your strengths up front.
Everything is possible!