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Help with AFI reel...


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#1 Joaquin Elizondo

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 02:21 AM

I'm applying to AFI's cinematography program this year and I need some tips on what to put on my reel.
I've been working in TV for the past 6 years, so I have a lot of commercials, promos, feature news stories, and a documentary to pick from.
How should I approach my reel?
Should I just put a music bed and have images over that, kinda like a long montage?
Or should I put, let's say, entire commercials and pieces of certain stories I've done with the original recorded sound?
I would appreciate any other tips...as far as content and length.
Thanks!
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#2 Steve McBride

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 02:04 AM

Reels are meant to showcase your BEST work. That is to say in a scene, you have many shots but usually your close-ups or dialogue isn't going to be as interesting as a long tracking or establishing shot.

For a reel you want to put in your best shots that have the most meaning to them as well as the highest level of technical work within it. You also want to keep it short, don't let it drag on. Keep it around 3-4 minutes.

Again, reels are to showcase your best work. A portfolio is to showcase your work in their entirety.
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#3 Mike Williamson

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 03:52 AM

If you're applying to AFI, your focus should be on storytelling. My advice would be to put images on your reel that tell a story, whether they're from a documentary or a commercial. The most important thing is to show that you're capable of telling a story visually. It's definitely a good idea to demonstrate that you have a handle on the basic technical elements of photography, but you'll make a bigger impression by showing you have a sense of narrative than by stringing together a bunch of technically accomplished shots.

I'd also suggest that you have a captive audience, so the usual time constraints of cutting a reel are less important. My current reel is about three and a half minutes, but my demo reel for AFI came in at about 10 minutes. I don't know if that's the best advice, but my take was that this was a different situation than competing for a job in a commercial environment and I tried to take advantage of that.
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#4 Jayson Crothers

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 12:36 PM

One friend of mine who also went to AFI had an interesting idea that he did for his application - he submitted his reel (about 3 1/2 minutes in length) and then had 3-4 complete scenes from a few different movies as additional material on his DVD - this way he could show the diversity of his work via his reel but was also able to offer his abilities to cover a scene, use the camera to visually express ideas within a scene, etc.

I think the best advice might be to only use material you are 100% confident is great - if you're not sure about something then you should get rid of it; the weakest material on your reel is the strongest your reel will be. I've always believed the best reels tell some form of a story or create a mood.

Specific to your case though, I'd suggest you not might not want to use any news stories and only use doc footage if it's visually arresting or visually supportive of an idea - documentary backgrounds are great and encouraged at AFI, but it's a narrative based program and I think news story material would draw away from your skills and experience as a visual story-teller and imply you're more of a story-catcher. =)
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#5 Joaquin Elizondo

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 09:45 PM

Thanks for your input, fellas.
I'm gonna get crackin' on this thing.
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#6 Ryan Thomas

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 12:25 AM

I had a reel from one of the instructors from AFI for a little while and while he didn't have long scenes and show how he covered them, he had title cards for each of the films and then maybe a few shots that would string together showing his best from each film.

So it wasn't quite full scenes, but it wasn't exactly a montage. Another thing I noted was that it was pretty long, hitting in at around the 8 or 9 minute mark. I think the narrative visuals idea is a good suggestion. Keep in mind that although being proficient technically is important, telling stories with your images is paramount.

I mean, maybe that helps, maybe it doesn't. Just good to know what the instructors are doing with theirs...

Edited by Ryan Thomas, 28 November 2008 - 12:26 AM.

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#7 Joaquin Elizondo

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 11:45 AM

I had a reel from one of the instructors from AFI for a little while and while he didn't have long scenes and show how he covered them, he had title cards for each of the films and then maybe a few shots that would string together showing his best from each film.

So it wasn't quite full scenes, but it wasn't exactly a montage. Another thing I noted was that it was pretty long, hitting in at around the 8 or 9 minute mark. I think the narrative visuals idea is a good suggestion. Keep in mind that although being proficient technically is important, telling stories with your images is paramount.

I mean, maybe that helps, maybe it doesn't. Just good to know what the instructors are doing with theirs...


Do you know if he had a music bed under the images or did he use the original audio from the actual scenes?
Thanks!
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Wooden Camera

The Slider

Tai Audio

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