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What makes a good reel????


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#1 William Carnahan

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 07:58 PM

I am a recent graduate from LMU grad school and have put together a REEL. I was thinking it would be really nice for some experience directors or other cinematographers to just through in a couple of tips on what makes a good reel for a starting cinematographer/ camera op.

So if any of you have any tips out there I would love to hear them!

Thanks!

will
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 10:34 AM

I've always been told people prefer to see complete scenes with actors, lines, and at least a fragment of some sort of followable storyline. Anyone can create a good-looking montage; demonstrating you can shoot a scene and have it all look reasonable is much more difficult.
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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 11:24 AM

Reels can be dangerous things.

Think of it this way.... a Director (or Producer) who sits down to evaluate DPs is going to be looking for someone who he/she thinks can

A) photograph the movie that he (the Director) wants
B ) be someone who he/she can work with 15 hours a day for several months on end
C) work within the logistical parameters of the project (money and schedule)


"A" can be the dangerous part if the Director isn't, well, the "best" Director. What I mean is that a less-experienced Director may sit down to look at reels looking for someone who has something on his reel that looks like the movie the Director wants to make. So, let's hypothetically say that the new Director is in pre-production on a movie that is primarily nights, and he looks at "your" reel that has NO night work on it, he/she may assume that you are incapable of shooting nights because you don't have examples of it on your reel. The same goes for anything else. Don't have a car chase on your reel? Clearly you can't do that. No fight sequences or romantic scenes or visual effects on your reel? Then you must not be able to do those things even if you can.

Now, having said that, a Director will want someone with experience if the movie DOES have a lot of VFX or stunts or something else that may define the new project, so if he doesn't see a lot of that on your reel but sees a lot of it on someone else's, then he/she is likely to go with the "better bet."

But the potential problem with a reel is that it may be misinterpreted to reflect what you have done and not what you are capable of doing.
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#4 Mathew Rudenberg

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 03:57 PM

Here are my theories for whatever it's worth:

Don't make it too long - if they get bored you've lost them.

Don't put anything bad on it to flesh it out - they'll always remember the worst shot.

Don't keep coming back to shots from the same project (unless they really don't look like they're from the same project) - it makes it look like you have limited experience.

Remember, the point of a reel is to get invited in for a meeting - you just need to show them enough to get them wanting to see more. The rest is up to you.

Beyond that, I think it depends on your target market.

Producers are fairly straightforward - They want to see something that will demonstrate that you are capable of doing the job.

They want to see that you've done what they're doing... If they're doing a kids comedy, they'll want to see that you've done comedy with kids, or failing that, kids and comedy. If you only have drama it'll take some extra convincing to get them to hire you for comedy.

To this end I think variety is key - the more variety on your reel the greater the chance they'll see something that is suitable. If you can, tailor your reel to the job you're applying for. What I do is to have a general reel but also send links to certain projects that are similar to the one I'm applying for - ie Here's my reel, and here's a link to this kids comedy I shot...

They also want to see that someone's trusted you with money - If you've only shot student films and low budg music videos it's going to be hard to convince them to hire you to shoot a multi-million dollar film, or anything really - I think demonstrating that you've worked with a budget will always benefit you.

When you're starting out this is tricky, because you haven't necessarily worked with money - so you have to be clever. Pick shots that look expensive. Close ups are cheap, unless there's a famous actor in them. Wide shots, dolly shots, lots of extras, good vfx - these things say expensive, even if they weren't.

If you're targeting directors it gets much more elusive. I find that directors are more interested in tone than anything else - they want to see something that feels like they want their project to feel. This makes them very hard to pick shots for - I would say just put your favourite, most compelling shots up because hey, if they respond to the same things as you you'll enjoy working with them more.

Sadly, I think the money thing is the most important these days. with dslr's it's fairly easy to make some good looking footage for cheap, so just being good isn't enough anymore.

That reminds me, I need to recut my reel :)
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#5 Fred Neilsen

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 04:32 AM

I've also been seeking advice on this, I think my portfolio's almost large enough to cut a reel I'd be happy with. The most important pieces of advice have already been listed hear, though one tip an experienced DP gave me was to have multiple reels, submitting one for drama, one for vfx oriented, one for comedy etc... (though your "Drama" reel would be your "base reel", with more drama shots spliced in, as apposed to a reel made up entirely of drama work)

Edited by Fred Neilsen, 14 January 2011 - 04:33 AM.

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