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How to Get Your Demo Reel SEEN


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#1 Trent Watts

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:20 PM

I don't work in LA or New York, I work in Washington, DC where it's very hard to make a living doing just camera department jobs. That being said, more and more of my clients are small production companies and ad agencies who hire me to shoot, while they produce and edit.

I've been in the freelance game for about a year, and am making a decent living with about 50% of my work coming from 2 clients. I'm trying to find more clients like them, and before I send my brand new demo reel out, I'm wondering if anyone has some clever suggestions for getting a higher watch rate. I've realized half the battle is just staying fresh in their minds when they do have work that comes up.

There's only about 50 to 60 prospects in my area (higher-end production companies/pr firms) so I feel all my communication with them has to be very effective. Any suggestions?
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 05:09 PM

You know what the problem with reels in general is Trent? Producers know they are commercials for a DPs work, and that's it. Only the best stuff is put on the reel in quick succession while thumping music plays in the background.

The only time I think this works is for commercials DOPs, because each :30 spot is a completed piece of work so a person can see the whole thing.

I prefer to look at a DOPs work in long format, I want to see entire scenes, or in the case of a features DOP....the entire movie for sure. Anyone can light 4-5 shots and make them look great, issue is, can you light EVERY shot in a feature and make it look great?

R,
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#3 Keith Walters

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 04:45 AM

I don't work in LA or New York, I work in Washington, DC where it's very hard to make a living doing just camera department jobs. That being said, more and more of my clients are small production companies and ad agencies who hire me to shoot, while they produce and edit.

I've been in the freelance game for about a year, and am making a decent living with about 50% of my work coming from 2 clients. I'm trying to find more clients like them, and before I send my brand new demo reel out, I'm wondering if anyone has some clever suggestions for getting a higher watch rate. I've realized half the battle is just staying fresh in their minds when they do have work that comes up.

There's only about 50 to 60 prospects in my area (higher-end production companies/pr firms) so I feel all my communication with them has to be very effective. Any suggestions?


My experience in this field is mostly from being on the receiving end of people trying to cadge freebie rentals, but the principles are the same.

If you're contacting them by email, embedding a few stills into the body of the text might get you that vital extra few seconds eye-time. Glancing at a couple of stills is a lot easier that opening yet another video attachment (or link) and then having to sit there drumming your fingers sitting through what someone imagines is a really cool animated graphic, or waiting for your computer to finally tell you that it doesn't support that format.

(Not saying that you’re doing that, but this is what will be going through the contactee’s mind). Or, there’s nothing wrong with printing it out and mailing it to them – hand-writing the address is also supposed to improve your chances of getting your communication read. It may just get shoved into a filing cabinet, but that’s better that Shift/Delete.

You also need to cut to the chase in your opening line(s). A lot of people make the mistake of trying to tell their life story in a “cold” communication, information that the prospect can ask you for later if they want it

The most important thing is to not put one more frame or one more word in your submission that absolutely necessary. (Which pretty much applies to any potential employer in any sort of industry)

Another approach that surprisingly few people think of is to start off with something to the effect of: "Look, I realize that you must get hundreds of emails like this and I understand how they must chew up your time. Is there anything I can do to simplify the process?"

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#4 Keith Walters

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 04:52 AM

You know what the problem with reels in general is Trent? Producers know they are commercials for a DPs work, and that's it. Only the best stuff is put on the reel in quick succession while thumping music plays in the background.

R,

I'm afraid that approach is so firmly cemented into the popular imagination that a nuclear warhead won't shift it. :rolleyes:
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#5 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 10:57 PM

I'm afraid that approach is so firmly cemented into the popular imagination that a nuclear warhead won't shift it. :rolleyes:


Yep, and I still refuse to look at reels like that. But I'm a pain in the a** as most people know.

R,
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#6 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 11:49 PM

Yep, and I still refuse to look at reels like that. But I'm a pain in the a** as most people know.

R,


No argument here...about your latter point, that is. ;)
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#7 Lew Fraga

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 06:24 PM

@Richard - so, would a good email be something in the vicinity of, "My name is ----- ------, and I'd like you to check out my body of work, including..."?

 

Like the OP, I'm in the mid-Atlantic (Richmond - 90 minutes south of you, Trent - hey neighbor!) and working mostly corporate shoots, but trying to get more into commercial entertainment (music videos and features). There just isn't the support network like in NY or LA, so after many years its been difficult to move ahead.

 

Great thread, BTW - very constructive.


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#8 David Bowsky

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 02:53 PM

I'm afraid that approach is so firmly cemented into the popular imagination that a nuclear warhead won't shift it. :rolleyes:

 

 

Yep, and I still refuse to look at reels like that. But I'm a pain in the a** as most people know.

R,

 

Very interested in this particular tangent.  I am in the process of collecting/assembling what I would call a "vanity reel" (the type you describe as best suited for DPs seeking work in commercials), but it seems perhaps this is not the best route to take if one is seeking long form narrative for documentary work?  It stands to reason that the reel should include the work for which you are applying - like a tailored resume in the 9-to-5 world - so theoretically the narrative reel and the documentary reel would be separate entities.

 

Would either or both of you be willing to offer advice on what you do like to see in a reel (or submission of work)?  Sending someone an entire feature when cold-contacting seems unwieldy, but would a series of links to completed scenes be more appropriate?  Is it best to skip the vanity reel (unless seeking work in commercials) and instead create a separate reel for each type of work sought?

 

What would you recommend for those of us who have a strong body of short narrative/doc work, but are trying to convince a producer to hire for their first feature length narrative/doc?

 

Thanks in advance for any tips/advice.


Edited by David Bowsky, 23 April 2013 - 02:56 PM.

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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 03:04 PM

I was always told that montage reels, with no narrative continuity or dialogue, were not the way to go. But then again, what do I know.


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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 07:03 PM

 working mostly corporate shoots, but trying to get more into commercial entertainment (music videos and features). There just isn't the support network like in NY or LA, so after many years its been difficult to move ahead.

 

 

It's a very tough transition to make, there is next to zero transmigration in this industry between features, episodic TV, and commercials.  "Corporate Video" isn't even considered to be part of the entertainment "family."  And this is where your first challenge lies.  

 

I remember going around Toronto a few years back investigating the possibility of directing some episodic TV, I was told in no uncertain terms by the producers....your experience is in feature films Richard, you can't do episodic TV, now bugger off before I call the cops!

 

Back to your point....the industry very nicely pigeon holes all of us whether we like it or not.  The logic is that if you want someone to do a job, you must find someone with a track of doing exactly that job on set, no deviations.  Which makes it very difficult for people to pursue other lines of work within the industry.  

 

I wanted to direct feature films, so I went onto that track.  Same for a DOP, if you want to shoot entertainment type "stuff" you must shoot that type of stuff.  But of course we come back to the, well how do I get started, blah blah blah....

 

You can see my challenge as a producer, if I am looking for a DOP for my next feature, I want someone with feature film experience. A guy who knows the ebb and flow of a feature film set like the back of his hand, and has done it all before. It would be tough for me to even consider a brilliant commercials DOP because they typically have a lot more time per shot on a big commercial shoot.  They might spend all day lighting the "product shot."  We sure as hell don't have that kind of time in feature films when you're struggling to make your day!

 

R,


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K5600 Lighting