Thursday, August 19, 2010

Actor Demo Reels

What do I as a film director look for when viewing an actor's demo reel?  Well first, it needs to be on the shorter side.  A minute is good.  Really.  Not three minutes.  Certainly not five.  It needs to be about the actor-- not about the others in the scene.  The one exception is that if the actor was playing opposite a big time name actor.  Then fine.

I look for roles similar to the one I'm casting.  So the actor's demo probably needs to show a variety of types.  You're a forty year old white male?  Sure, put the detective on there, and a teacher.  But also something way out there-- a drug addict or something out of type.  But it better be good.

And that is probably the biggest thing-- your performance should be awesome.  Don't just include it because you like the way you looked.  What I mean by "awesome" is that your performance is as close to possible to theatrical truth that an actor can get.

Don't have anything?  Then get something shot.  And one thing with a title card front and contact info at end is acceptable if you don't have anything else.  But keep adding to it as you move forward in your experience.

When you get one edited, have a small version you can email.  Then have one bigger you put on vimeo or youtube.  Quality is always good, but if all you're given is a VHS tape, then go with it.  As a director, I don't fault poor quality recording.  On my first film "The Keyman," veteran actor Tom Wright's manager sent me a tape that was made from a vhs to vhs to vhs.  But I didn't care about that-- it was the performance that mattered.

A demo is basically a step up from the headshot and in this YouTube age, it's becoming increasingly important.  Looks like I'm all booked up for this Tuesday's demo shoot I'm doing for some actors, but if you think you need something, contact me and I'll see if we can find enough people to pay the crew.


  1. Speaking of "Keyman"--a movie which I absolutely adored--your bio on the right-hand column mentions Adam "Baldwim" rather than "Baldwin".