How to Make Your Cinematography Demo Reel Great

How to Make Your Cinematography Demo Reel Great

Film is a battleground.

– Sam Fuller

How to Make Your Cinematography Demo Reel Great

Your cinematography demo reel is what sells your skills to everyone out there. That’s why you have to make it looks as great as possible. This is done with editing, music, and picking the right shots to create the right feel. Encompassing your entire work might be tricky but it’s necessary if you want to help your career move forward. You have to stand out!

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Use Raw Footage

This tip is particularly useful if your goal is to create a montage of your reel. Raw footage is best when creating your reel. Raw footage can make it sound like you’re going backwards, and must do the same work as before. Because the film’s editor already cut, colored and finished the film, why would you have to re-cut and possibly recolor the image? You may be using the same footage but it isn’t the same project. You don’t have to conform to the creative decisions of others. You may disagree with the choices made by the editor to tell the story. Perhaps there’s a long shot that is stunning but doesn’t fit with the story structure of your previous film. This is the place where your reel could shine. Raw footage is not required, but it can help you start an important project.

Get Other People's Opinions

Although it would be foolish advice to claim that opinions don’t count, they do. Some opinions are more important than others. The person who hires you based upon your reel is the one that matters most. This is where I am going with this. Instead of waiting for the executive’s opinion, you can test your reel with people you trust. You should choose people who are familiar with film but not those who were there during the shooting. Honest opinions are what you want! You want to know which shots are popular and which are not. Do not ask questions such as “which shot is worst?”. No one wants you to be negative about your work, especially in front of others. Instead, ask “which shot has the weakest?” or “which shot was good but not great?” Or, my favorite, “I’m trying to reduce my reel length, which shots should I take out?”

Your reel should be your best work. So showcase only the best material. It should be short and sweet. If you have trouble filling your reel with images, it may be time to shoot more.

Pick A Style

There are many types of show reels. The most popular ones either display excerpts from full scenes from your past films or a montage featuring the best shots you have taken throughout your career. First, decide which style you want to use in your reel. You can mix the styles, but it is easier to decide which one. Both styles have their pros and cons. A montage can show more shots, but if you show excerpts or complete scenes the viewer will be able to see more of your cinematographic style.

It is easy to determine the best approach by asking yourself whether scenes from your films can stand alone. You might find the scenes too long to fit on your reel. They will increase the reel’s run time by seven minutes. But what if the cinematography is excellent, but the sound or acting quality is terrible? This would be a reason to do a montage reel instead.

Separate Yourself

Think about every shot you’ve taken. Some shots were quick to create and are worth as much as a free mint at a gas station. Others are made from fine marble. Although it may seem extreme, I think you get the idea. Emotionally, we attach to certain shots more than others. Sometimes the quality of the shot is not the reason. Sometimes we attach to images because of the way we overcome obstacles.

Quality, Quality, Quality

Every production is a chance to set a new standard of quality. You want to make sure that every shot and every scene you shoot is better than the last. As with every production, there must be a quality line in deciding which shots should be included in the cinematography reel. Analyze your top shots to discover what’s great about them. Are you able to use colors well, have a sense of direction and have interesting movement? Is the shot’s visual landscape interesting, other than its technical aspects? A reel with 30 people sitting around a table at the kitchen table is consistent, but it lacks creativity or the spark that would keep viewers awake at night. You can make a reel that is worthy of being included in the final cut if you find something you love about every shot.

Many people feel compelled to include every project they have worked on in their reel. This is a common mistake. It is fine to have a variety of work. It is a great way to show your experience. However, you shouldn’t add shots from one project just because it is convenient. Your reel is made up of the best shots you have ever done. Your reel should not be a collection of mediocre shots. Do not give viewers anything to complain about. They will most likely recall your worst shot

Ready to Make Your Demo Reel?

I hope these tips will help you with your demo reel! Again, there is no detail that you should ever overlook in filmmaking. Taking your time and making sure everything is exactly how you want it is how you will become successful.

While we’re at it, you should check out more of FilmLocal! We have plenty of resources, cast and crew, and job opportunities. Not to mention a ton more useful articles. Create your free FilmLocal account today and give your career the boost it deserves!

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