Guidelines for a kick-ass showreel.

It constantly amazes me the number of times top level artists who mumble, ‘I haven’t updated my showreel for years’, or roll their eyes at the thought of putting together a reel. Creating a reel should not be treated like a trip to the dentist, it should seen as something fun and exciting.

Your showreel is a publicly sanctioned opportunity to brag about yourself! So, start bragging.

It’s a chance to shine a big fat spotlight on your prodigious talents and say, ‘yeah, I’m pretty good. You wanna know how good? Check out what I did on this art-house flick called Avatar or Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’

After reviewing thousands of showreels, here are my top tips to make your reel as strong as possible.

  1. Only use your best work! I cannot stress this enough. People want to see 30 seconds of greatness, and not 1 and a half minutes of average inconsistent sludge. The truth is, you are not judged upon your best work - you are judged upon your worst work. If you have 3 really good shots followed by an average shot, your entire reel will be brought down to the level of your average shot. Keep the level of your work consistent and as high as possible.
  2. Start strong & end strong! What’s the first rule about showreels? Only show your best work. What’s the second rule about showreels? Only show your best work. Start with your best shot, then your next best second, and your third best third and so on. Do not leave your best shot to the end because you risk it never being seen. If you have any doubts as to what to include in your reel, refer to rule №1.
  3. Keep it short. No longer than 3 minutes max! 3 minutes is more than enough. 2 minutes is perfect. If a supervisor hasn’t made up their mind to hire you after the first 30 seconds, then adding another minute and a half is not going seal the deal. Less is more.
  4. No long title sequences. When a hiring manager or supervisor has to go through hundreds of reels a day, they don’t want to waste time with a 20 second intro title. In fact you only have roughly 20 seconds to make an impression, so don’t waste it on your name. If a supervisor likes your reel, they’ll go back to find your name once they’ve seen your work. I’ve actually seen supervisors skip a reel because the title sequence was taking too long. A simple 3 second title card with your name, what you do (eg: James Bennett / Supervising Animator) is all you need. Your end credits can be longer to include your contact details.
  5. Explain what you did. Most projects are collaborative, so knowing what you did on a project is very important. And this does not mean, ‘I animated the main dinosaur’. You wouldn’t describe Michael Jackson’s contribution to Thriller, as, “He was the singer…” Ahh, no. I don’t think so. Explain your workflow, and what challenges you may have overcome. Your thought process says just as much about your hire-ability as your actual work. Check out the Showreel breakdown feature on Zerply.com (shameless plug), it will help you shine a light on what makes you so amazing to everyone, inside and outside of the Zerply community.
  6. Give due credit. Make sure to indicate the name of the project, and even the name of the company or copyright holder. For example; Title: King Kong, FX house or Studio: Universal Studios. Also give credit to the music track used where applicable - Artist and name of track . This is not only good manners, it’s stating that legally you do not own the work and you are not claiming any rights to the work.
  7. Pass word protection is a pain in the ass. DO NOT PASSWORD PROTECT YOUR SHOWREEL! The only thing this achieves is make your work harder to view for the people who need to see what you can do. It is not a game of hide and seek. You can show your work if it has already been made public in the form or a trailer, ad or behind the scenes vignette. A company cannot stop you from showing work on which you directly contributed that has already been released or published. If, on the other hand the work you want to show has not yet been released, or is still in production, then DO NOT SHOW IT! Full stop.

Conclusion.

The objective of a showreel is to demonstrate what you can do in the most concise, entertaining and easily digestible manner possible. If you don’t have a showreel and work professionally in a creative industry, you need to stop watching Netflix or playing Mobile Strike for a couple of days and put one together. If you have a showreel that is more than 3 years old, then it’s time for a tune up. Follow the steps above to see the benefits.

Your work will often be the thing that opens the door to a new opportunity. Do you want to open the door a little, or do you want knock it off it’s hinges? That’s really up to you…

Cheers, James. (Zerply Profile)

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