This is a guest post by Danny F. Santos.

Demo-reel-2010Looking to make a demo reel? There are a bunch of different ways to create a reel that showcases your talents; here are several things you can do to improve it right now (and several reels to watch along the way).

Start With a Bang

While it makes sense to finish off a story with a bang, in a demo reel it makes more sense to put your best stuff first. Most potential employers won’t even watch the whole thing so try to knock their socks off in the first minute or less.

Specific Content

When you’re applying for work, make sure to match the content you put on a reel to the position. If your applying for a position as an After Effects artist, it doesn’t matter how much you rock as a cinematographer. You can always highlight that on your resume. ((Ed. note: If you have enough material, you can always create different reels for different positions...))


If you don’t have enough content, it’s time to do some pro bono work! The more content you have to choose from, the more likely you are to have some great gems of work to include on your reel. ((Or just create material -- shots, animations, etc. -- specifically for the reel. Fake it 'til you make it.))

Title Cards

Put your name and contact information at the beginning and end of the reel. It sounds like a no brainer, but sometimes people forget to include this. Seriously, just type "demo reel" into YouTube and look through all the reels for contact information. If you're a VFX artist, don't forget to detail what you did to each of the clips.

Keep it Short

The longer your reel is, the less likely your potential employer will watch it all. A good time to shoot for is around the 2 minute mark, this will make sure you pick the creme de la creme of your work. You can go a bit longer if you need to, but no one is going to spend 10 minutes on a reel.

Edit to Music

Music isn't the most important thing in a demo reel -- unless you’re a composer -- but it’s a great thing to edit to just to give your reel some rhythm.

Get Feedback

Show it to friends an colleagues! Maybe what you thought was your best work doesn’t impress anyone; you won’t know until you ask. Use that feedback and polish your reel, no one takes a demo reel with errors or typos seriously.

Be Honest

Do not try to pass off someone else’s work as your own. If they find out, you are in a world of hurt as it is a small industry and you can be blacklisted by other potential employers who hear about it through the grape vine. Just don’t do it.

And there you have it, some tips to improve a demo reel. If you have some suggestions or tips that worked for you, leave them in the comments section!

Ed. note: and here is a demo reel that breaks many of these rules. I'd hire this guy, but maybe it's just me...

Pic21Danny F. Santos is a freelance director, editor and social media consultant. Yes, one of those things is not like the other. He’s currently developing his first feature film with his scriptwriter and producer. He’s kicking ass and chewing gum and you can follow him on twitter here.