Griffin Puatu is a professional actor who has worked on animation, video games, motion capture, anime dubbing, commercials and more. He answers key questions that voice actors have asked about creating an awesome demo reel.
Making a demo reel when you're starting out
Research how other voice actors have produced their demo reels
During his early days as a voice actor, Griffin would research ways to produce a demo reel that would allow him to stand out in a competitive media industry. This included studying existing demo reels to find out what techniques voice actors used.
“When I first started out, I wanted to learn everything I could from the great voice actors, both all-time and current. So I poured hours and hours into listening to every interview, every character and voice compilation, and of course, every demo reel I could find.” Griffin explains.
“I wanted to pick apart the patterns that made a great demo, as well as a great performance. At first, a lot of it was awkward impersonation. You want to try and embody what the other actor is doing, feel how it feels, compare it to how they did it, and then break it apart.”
"Listen for patterns, commonalities and similarities of writing style, genres, utilization of sound effects, etc. You might learn a lot about writing and producing that way. It's how I did."
"Likely, you have more time on your hands than money, especially when you're first starting out. So invest it. Research current demos on the market from the top voice actors, and find out not just who made them, but how they were made."
Learn the process of producing a demo reel
When he had to produce his demo reel, Griffin read up on audio mastering techniques so that he could produce it himself.
“As for the audio side of things, I did all I could to learn how to do it myself. From recording clean vocals, EQ and compression, mixing, mastering, etc. The internet is a free library of learning resources, so I poured through hours of video and textual content to learn the craft.” Griffin explains.
“[The sound effects I used are] a mix of recording my own foley, and sampling from royalty free and open source sound effects and music. YouTube has an entire free library of sounds and music to use for creators, which is very useful.”
“For the lines, I write the scripts myself. I do the same thing if I'm producing a demo for someone else. My philosophy is you have to tailor each demo to each individual. You want them to connect to the text in a sincere and personal way.”
Home Versus Studio-Made Demo Reels
Griffin implies that there is ongoing debate over whether or not voice actors should produce their own demo reels or ask a studio to help them. When it comes to landing professional gigs, most voice actors agree that a studio-made demo reel is necessary for voice actors to stand out.
However working with a studio is an expensive and lengthy process, and voice actors who are just starting out may want to learn how to produce their own reels to understand the process before investing their resources in an industry-ready products.
"The important questions are, 'What can you do/What are you willing to do?' and 'How well do you know yourself?'" Griffin explains.
Producing a Demo Reel Yourself
"If you know how to record clean vocals, edit audio, write characters and scenes, then do it yourself. If you don't know how, but don't have the money to spend on a "professional" demo producer, does that stop you?"
"If you're willing to put in the hours and the work, you can learn it yourself. It won't be easy, and your first couple of attempts at demos won't be masterpieces. My first few demos were terrible looking back. But they were learning experiences, and they served their purpose at the time for where I was at in my career."
"As for knowing yourself, if you're pretty well-conscious of your strengths and weaknesses as an actor, as well as a human being, you've got an awareness and an edge that will set you apart. If you decide to work with a producer on you reel, you'll walk into the room knowing exactly what you want and how to tailor you demo. Or you'll know what to do to be able to make your own."
Working with a Studio
"As a rule of thumb, if you're going to get someone else to produce your demo for you, make sure they ask those questions of you: What your strengths/weaknesses are, what you want to focus on, what you want to feature in your demo, and what you want your demo tailored for (video games, commercials, animation, etc.)."
"If you're going to spend money, make sure you've put in the time into researching demo producers. When you make inquiries, make sure they're asking the right questions of you, not just wowing you with their mixing skills or who they've produced for. Make sure they ask about you, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how best you want to market yourself to studios, agents and casting directors."
What’s the best way to promote your demo reel?
Make your reel accessible
Griffin explains the importance of making sure that your demo reel is easy to find. A demo reel is one of the best ways for you to showcase your skills to clients and collaborators. Given its importance, Griffin stresses that voice actors must make their demo reels easy to find.
"Generally speaking, the more accessible your demo is, the better. Anyone can watch a YouTube video, SoundCloud and Google Drive also work. If you have a website, put it on the front page. If you have a Twitter, pin your demo to the top. It needs to be the first thing a casting director sees. If you make them jump through hoops to find and listen to your demo, you've greatly lessened your chances." Griffin explains.
Keep it friendly
"Promote and market yourself in a way that's honest, concise, and friendly." Griffin explains.
It is highly important to keep your communication friendly and professional. Studios and directors are always looking out for new talent to cast in their projects, and they also want to make sure that they can maintain a good relationship with those they hire. Feel free to send studios and directors updated versions of your demo reels, but make sure that your emails are polite to those you contact.
How often should you update your demo reel?
Try and get to a place where you don't have to update it for a while. Your reel is a showcase, once you've got a reel that properly does so for your range, skill and niche, you're good. You should always be studying current trends, whether it's video games, cartoons, anime or commercials. You should know what the popular style and genres are, and make sure your demo reflects those as best you can. Only when you see trends changing is when you should update your demo.
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