Making a demo reel may be a difficult task. There are several challenges with producing a demo reel by yourself, or relying on a studio for help. Kestin Howard, a professional voice actor with over 10+ years of experience, shares about the best ways to produce a demo reel, how to promote it, how much you should spend on it, and how often you should update it.
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How I Learned to Make Demo Reels
When I first started learning about the business of voice over, a lot of my initial exposure was through YouTube when it was just starting to become a prominent website. I was always interested in acting when I was in school, but I didn’t even come to the realization that voice over was an actual profession until I was just starting out in college.
I was heavily influenced as a kid from watching classic cartoons like Looney Tunes, and I was able to find a deeper appreciation for the people that provided the voices for my childhood once I became aware of the profession. I started finding resources online, started messaging and connecting with other actors through YouTube, and began to realize that this is a profession I could see myself doing.
I found websites of prominent voice actors I knew, which had demo samples on display to listen to. It was from there I had set out to develop demos myself that could compare in length of time and what was being presented. I learned a lot through the process each time I made one and was able to understand what a casting director would be looking for each time they listen to one.
Ways to Produce a Demo Reel
Demos are meant to showcase your range in acting and voice, so the script and selection of voices need to be a proper reflection of that.
It’s important to note that no one method in developing a demo reel is the same. If you are confident that you can develop a studio-quality sounding demo, then there are many different sources online that can provide royalty free music and sound effects for your demo. You can:
Producing Studio-made Demo Reels
Studio-made demo reels sound professional: If you are looking to sign with a talent agency or audition for higher dollar projects, a professionally made demo will be preferred almost every time. Studio-made demo reels will have access to professional-level sound engineers that can make the necessary edits to have your voice sounding the best it can be.
Studios can write credible scripts for you: If you have the studio write the script, this can also be beneficial since they may have the inside track on what casting directors are looking for at the time and what would be best to display.
Your reel needs to grab a director’s attention immediately: The voice over environment is always changing, so the voice that is needed today could be completely different by tomorrow. Casting directors only have a short time to preview the numerous submissions they have when asking for demo reels, so the reel needs to grab your attention right off the back with the strongest voice you have.
Producing Home-made Demo Reels
Home-made demos are still viable, and they will generally be accepted more when using them to audition for smaller, independent projects. Regardless, it’s still imperative that your recording setup is well made and that you have the proper equipment and software to do the job.
What’s The Best Way to Promote Your Demo Reel?
Demo reels can be promoted in a number of ways:
Promote your Demo Reel over YouTube
I started out by placing my demo reels on YouTube since that had the largest audience it could be shared with. If you are at the point where you can develop your own website, be sure to place your demo reels in an easy-to-find area so that potential clients can get an idea of who they’re dealing with.
Promote your Demo Reel over Other Social Media Platforms
Social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn have become more prominent in sharing voice over materials with clients. Through them, you have the chance to reach out to potential clients and ask if they have any opportunities for you to help them.
Read Up on a Client’s Policies
For entities like animation studios or talent agencies, they usually do not accept unsolicited demos unless stated otherwise. Be sure to read up on their policies to determine what is acceptable for that studio or agency.
Important Questions to Ask
How Much should you Spend On A Demo Reel?
For a professionally made demo reel in-studio, the average cost will run you around $700-1,200. This would include all services in the development process (script writing, recording, sound editing, mixing, etc.)
Home-made demos can cost less if you are able to perform any of the services yourself, but you can also shop around and find people online that can offer multiple services at a condensed price. If you go this route, be sure to check any of their previous work to see if their material is up to par with your standards.
How Often should you Update Your Demo Reel?
There is no specific set of time that a reel needs to be updated, but each working actor has to do it eventually.
The general rule of thumb is that it should be updated when you feel your skill has improved to a point where your current reel doesn’t properly showcase your talent.
It’s important to be able to look at your past work and learn to properly critique it in order to improve. If you feel that a reel you made two years ago doesn’t properly show off what you can do now, then it’s time to make that update.
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