Frequently Asked Questions
This information is offered as general advice only. Please feel free to consult with me about your specific material as every Reel is unique. Still have questions? Call the studio at 416.203.6720 – or email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making a Reel? You need to read this.
After 25 years as a Demo Reel Editor, I can tell you that there are more misconceptions about Demo Reels than about any other format in the film business. There are a lot of reasons for this, but it comes down to two things for actors: not really understanding what a Demo should be – and not being willing to make any investment in one as a result.
If your Demo Reel isn’t speaking the language of BREAKDOWN – you’re not serving your audience. That’s the bottom line in all the nasty Reels I see: the editor didn’t understand the language of Casting. A Reel is not simply a sequential compilation of your scenes – it’s a trailer of Casting Hits. Hits are the language of Casting Breakdowns and Hits are the language of Casting Directors (CDs). And they should be the language of your Demo Reel as well. If they’re not, then you are not playing to your audience – and you’ll miss.
Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game, The Social Network, The West Wing) said my Demo for Kari Matchett was the best acting Demo he had ever seen. And it’s because her Reel spoke his language. My Demo for Matchett respected her audience, in this case Sorken, and he booked her on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip after seeing it.
You can’t just expect to book jobs as an actor with a nasty Reel. Make no mistake – like most kinds of editing – Reels are a highly specialized field and most editors can’t do it. Just like I can’t cut a feature film or an episode of Stranger Things, most editors don’t understand what a Demo is – or how it is used. They think they do, but they don’t. And I’m not being harsh! I see the very same mistakes – over and over again – from actors and editors alike. Most actors, when they see their scenes cut together by someone, are thrilled with the result. I get it – it’s great to see all our best work put together. But would you even know if it sucked or not? There aren’t very many great Demo Reel Editors out there and thousands of performers who think there are. And I hate to say it, but cheap Reels are the standard in this industry. Which is exactly why if your Reel kicks ass – you’ll stand out from the crowd.
If you could actually watch a CD using Reels you would understand why predictable, sequential Reels that don’t speak ‘Casting Director’ work against you. Casting has dozens or hundreds of Reels to watch for a role, and you have to seize the very moment you appear in front of them. This is the skill in cutting a Reel – you have to know exactly who your audience is – and editors don’t. I have yet to come across another editor who speaks the language of Casting – the language of Breakdowns. In a Reel – it’s about nothing else. So here’s your Tip of the Day: it’s not about simply showing off your scenes – it’s about making you as easy to cast as possible.
One of the things performers have to get used to is the idea that your Reel is not for you – it’s for Casting Directors. If you cut your Reel to please yourself then you are not connecting with Casting. Reels speak a foreign language that has to be learned. In the same way you rely on your agent, manager or publicist for their expertise about the industry, you need to work with someone who is fluent in Reels before you let a CD click on your Demo. Like every niche in every business, there’s a lot going on under the surface you need to know.
A slick, professional, objective eye is critical in making a Reel. So if you’re still floundering thinking it should be pretty cheap to do one of these things and hire anybody you like – think again. You only get a few seconds in front of a CD – and you need to be as castable as possible. Isn’t that worth a small investment?
The reluctance or inability of performers to understand their career as a business is one of the reasons why many actors default to simply waiting for the industry to come to them. Of course it doesn’t. Acting professionally is every bit a business as it is an art, and actors would do well to understand what this means.
Invest in your career! Hire the best photographer you can find to shoot your Headshot – and book me to produce your Reel. Do everything you can to stand out from the crowd. It’s what professionals do. And what Casting expects from you.
I’ve been here for 25 years because I know the business and I build relationships with clients that last as long as their careers. I manage every aspect of Demo Reel maintenance for any client that wants it. It’s great for my business and it’s great for yours. Think about what it would mean to have a partner out there – to consult on every move you make in front of a CD – before you make it.
What does a great Reel look like?
Keep it short! Less is more! All the best Reels are less than 5 min. long and answer the only relevant question, “Can I cast this person?” A great Reel persuades that you are castable and it speaks the language of Casting Hits. It creates energy, confidence, and a sense that every time you appear on screen something golden happens in the frame. A great Reel should be created with the Casting Director in mind and should engage, entertain and persuade in equal measure. Reels are all about range. We should see as many characters as possible – juxtaposing the opposites. We want to see killers & clowns – crack whores & queens. Make me laugh – make me cry – all in 3 minutes. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Most actors will work a lifetime to get this kind of range. But this is the ideal that guides the work we do. And whether you believe it or not, locked away in your material is the beginning of a great Reel.
How much material do I need to make a Reel?
One of the biggest misconceptions about Reels is “I don’t have enough material.” This is never true. The material you have dictates the kind of Reel we can create – that’s all. If you have one scene from one episode of a series – then your Reel is one scene. We just want to see how you’ve been cast and what you can do. If you only have scenes on video from acting workshops – then we make your Reel from this. We all understand what it means to be at the beginning of a career. No matter what the case, it is always better to have a Reel than to not have one.
How much does it cost? How long does it take?
Demo Reel editing is charged by the hour. The studio rate is currently CAD$120/hr. + HST. The typical Actor Demo Reel takes approximately 3 hours to complete – so you will probably spend about $240 – $360 depending on how much material you have and how well-prepared you are for the session. If you are updating an existing Demo Reel with one or two new scenes, your session will be shorter. If you are doing a major overhaul on your existing Reel, or starting from scratch and have lots of material, your session will be longer. The minimum studio charge is $75. The set-up fee for Screen Captures is $65 plus the studio time it takes to grab your scenes.
I make all kinds of financial arrangements with my clients. Want to pay over time? Short of cash right now? Easy payment terms can be worked out. Just ask.
When are you currently available?
Look for my calendar at the bottom of my Homepage where you can find the next available sit-down session date, and other current studio information. Unless I am travelling, I am always available for virtual sessions.
Can you shoot scenes for me?
There are two kinds of scenes that you shoot yourself. One is the classic ‘self-tape’ that you shoot on your phone or in front of a blue curtain at a casting house for $75. These are great, and Casting asks for submissions like these all the time for specific auditions. The other is more professional, aimed at building a Demo Reel, and you hire a proper cameraman with a DSLR to shoot on location with other actors, lights and sound. These cost about $500 per scene to prep, shoot and cut. This is the production I can provide. I don’t do the blue curtain ones.
One of the big myths about Demos is that they are about what you have DONE. They’re not. They are about what you CAN DO. Casting just needs to see how castable you are. A Demo is not your resume. This is amazing news because it means you can take control of your Demo instead of waiting for years to book production credits to put on your Reel.
In the era of high quality DSLRs, shooting professional scenes has never been easier. These scenes look as professional as you can get without actually booking the job, and we use real scenes, real writing from today’s top movies and episodics to carve out your Casting Hits in front of a Casting Director. I pick scenes with you, you get a location, actor friends to play opposite you, and I do all the filming, editing and mixing. In a few short, well-considered steps, actors can now take control of what Casting sees. Yes, it’s an investment. But if you can advance your Reel by 5 years – or even 10 years – isn’t it worth it?
And professional actors with existing Reels who need to expand their range can take advantage of this service as well. Always getting cast as the nice girl? Want to show off your dark side? Shoot it! Need to add The Professional, The Victim, The Best Friend or The Love Interest to your Demo? Shoot it! Here is one example.
Can I use video files downloaded from YouTube or other Internet sites?
Yes. Anything that appears on YouTube, Vimeo or other sites like these are no problem. Some websites that stream film and tv content prohibit the downloading of their video files – like Netflix and other broadcaster websites – but as of 2018, I have found a way to get good quality screen captures from almost any streaming source, so in some cases we may not need to actually download the source file. As long as it appears on the web somewhere, we should be able to grab it for your Reel. If you want me to check a particular posting for you, just send me the link in advance. We can usually perform any downloads during your session, or if you have already downloaded the video files yourself just bring them in on a USB stick or other drive, or upload them to me in advance. It’s tough for most performers these days to get their hands of their own material so we need to check every possible posting. Even a lower quality video file from a torrent is better than nothing. iTunes can be a source for material but there is copy protection on all the video files you buy, so contact me about this before you buy them.
NOTE: Issues with iTunes! If you are getting your video files from iTunes make sure you contact me before the session!
Can you help me get my scenes from movies and tv shows?
The best source for video editing is always a high quality video file provided to you by the production company or otherwise downloaded from the internet somewhere. DVDs are a good source as well, but not Blu Ray. In general, it is the client’s responsibility to collect all the material we need to cut a Reel. But many performers find it very difficult to get their material from the producers. If you can find your film or episode posted on the web somewhere, even on a site like Netflix or other streaming sites, I can usually perform a good quality Screen Capture so we can grab the scenes we need for your Reel without having to actually download the source file. This is a new service as of 2018 and it can solve a lot of problems. The Set-Up fee for Screen Captures is $65 plus the studio time it takes to capture your material. If you can find the posting, I should be able to get it for your Reel. And don’t forget to check the various torrent sites as well to see if fans are sharing your stuff. It can be a tough job to get your scenes together so make sure you contact me about your options. Here is a Sample Reel of the Screen Captures I can provide.
Sit-down or virtual session?
When you book a sit-down session, you come to the studio in downtown Toronto and bring your material with you and we sit together for several hours and create your Reel. This is the classic editing session that has been the standard for years.
Now that we all have high speed internet connections, a new option exists for a virtual editing session whereby you upload your material to me over the internet, I cut the Reel on my own and send the final Demo Reel back to you as quickly as possible. This is a great solution if you can’t visit the studio, live outside downtown Toronto, are too busy to book a sit-down, or need the Reel in a hurry. It’s also easier for me to schedule virtual sessions in my calendar when it’s very busy.
For virtual sessions, the process is very much the same as it always was: you collect your material, write your Log Sheet and other notes for me, and upload everything directly to me using my personal uplink. I will review the material, consult with you on the phone or on Skype, and then begin the work. When I have the Reel completed, I send you a link so you can download the finished Demo Reel. We discuss any final tweaks or changes, and the job is done.
Sit-down or virtual session – totally up to you. Many clients prefer the personal connection of being in the studio and working together, but the ease and speed of electronic file transfers makes a virtual session an ideal solution for many.
How do I upload my video files and DVDs to you?
Watch the Video Tutorial for Uploading your Video
Using a Transfer Service to move files around is very common today. We all want to share photos, videos and documents with each other but most of the time the files are too big to attach to emails. That’s why Transfer Services exist. They allow us to send bigger files to each other without clogging up our inboxes. You can use any Transfer Service you like to send your video files to me. Hightail, We Transfer and Dropbox are the most popular – but there are many others. If you already have a favourite, then go ahead and send me files any way you want! I use Hightail and here is the link to my upload page. Simply follow the prompts on the page. It’s as easy as dragging your files into the box, writing me a quick message, and clicking Upload. Send as many files as you want – any size – any format. And make sure you send me your Log Sheet along with the video files or in a separate email.
Keep in mind that many video files are quite large in size and make take a long time to upload. How long a file takes to upload depends on two things: the size of the file and the speed of your internet connection.
Small video files are considered to be anywhere from 50 megabytes to a few hundred megabytes, and will upload in a matter of minutes with a high speed connection. From 500 to 1000 megabytes, the files are getting bigger and upload times may increase to a half hour or more. One thousand megabytes is a gigabyte – and video files that are two, three and four gigabytes in size are among the biggest I deal with. These may take several hours to upload and best to do it overnight or when you are not using the computer for anything else. This is generally what to expect – but upload times will vary wildly depending on numerous factors. The vast majority of uploads are completed easily and efficiently and I rely on them daily in the course of my business.
Watch the Video Tutorial for Uploading your Video
What video formats can you use?
I can use almost any format there is! Today, the most common formats are Electronic Video Files like .mp4, .mov, mkv., etc., and I still see hard copy DVDs from time to time. If you have some unusual format from another country, have material on video tape, or aren’t sure what you have, call me so we can discuss it. But no matter what video formats you have, make sure we discuss them before the session. If you are creating your own files or converting files someone has given you, here are my preferred file formats:
High Definition (HD): QuickTime (.mov), Apple Pro Res, 720p or 1080p, 48k Audio, 24fps, Data Rate of up to 100 Mb/sec (no higher).
Standard Definition (SD): QuickTime (.mov), DV, 720×480, 48k Audio, 30fps, Data Rate of up to 30 Mb/sec (no higher).
Remember, we can use any kind of video files you may have, so don’t worry about files formats if you don’t know them.
What video format will my Reel be on?
The most useful format in today’s Casting world will be an Electronic Video File – such as a QuickTime Video File – that can be uploaded to Casting Workbook, IMDb, Actors Access, etc. – or easily delivered to people over the Internet. If possible, bring a laptop computer or mini-USB drive with you to your sit-down session so you can take your electronic Demo Reel file home with you. If you don’t have either of these, I can provide a link for a small fee that allows you, and anyone you choose, to download your Demo Reel for a period of time.
What can I expect during my sit-down session?
Most clients sit in the room with me during the session and the two of us create together. The goal is to get you in and out of the studio quickly with the best Reel possible given the scope of your material. With over 1600 Reels to my credit, I have the process down to a science. I work quickly and efficiently – allowing maximum time for creativity and collaboration. I evaluate all scenes with you – make strong suggestions – and guide the session fully. During the average session, we will spend the first hour or so organizing your files and creating the project in the software, and about two hours polishing the final cut.
What forms of payment do you accept?
I take personal and company cheques – cash – and eTransfers from your bank to my bank using my email address at email@example.com. I can also accept payments through PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org – but depending on the amount you may have to pay the 3% PayPal surcharge as well. Unfortunately, I can not accept any plastic forms of payment such as debit or credit cards. If you have booked a virtual session, I will frequently require a deposit before beginning any work. All sit-down session payments are due on the day of the session. I make all kinds of financial arrangements with my clients. Want to pay over time? Short of cash right now? Easy payment terms can be worked out. Just ask.
How should I prepare for my session?
The most important element in preparing for your session is getting to know where all your chosen scenes are on the DVDs or video files you bring to the session or upload to me. This means you must do your homework before your session begins. Watch and evaluate all your scenes thoroughly. Get advice from colleagues, agents and industry pros – what are the strongest moments? Make a Log Sheet for all your scenes. Each source you bring to the session or upload needs to be Logged – this means writing down the numbers where all your chosen scenes appear. Chose carefully the scenes you want me to look at. Logs can be very formal – done in rows & columns on the computer, or very informal – scribbled down on the backs of old envelopes. I’ve seen it all! The only thing that matters is knowing where your scenes are for each source. Scenes, moments, looks – make note of all the good stuff. Make special note of scenes with other well-known actors or big stars. Reels are primarily made from strong, dialogue-driven scenes where you get a significant beat. But don’t ignore smart one-liners, sexy close ups or camera movements that suggest star power. Try to avoid choosing ensemble scenes where you are part of a crowd – or scenes about somebody else where you don’t get any dialogue – or anything else that doesn’t feature you in a principal fashion. Keep in mind that a great Reel is about strength of range. Even if you have a regular or recurring role on a series, we only want to see one or two scenes from this character before moving on to the next. And if we show two scenes, they had better be very different from each other. The only exception to this rule is when you have scenes from only the one series – the one character. In this case, we would create a package of “Best Moments From…” and portray the range of the character within the scope of the series.
For Video Files: Most computer media players like Windows Media Player, QuickTime Player, VLC, etc. will display either a time-code number or elapsed-time number somewhere near the bottom of the player window. Use any time format to locate your chosen scenes and write down where they appear.
For DVD Sources: Most DVD players will display numbers on the front of the machine that indicate elapsed time, as well as index and chapters numbers. If there is no number display on the machine itself, you should be able to use the DVD’s remote to put the numbers on-screen.
If you aren’t sure about some scene or moment – write it down anyway. The more options we have the better. And I will have strong input about what to use and what not to use.
Don’t worry about pre-editing the scenes in your head or creating the Reel on paper. I will make the majority of these decisions in consultation with you. The importance of Logging can’t be overstated because it allows me to locate your chosen scenes quickly and easily – saving time and money in the session. This is especially true if you have a lot of material or multiple episodes of a series. Failing to do your homework is the number one reason why sessions go longer than they should!
Do I need music?
Music is one of the critical, creative elements of persuasion and paying close attention to music scoring and mixing is one of the reasons why my Reels are better.
If you only have one or two characters for your Reel, you won’t likely need any additional music. I will add cinema underscoring to scenes that need it, but this is a normal part of any session. But if you have a wider range of scenes and characters, or additional moments from commercials, or lots of character looks, we will want to have the option of using music to create mini-trailers and bridge sequences. In these cases I always suggest to clients to bring in a selection of music from their own collection that might be suitable in a Reel. We are looking for instrumental passages from songs – upbeat, commercial feeling, propulsive. Something with a smile or a feel-good hook. Often, the top 8 or 16 bars of a song can provide a great track. Movie soundtracks are also helpful – and I can cut or loop any portion of a track that needs to be longer. Also – the theme music from your film or series credit roll can come in handy, so keep an ear out. If you don’t have any clue about music – don’t worry. I have built up a collection of music over the years that we can choose from if need be. Feel free to ask me about this at any time before your session.
How do I update my Reel in the future?
Regular maintenance on your Reel is important to keep it fresh. We can update the Reel anytime you want to add a new character or remove old material. This is usually a very simple process that doesn’t take much time at all. I offer FREE lifetime storage of your material to make the update process fast and easy. Just send me the new material and I can update your project at any time.
Terms & Conditions of Booking
If you hire me to cut your Reel, it means you have read and understood this FAQ and the information about pricing, process and prep. Sit-down sessions begin at the time booked, not the time you show up – no exceptions. I suggest you arrive at the studio a few minutes early. If you must cancel your booking you must call me before 4pm the day before so I can fill your spot from the waiting list. No-Show clients and last-minute cancellations are subject to a $200.00 fee. Payment is due on the day, when the session is complete. Credit and special payment terms are available. For most virtual sessions, I will ask for a partial deposit by eTransfer, PayPal or cheque prior to beginning the work, and the Reel will be watermarked until final payment is made.
Book me to edit your Demo Reel and see the difference for yourself.
Tired of editors who can’t capture your screen presence? Fed up with that unprofessional Reel your friend made for you? Making the classic mistakes doing it yourself? My Demo Reels book jobs for actors. Just ask my clients. Let me prove to you that it's time to switch editors.