Putting together your showreel

Posted October 13, 2011, by Darryn King

For jobs in digital media and the visual realm, like film, television, animation and games development, you will probably be asked to submit a showreel as part of your application. Your resume can be bursting with impressive qualifications and work experience, but it's your showreel that will really make you stand out from the crowd.

Compiling a showcase of your work can be a little tricky – so here's some advice on putting it together.

Sell yourself

If you're interested in working in the multimedia industry, you probably already know that people don't have unlimited attention spans – and this applies to potential employers. You need to keep the length of your showreel to about two minutes. There's no time for mucking around. You need to hit them with your best shot. Work out what your strengths are and flaunt them shamelessly, while also showing your range and adaptability.

Use the web to sell your work

These days, putting your showreel up on YouTube is a bare necessity – but if you really want to get noticed in the industry, you'll need your own website. A website provides the perfect space to host your showreel. The web also allows potential employers to view your work without blocking up their email or messing around with DVDs, which can be misplaced or broken and generally require a more effort on the part of the potential employer.

If you're going to set up your own website, remember that you will seem infinitely more professional with your own domain name. Should someone enter your name in a search engine, your site ought to be the first result.

Just make sure that your presence on the web doesn't do more harm than good. Mediocre design and bad HTML will obviously reflect badly on you as a visual artist. If you haven't got the know-how, find a professional who can help you make the most of this important sales medium.

You can also have your work featured – for a fee – on a creative network like Showreelfinder. At Showreelfinder, in fact, you can not only upload your showreel, but upload other short clips and samples of your work too.

Check out these showreels that are already uploaded on YouTube:

Chris Burns

Keep a record

In this hectic, mile-a-minute world, it's often difficult to take the time to stop and reflect. In this industry, though, you'll benefit from keeping a record of your past works in an organised system, so that you can revisit or reproduce them at the drop of a hat. This will make compiling your showreel much easier – there'll be no scrounging around the hidden recesses of your hard drive. It's also best to keep your showreel as up to date as possible, to show you and your skills at their absolute best.

Work on your pacing and structure

No matter how great your individual clips are, you can't just mash them together in any old way if you want to get into a visually oriented industry. How you choose to present the clips will be as important as the clips themselves.

There is no definitive way to structure a showreel, but there are a couple of different approaches you should think about. One is the fast-paced montage that flits rapidly between short snippets of all your best work; another approach is to feature one project at a time at a more leisurely pace. In either case, you'd do well to stick your most impressive image at the end to imprint itself on the mind of the viewer. You can also use the last 10 seconds or so to give your name, website and contact details.

If your chosen industry is games development or animation, you might also consider including some sequences that demonstrate your work process: for example, progressive shots of building a character from scratch.

It might be obvious, but keep it short and snappy. Try not to be too much longer than two minutes. A tight, well-edited showreel will keep boredom at bay, and is also the best way to show your versatility and range.

Use an appropriate soundtrack

Many of us feel strongly, even positively evangelical, about particular bands. But that doesn't mean that their music will be suitable as the soundtrack for your showreel. Don't risk alienating your viewer. Find a piece of music that suits the pace and tone of the visuals without stealing the show – unless of course the music is the show. Get your showreel out there.

You may have put together the most amazing showreel in the history of the universe – but if no one sees it, it's not going to get you that next great gig. When it comes to finding contacts at different companies, you could send a 'cold' email (with no prior contact) with a link to your work, or your work attached.

It is, however, usually better to give someone a heads-up. Even speaking to a receptionist or assistant will help. When it comes to the film and television industry, don't forget that it is almost entirely populated by people who are run off their feet.

Put your showreel on CD or DVD

While having your work up on a website is important, some clients may ask you to send them your work on disc – so you'll need to have some copies on DVD handy. There are a few steps you can take to ensure that the product is impressive and professional. Whatever you do, don't be tempted to bang out a disc with your name scrawled over it in permanent marker, and a torn piece of paper as the cover. Take some time and effort on presentation, using a proper DVD label maker and a sturdy jewel case. It needs to look professional, even if that means you have to get it done by a company specialising in disk production and presentation.

If you're sending a CD or DVD to a potential employer, make sure it is both PC and Mac compatible, and does not rely on fidgety plug-ins like Flash – and don't expect to get it back.

Darryn King

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