how to create your own demo clips & reels

The Problem: The actor needs to send in a Demo Reel along with their headshot and resume to be considered for an audition, but that same actor has never booked an on-camera job, so they have no footage to work with, and no demo reel or clips. A classic Catch 22.

The Solution: Create your own clips.

Let’s add to that: Folks get confused about what a “demo reel” means, and whether or not a monologue can be used as a clip. I have also heard some newer actors using the words “self-tape” to mean “performance clip,” so another reason I am blogging about this is to clear up some confusion.

From my chair: Yes, you can use a monologue as a clip, yes, scene work usually is better (as we can see you listening), and as you grow in your experience and bookings, you can swap out homemade clips with clips from produced work. Additionally, individual clips are often more useful than “demo reels” (which feature an assortment of clips), but you can certainly do both. 

Keep reading for tips on how to take matters into your own hands by creating your own clips to showcase your talents. Immediately below is a video from your truly with a bit of an elaboration on the topic, and following that you will find a number of options to inspire your creativity.

A Little Elaboration on the Subject

OPTION 1: The Solo (Monologue) Performance Clip

I cut my teeth doing theatre, so I have always been in the habit of using monologues to advertise and support my talent. Below is a creative look at how to stage a monologue, but you don’t have to get this “fancy’ with it. And, I don’t recommend using Shakespeare when your focus is on-camera work, but it was the only example I had on hand. Also, it’s waaaaaaaaay to long. I suggest selecting (or editing) a monologue so that it runs 45 – 60 seconds in length.

Tips:

  • 45 – 60 seconds long.
  • Actor’s eyeline should be close to the camera’s lens.
  • Don’t choose a monologue that is super popular or one that you see all over social media.
  • I also would not pick a monologue from a recent film show that recently won a ton of awards (too popular).
  • Your source can be from a play, as long as the language is contemporary and conversational.
  • Be careful when selecting monologues from “Monologue Writers.” These pieces are often poorly written.

OPTION 2: The "Self-Tape" Style Performance Clip

You probably figured it out by the title, but Option 2 is a scene that you record with an off-camera reader that looks a lot like (or exactly like) a self-taped audition.

Tips:

  • 45 – 60 seconds long (the example below can be edited).
  • Actor’s eyeline should be close to the camera’s lens.
  • Don’t use material that is exceptionally known (recent hit movies or TV shows).
  • Original scenes work well here.
  • Original scenes based on (modified/adapted/inspired by) produced work (movies and shows you know) work well here, too.

OPTION 3: The "Collab" Performance Clip

Now, take my word, the “Collab” Clip is not something that’s “on trend,” it’s just how I chose to describe this fun clip written by and starring our pal, Alex Ramirez (and co-starring Erik Franklin). I don’t usually recommend sharing the same screen in your Performance Clips, but I think it really works in this case.

OPTION 4: A Filmed Scene (Clips for Both Actors)

This is this most complicated option, for sure, and it might even cost you a few bucks, but this is often what actors without clips are thinking when they contact me and want my help with creating a “demo reel” for them. Down in Hollywood, there are a lot of options when it comes to producing custom reels, and some of the stuff looks really, really great. However, the higher the production value, the more it’s going to cost you. So, if you don’t have the extra money to spend, I encourage you to consider one of the other options mentioned above.

BONUS OPTION: The "Personality Clip." [2:25 Mark]

I don’t know exactly what to call this kind of clip, but I do know that it’s entertaining and I learned a lot about the actor and their talent by watching their quick 60 second video. I have included the clip inside an episode of The Dish with David, and it is at the 2:25 mark.

OPTION 5: The Self-Produced Short-Film

It’s more difficult in today’s entertainment industry to be *only* an actor, and since DIY creativity is much more within reach, if you have the grit and determination (and make smart choices when writing your short script), this option might suit you well. Tips: Learn a bit about screenwriting, build your network of filmmaker friends, make sure someone in the group can handle camera & sound, and that another can edit. The short project linked below was pulled off by a crew of two – Myself & My Wife, Angela DiMarco.

OPTION 6: The *Old* Self-Tape Audition as Clip

Kind of a *dangerous* move here, so don’t do this unless the project you taped for has already wrapped. Option 5 is where you submit or market yourself with an audition tape that you previously submitted for a job. Now, the clip below is from a gig that I actually booked, and this tape was produced in 2022. So, honestly, I think I am in the clear. Also, I suggest that if you do opt for this option, maybe keep the video unlisted or private.

Okay! I think that’s all I have. Thanks for reading, and if you need any support as you prepare to create your next set of (or first set!) of performance clips, give me a buzz. I am more than happy to help.

Take care, and break a leg at your next audition!

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