Showreels can often be your one and only shot to wow a potential client. Wipster wanted to hear from the pros on how to best do that. We chatted with some of the most well-respected people in video to chime in on what makes a killer showreel. We’ve also included a few that caught our attention. Read on to find plenty to consider for your next reel.
An average showreel is just a collection of work. A truly outstanding showreel is buoyed by a concept of some sort. It either tells me something about its creator or it shows an ability for the creator to play with the showreel form itself. At the end of an awesome showreel, I think, “I want to meet this person,” not necessarily “I want to work with this person.” (That comes later.)
Justin Cone – @justincone
A fantastic showreel is well edited to music and hangs together as a whole piece rather than just a compilation of pieces. And it takes into account the perspective of the people watching, not just the perspective of the person whose work is being featured. A DP reel is just okay if it’s just a string of all the shots that the DP worked the hardest to light. It’s fantastic if it’s a well-cut arc of all the shots that are objectively most beautiful. And if the progression can be seen as having an arc or a trajectory, if one shot leads to another rather than feeling more arbitrarily ordered, then you’re on to a winner.
Adam Lisagor – @lonelysandwich
Owner and video director at sandwichvideo.com
As an editor, I don’t often do showreels of my own as I point people to my website so they can see cuts in their entirety. That’s the best way to get an idea of what an editor can do. The idea of a showreel for an editor is that it often comes down to just creating a really good montage. Depending on what types of projects an editor cuts, some of the best jobs might be a good montage!
Scott Simmons – @editblog
Writer at provideocoalition.com and editor at scottsimmons.tv
A fantastic showreel takes you on a story beyond stunning visuals and showing off a breadth of work. My favorite ones always end up feeling more like a narrative of that person’s recent production history.
Chris Savage – @csavage
CEO of Wistia
It comes down to personality; how are you different from the million other people that do what you do?
Ned Wenlock @oneedostudio
Director at Oneedo
Keep it short: Really, the shorter the better – 90 seconds or less.
Be brutal: Your reel is only as strong as the worst piece in there, so be ruthless when deciding what to include.
Tease me: Don’t show everything; make me want to go and look at the full piece on your site.
Design it: Make it its own piece. Put some love into a brief opening and closing and carefully select music that has the pacing and mood you’re after.
Gareth O’Brien – @buck_tv
Art director at buck.tv
The main issue I see is quantity over quality. In an attempt to show more work or experience, people will leave in average or even poor shots, which is the worst thing you can do. Trim it back to only the best of the best that you have. Whether your reel is two minutes or 30 seconds, great work speaks for itself.
Ryan Connolly – @ryanconnolly
Lead at Filmriot
It’s all about the edit. A great showreel has a life of its own. The edit needs to grab people’s attention and take them for a ride. (Read my full thoughts on showreels here.)
Michael Jones – @MichaelJones7
An average showreel takes its time, welcomes you in, and ultimately runs for what feels like seven hours. A truly great one grabs you on frame one, wastes zero time, and makes you want to watch it repeatedly for seven hours.
Seth Worley – @Awakeland3D
Film director at sethworley.com
Do you really need that shot? Could it be two seconds instead of five? Have I got too many shots of that one project? Keep it or kill it? I guess to move from average to excellent, you need a perfect execution on all fronts. Awesome work, presented concisely and with a bit of attitude or personality.
Peter Quin – @_PeterQuinn_
Make it an exceptionally compelling edit of the best frigging shots you’ve ever shot in your life, a montage of client work you’ve done and, in the very best cases, some kind of emotional thru-line just like in any other project you’d tell. It’s a sizzle reel for you as a person, so make it memorable. When people watch it, they should see some great storytelling (and yeah, some dazzling shots and sequences) but the story of the sizzle should make a person say “I want to watch a full piece” and “I want to learn a little more about this person”.
Kylee Wall – @kyl33t
Editor at kyleesportfolio.com.
Select music that resonates with your style, find the best images or clips, and cut to the beat to tell a story. A showreel serves as your calling card to potential clients and agencies. To really stand out, it should be able to pull its viewers in with a good story versus just having images (b-roll) slapped in with music.
Michael Hanson – @imichaelhanson
Executive Producer and Creative Director at michaelhanson.tv
A fantastic reel will not only show finished work, but the process that goes into creating it. You can learn how good a motion designer is by seeing how they approach a task rather than simply showing the final result. Great reels show how skills are applied to real jobs and have real-world context. If work is abstract, there should be a shot that shows the viewer the context of the project. Finally, reels can be misleading when multiple people contribute to the same shot so explain your specific role in each clip.
Paul Clements – @paulclementstv
Keep the reel short and make those first 30 seconds really count. Critique, critique, critique, get as many people as you can to view your reel and have them tear it apart before you submit it anywhere. Watch as many demo reels as you can stand. See what others did and what you liked or didn’t like about their reels. Trust your instincts. Don’t incorporate everything people suggest. If you hesitate, revisit. Finally, don’t let it stand idle for too long after you complete it.
Bryan Tosh – @MrTosh1980
Filmmaker at bryantosh.com
To sum up; show your personality, include only your very best work, know what you’re selling and to which audience, and view it as a piece of work in its own right.
Thanks so much to everyone above for giving us their time!