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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Tips on how to build your showreel

The biggest problem as a beginner is how does one build a showreel when no one is willing to give you work without an existing showreel. Read on to find some of the methods that you can try to build up your showreel and this applies not just to Directors but to everyone in this industry including editors, musicians, sound engineers, cinematographers etc.

Before I go ahead and give you the various options that you can try to build your reel, I first hope you have some idea of what you want to be and have assisted in that role for at least a few projects. For example, if you want to be a director, you should have assisted in at least 30 - 40 projects if they are commercials, or 4 - 8 mimimum features films or documentaries if that's the direction you want to take, same if you want to be an editor or a sound engineer etc. It's extremely rare that someone comes out of a film school and straightaway gets into a senior role, for almost all of the rest, the first experience you need is that of an assistant to the role you desire or at least have worked in the industry long enough to know what the role is about.

Here are some TIPS to build your Showreel:-   

1. Do your own work

2. Enter contests

3. Associate with an established professional

4. Join an Agency      

5. Get connected

1. Do your own work:-

If you have just started out or your career is stuck and not moving to the next level, having your own work is the best way to build a reel. Your own work could be stories, documentaries, short films or even mock ad films written, directed, produced, edited by you or a team, for e.g. if you are coming from a film school or a course you would already know a few people who are in the same boat as you and the best way would be to get together with them that way every one of you are making something to put on each of your reels. Of course, do not forget to try and get some good work while still in the film school, this helps cause you would most likely have all the tools at your disposal and that would mean at least one film on the reel.

Doing your own work could mean investing not just your time but your money as well in making your project. Remember usually free work comes at the cost of quality.

2. Enter contests:-

If you are not as inspired to come up with your own ideas the next best way to build your reel is to enter into contests (click on the link to see a few that I have listed, to begin with, Contest LINKS)
There are lot many more websites and groups that run contests, this applies to advertising as well as films. These contests or film festivals usually have guidelines and deadlines which help push you to finish your work which otherwise could take forever.

Hopefully, by this time you have been assisting for a while and your contact base should have increased a little more than just your friends from film college and even if not you can always look for people  willing to help by posting your requests on chat groups or on social media, you can post that you are looking at entering into XYZ contest and looking for XYZ crew to help with it, but please make it very clear in your post if your project is a PAID / LOW PAY / NO PAY project, cause if it is a free project you dont want professionals reaching out to you in response to you post only to find its a free gig and wasted their time. If you do have some money to invest it would only help get better resources.

Participating in multiple contests not only helps you showcase your work to different audiences at the same time builds your reel and your experience in the role to be ready for finally when you get your break. Of course, if you manage to win the contest it only helps as it makes your reel look even better and maybe noticed quicker.

3. Associate with an established professional:-

Another way to build your reel is as you assist your way through the industry, either by staying with one company or through freelance working with multiple people you should make friends with the senior's in the role you wish to work in, once you have gained enough experience and their confidence that you can match up the skill set of them, either they might give you a chance or you can request an opportunity to move from assistant to associate for a suitable project. It may mean that you might be given just one shot to direct (or shoot or record etc) or it may be that you handle a B-crew all by your self if you are lucky enough. Not all senior people will let you associate with them as at the end of the day the project responsibility is theirs and it would be their choice to give you opportunities or not.

DO NOTE: Associating does not give you the right to showcase the work as your own and if you have to please make sure that you first have the permission from all the concerned parties before you go ahead and add it on to your reel. Most of the times they will be ok for you to put it on your work, given the fact that they were ok with you associating in the first place or they might let you use it, so long as you add the word "Associate" printed on the reel. However, if they do refuse you to use the work in your reel just be thankful that you got the experience to do some hands-on work but respect their decisions and not use that material. 

4. Join an Agency:-

Sometimes the best way to get your work is to join an Agency - in case of advertising or a Movie House / Lable -  in case of filmmaking. Here while most of the times your "hands-on" work goes down and "coordination" increases it gives you an opportunity to understand what clients are looking for when they hire production houses and there will be opportunities that come along where you can suggest that you do the project instead of sourcing it through a production house to do so, this of course will only happen if you have won the clients confidence over time and/or the budget is a low one and they are ok to experiment with.

Here same as with making your own work sometimes it's the agency that takes the initiative to do some small side projects to impress the clients and those are the ones that you could work on or even pitch ideas to the agency to get done. Of course, once you have a few on your reel and your confident enough it would be time to branch back into the mainstream.

Do remember that this route is a long one and your experience of the actual role will be based more on observation of how other people go about doing the job, so it is important to find an agency that is doing a lot of work in production or this process might drag even longer. 

5. Get connected:-

The most important thing to remember that people change their roles all the time and making friends with all should be the most important thing you do as you progress and this should never end, cause you never know when some junior becomes a senior or an agency person becomes a client and will look for you just because you are friends with them. I don't mean you literally have to go out and be friends with each and everyone but being nice to all who work with you on projects goes a long way. If you cant do that you should find the right person who will do it for you, like a director should find the right producer who will go pitch and win him work, so the friend making skill is left to him.

Here there is also the case for "favours" or "bribes" and I do not believe in this route at all, just remember once you go down this path there is no turning back from it. Doing a project free in exchange for another is something that happens all the time, but let me warn you out of personal experience that despite doing a good job and even winning awards on the project the favour may not be returned, plus you become the person they remember only when the no budget (free stuff ) comes up. So never do it saying this will be a one-off case, cause as the saying goes "Once a liar always a.."

The most important thing to remember is finally its the quality of the work that gets judged, no one will see or know that you had a lot of money or no money to make this project, what is on screen will be your mark sheet, So the more work you do the better the chances for you to get better and to succeed.

Remeber to continue working as an Asst during this transition phase to Senior as that will not only keep the connections going but also keep your mind at ease. Take breaks or multitask to work on your own projects while you are working on others projects.

All the best to everyone trying to make your mark in this industry.

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