How long should my showreel be?

No longer than 2 mins and your message to the potential employer needs to be made within the first 30 seconds.

So why is this?

I recently wrote on why a CV or Resume should be on one page, the core reason is the time it takes when part of a recruiting process is to review potentially hundreds of showreels, you need to make your statement simply and quickly where in many cases less is best.

7 Elements that make a great showreel

  1. It’s short, recommend 2 mins only
  2. The best bits are in the first 30 seconds
  3. The work is yours, show and identify your elements
  4. Make sure it is branded with your name, online presence and e-mail address
  5. Ensure you have the rights to republish the material you worked on
  6. Absolutely make sure the the material is not prior to a public release
  7. For ease of viewing make sure the material can be played back!

What exactly is a showreel

I’ve worked in the TV and Film industry for nearly twenty years and over the time the way a showreel arrived on a recruiter’s desk has physically changed. Where items would come in on old  tapes formats, they are now digitally delivered in e-mail or via a web=link. The amount of effort and ability to produce a showreel used to be great, requiring favours from multiple co-workers to provide a finished product. Now with powerful home computers and inexpensive software programs, the opportunity to produce a world class showreel of work is very achievable. A successful showreel is going to be a selection of your own work, that when presented can tell the viewer you have the skills that they are looking for. Remember first impressions last.

What are recruiters looking for

Before writing today I spoke with several senior colleagues in the editing and VFX departments about what they look for. The answer almost always didn’t show as much concern for the artistic elements, video or music, what they want to see is a direct pitch for the level of skill in applying their relevant art form, while it should be stressed that they think very badly of plagiarism or copyright abuses and especially using pre released footage of any type.

What is the recruiters job.

In many cases the recruiting job is a partnership between someone in human resources that will filter out cases of incomplete submissions or submissions that appear to miss the general job description being advertised. Then after this first filter a technical person who amongst  there daily duties will be requested to review the potential candidates. This can potentially be a frustrating time for the reviewer as they will have their day job and will be looking for easy ways to differentiate good and bad candidates.

How job recruiters weed out the good and the bad

  • One of the items they will consider are ease of viewing of the show reel. If you send the show reel in such a high quality and esoteric codec configuration you need to be computer engineer to run the reel, guess what, the recruiter will move on to the next candidates reel.
  • If the reel is a five minute story with a slow dramatic build up, guess what, after thirty seconds the reviewer will have seen enough (or nothing) and elect to move on. The reel has to get to the point immediately.
  • Provide information on what the person should be looking for, don’t provide a shot that was worked on by a team of 10 people for three weeks without saying that you did the modeling, shading, lighting or editing etc. Do this in picture with clean looking information straps or overlays.
  • Imagine you’ve got fifty new reels a day to go through, some with 3 minutes lengths others with 5 minutes. If they were all watched for two minutes this would be 1hr 40mins of review time lost out of the reviewers working day. If the job advert specifies a length for a reel for submission, don’t say to yourself that your reel only makes sense at the length it is cut. Respect the recruiters time and shorten the reel or you may be rejected without your reel being reviewed at all.

Final word of warning

The issue of copyright and the rights to attributions for material shouldn’t be ignored. Out of respect for the industry and the people that provide the opportunities to work in such a fantastic environment, Never use materials that are not in the public domain, i.e pre release, Always ask for permission to use materials from the people who own the rights and ownership. If you don’t get it, then please don’t use it. There is nothing more disappointing than viewing materials that are sent without permission of the rights owners and no matter how honestly you feel that you have worked on creating this work, the only way to respond as a job review board is to reject the candidate.

3 thoughts on “How long should my showreel be?

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  2. Thanks for you kind comments, please let me know if you have any other questions you’d like to have information on and I’ll try and offer my opinion, or ask my colleagues to pass on the correct information. Gook luck with your future projects. Philip

  3. The downside of this (for job-seekers) is that these reerciturs/companies will not work with someone who doesn’t have these skills on their resume. This isn’t necessarily true. If they only receive applications from people that don’t meet their unrealistic expectations, they will be forced to hire somebody who is less qualified than the original job description. Otherwise, the job will never get filled. This happens all the time, which is why it doesn’t hurt to apply for a job where you meet most (but not all) of the qualifications. Oftentimes their ideal candidate just doesn’t exist, so they have to lower their expectations a bit.

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