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Real Talk: The Value of an Actor Demo Reel

Updated on January 12, 2017

In my line of work I see a lot of demo reels. But in ways I do not see enough. Often the truth is as an actor you need to have a reel. If you have an agent you may have been challenged to get one. As an actor without an agent you may wonder why you cannot be taken seriously. Often actors shoot themselves in the foot by thinking they will just be discovered and hope they do not have to invest in the tools that will help them be seen.

I say good luck with that. Sure it can happen, but more often than not this is not the case. If you've moved to the Los Angeles market to truly seek a serious career then you need to seriously consider the action of producing a reel. Hopefully you have already done so. But if you are stalling let me share some of the common statements that I hear why someone has not chosen to get a reel.

I ask actors a lot, do you have a reel? The answer is typically:

  1. I’m working on it.
  2. I have one but it’s a bit outdated.
  3. I’m waiting on some footage.
  4. Um, no, but….
  5. Yes

All viable answers, but harmful to your career. Do any of these ring true to what you have been telling yourself or others? If so read on...

Why Do I 'Need' an Actor Demo Reel?

1: It shows you are serious about your career. Besides your #1 business tool, your headshot, the next thing that shows you are serious about being an actor in LA is your demo reel. Yes it’s an investment, but so is your career.

2: For a casting director, it's the best way to see ‘you’ is to see your reel. They can click on the link when you or your agent submits you and see you animated, not in two dimensional form.

3: It puts you at the top of the list for casting directors when you or your agent submits you. Example if you get submitted, along with 500 other actors, your submission goes to the first page. (I hate to tell you the percentage of actors that do not have a reel)

Should I Make My Own Reel?

Now, there is this phenomenon going on about making your own actor demo reel.

Answer: Unless you have friends in production who do quality work just say ‘no’.

Let me put it this way, what career do you want to have?

Or maybe this way: Would you choose Big Lots or Macy’s. Is your career Big Lots or Macy’s?

There is nothing worse (or will get you remembered by a casting director in a bad way) than having a substandard reel.

What is substandard?

  • Poor quality in picture and/or sound.
  • Badly edited or finished.
  • Shows less of you and more of the other actors.
  • Too long

Typically a CD will choose to continue watching your reel after 15 seconds or less.

Top Choices from Actors

In asking the 2nd question why an actor doesn’t have a reel it usually has to do with cost or naivety that they can get one produced. Or, ignorance thinking a produced reel isn’t worth it. And granted, there are a lot of companies that can not give you less than good quality. But there are those that do.

Besides the fact that there are many, many companies in the Los Angeles area, care should be given as to what you are looking for. This often is the quality of service. Some of the best can also be taken for granted when it comes to what you get for your money. So look for the value of what you are getting as an actor.

Another is to look at the production value of what you are getting. Many will say you get personalized consultation, script writing and more. Note that if an offer is too good to be true it often is. But there are good companies out there that give you quantity and quality. No one, want to see you the actor get ripped off. We've looked at over 20 websites and their production value and cost and come up with a few that seem to be the best for their production materials and their ratings from customers.

Information about services is another factor. You as an actor should know up front what you are getting and how their system works.

Some recommendations:

  • 4 Reels USA
  • LA Reels
  • Argentum

These are the better quality reels that are being produced in the LA Market. Of course compare pricing to get the most for your money and what they offer. 4 Reels USA is newer than the two, but their pricing structure is great.

This is not means a guaranty to you, we don't have a magic mirror. These are simply a suggestion to you that have been rated overall the best by their customers. Bottom line is you, the actor and consumer, should consider all of your options. But the fact that you are considering moving your career forward is good. Again without a proper demo reel you risk not being seen. This business is all about being seen.

Break a leg!


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