Writing for Film – Demo Reel (Tool #56)

For many of us, writing for film is a dream come true.  Admittedly, it is not my dream, but it is something I enjoy doing.  With today’s proliferation of video online, there are many opportunities for new film composers to sharpen their chops before landing a big project.  I have provided music for sections of Billy’s Cap: The Southworth Story and a handful of personal videos, and while I am not actively pursuing film jobs, I am creating more video art that uses original footage and music–fusing my composing with self-made videos.  My next project is a video regarding climate change, that will be finished by mid-December.

In keeping film open as an option in my compositional output, I have a small demo reel.   A demo reel is a sampling of past work and possible “cuts” of music for film directors to use, when judging if they should hire you or not.  Every aspiring film composer should have a demo reel (established composers will likely have a reel by default, due to prior work).

Here is my demo reel:

Notice that this is a small reel since I haven’t done a lot of work, and since I only post my most polished work.  Post only your best work, as first impressions are oftentimes the only impressions you get.  If a producer or director’s first impression of you is not your best work, chances are you will get ignored.  Also note that my reel includes both past projects (the movie mentioned above) and some sample clips that could be used elsewhere.  I made some mistakes in not labeling my Film Music Demos with moods, genres, characteristics, and the like, so be sure to label your demo music accordingly.

Ensure that your demo reel is not only polished compositionally, but ensure that it doesn’t use fake-sounding audio, is mixed very well, is normalized, and has no pops, clicks, unedited edges/tapers, or other errors.

In addition, do not make each track fit every mood possible.  Rather, specialize, to give the person listening a clear idea of just how versatile you are.  If you can span a wide variety of genres (if, and only if,  you can pull them off well), then you will be ready for a wider scope of opportunities.

To prepare, I recommend scoring sample movies found online, to get the hang of scoring for video.  In addition, sites like Vimeo have really professionally made videos, if you want to get away from the massive data-dump that YouTube can be at times.  Watch as many videos from these sites as possible, and listen and view the videos actively, understanding how the audio and video interact, and analyze what makes a successful scoring versus an unsuccessful scoring.

Once you have some sample tracks, bounce them in the highest quality you can get (preferably .aif or .wav, 24-bit, 44.1KHz) and upload them to an audio hosting platform like SoundCloud.  Give things professional names, titles, tags, and descriptions.  Add images that will make you appear that you know how to work professionally, such as a polished headshot or high-resolution logo, or image that you can use across your whole posts (in other words, make a brand for yourself).  Create a playlist with all of your demo material in it, and if you do land video jobs, get permission from the producer to add your finished audio to your demo reel (many times the production team makes you forfeit your copyright, but you can still ask them for permission to post it if you don’t make any money from the standalone audio).  Link your SoundCloud to a well-designed, with carefully crafted content and media; website or Facebook page.  Now you have a demo reel that can help you get your feet off of the ground, that you can link to as you make connections with other music and video artists.  It will take a long time to network successfully, but be patient: you will already have “business card” of sorts in your pocket, ready to go.

Happy scoring!


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