Shoot for the reel??
Greetings everyone. Here's my situation. For the past 3 years I've been working a corporate job doing everything from shooting to post, some motion graphics, producing and managing live events and all points in between. I've recently gone out on my own focusing on shooting and post. I have had a steady flow of work from clients who made the leap with me but will tap out at the end of June without new clients. Problem is, while most of the stuff I've been producing is decent and pays pretty well, I don't have much that would make for good reel material. The new clients I have found me through word of mouth and haven't asked to see a reel, they've taken it on faith that I'll do a good job, which I believe I have. But again, not much in the way of reel material. I want to branch out into more quality work so here is my thinking.
Take a week to shoot the kind of stuff I want to be doing on my own, basically shooting for the reel. I know the kind of material that will showcase my talents and have a general outline of how I want things to look. Does anyone see a problem with this? Also, I'm in a small market about 5 years behind the times and would like to use some motion graphics and compositing but have recently switched to FCP after years in the PC world. I'm on a huge learning curve and as yet have only been using some tweeked out Motion templates. Most people around here won't know the difference but anyone outside of this area will. Should I include some of this stuff or wait until I have some more original material.
Any thoughts and suggestions would be most appreciated.
Higher Ground Media
For now, I would go ahead with your original plan and shoot and edit the kind of material YOU want to produce! I'd stick to projects that showcase your strengths and push those to the max! I wouldn't go too heavy on the mograph stuff if you're not 100% satisfied with your abilities at present. Wait until you feel that you can create some original designs that will blow people away....THEN add those! I'm not suggesting you avoid them entirely, just don't make them a highlight just yet. Hope this helps. Good luck with whatever you decide!
There's no shelf-life on creativity.
Hi Mick, comments interspersed:
[Mick Haensler] "Take a week to shoot the kind of stuff I want to be doing on my own, basically shooting for the reel."
That's a great idea. A common pitfall to avoid is not scheduling & budgeting time for your own shoot. You have a precious, finite amount of time in which to get those shots you need to arrange a tight budget and don't go over that budget, otherwise you run the risk of spending 3/4 of your time on one or two shots and the other 1/4 cranking out less-than-stellar work so you can rush to get it done.
[Mick Haensler] "I know the kind of material that will showcase my talents and have a general outline of how I want things to look. Does anyone see a problem with this?"
Any way you can accurately depict your skillset is all fair game, as far as I'm concerned. The only opinion that truly matters as far as this is concerned is your client / employer and those opinions may vary. A demo is a showcase of what you've done, which proves what you're capable of. Depict this accurately and keep this mindset in mind when you plan your reel.
[Mick Haensler] "I'm on a huge learning curve and as yet have only been using some tweeked out Motion templates. Most people around here won't know the difference but anyone outside of this area will."
It really depends on what your employer / client wants to see. It's entirely feasible that a reel showing tube travels and stock shine effects (2 examples of things most think they need to avoid in reels) can beat out reels that show original material but without the effects, at least the effects in how they look in their "usual" form. A fellow graphics artist is not your demographic, so design your reel how your client would want to see it. A demo is first and foremost to land jobs, at least those I've made were for that purpose. If it bothers you to show taboo stuff make another reel you show your motion graphics friends. I equate it as the difference between dressing for your spouse and dressing for your business associate. One is more fun and the other is more profitable ... :-) The above still holds true if you're applying with a post-house or production company. Your client doesn't want to see stock effects and motion templates, so once again you'd design your reel for what they want to see, original effects and an advanced skillset.
To answer your original question, should you "wait" until you have more original material, I don't think you should wait, no. A demo reel is always a work in progress and you may update it ten or twenty times over the course of the same year to send to certain clients. Waiting to put in "good" or "original" work is not usually a good idea because it will be replaced a month later anyway.
(John David Hutton)
2D / 3D Motion Graphics Artist, Editor, Support Technician
Kansas City, Kansas - United States
Thanks Robert and John. Both of you gave great advice and confirmed my thinking. I've been in the business for 20 years and believe it or not, this is the first time I've had to make a demo reel. Most people have simply gone on referrals. This is also the first time I've had to have a web site which is the primary reason for needing a good reel. Thanks again.
Higher Ground Media