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Editing Reel Length/Decision-making

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Jordan Kerfeld
Editing Reel Length/Decision-making
on May 27, 2009 at 8:52:29 pm

I am an editor, shooter, and director from Kansas City who is slowly getting stronger at motion graphics. My films have screened worldwide in festivals, and aired on PBS. I've personally edited (not assisted, edited) complete projects for the U.S. Army, Kansas City Chiefs, and H&R Block. I'm 22 years old and have been out of school for about six months. Most of my work has taken place as a student.

Since most of my work has come from word of mouth, I've been lucky to find jobs. I'm currently working but pondering my reel, but I don't think I could make a reel to save my life. It's a strange world I know I need to figure out.

I have A LOT to learn and hopefully I can pick the brains of some people here...feel free to send me any links or examples I should consider or any advice I should adhere to, but here are a few questions that have troubled me tremendously:

-What is the general boundary line for editing reel length? I've done one thats about 8 minutes, which seemed long. I basically used 60-90 second clips from 5 separate projects...doc stuff, narrative film, corporate, etc. NOT re-edited to show the style and character and pace of each piece

... the advice i've been given is to make trailers of all my work from start to finish so there's a clear story...but how does chopping up a bunch of "sizzle" trailers show a client your ability to do quiet, subtle work and the more in your face/cut-to-hell music video stuff? Likewise, what is the point of doing one large quick-cut trailer when it's not an adequate representation of your editing skill but saying "hey, look at these pretty shots and my uncanny ability to cut on the beat of the music"?

- I know with DP's its generally easy; pretty pictures and variety of shooting situations and comfortability with many formats. With editing, is it the style? Prettiness? Bragging via visuals the brands I've been able to work with (which feels like a cop-out and is less about skill than just showing recognizable faces)?

I'm sure my queries are nothing new, but hoping to get a discussion going...


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grinner hester
Re: Editing Reel Length/Decision-making
on May 28, 2009 at 10:14:08 am

The avergae adult attention span was 6 minutes before the net and now that ADD has set in, there is no reason to have a reel longer than 3 minutes, unless showing longform story-telling capabilites.
If it's a spot reel, show some spots. If it's a graphics reel, hilight them. IN short, leave them wanting more, ya win. Bore em to a point they close it and prolly not.



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Stephen Smith
Re: Editing Reel Length/Decision-making
on May 28, 2009 at 12:36:53 pm

I agree with Grinner, the last company I worked for got over 50 reels per job opening. No one had time to watch them. I imagine most decide on a reel within the first 30 seconds or so. You can always have a quick flashy open that shows you have worked on some big stuff and then go into parts of stuff that you cut. Like perviously said, they can always ask to see more...plus that way they are asking to see more of what they specifically want to see more of. Best of luck.





Stephen Smith
Lone Peak Productions

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2


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Jordan Kerfeld
Re: Editing Reel Length/Decision-making
on May 28, 2009 at 2:07:37 pm

Thanks you two, that really makes a lot of sense, especially as you said Stephen many job openings will lead to 50+ reels.

I'm leaning towards a strategy where I create a 30 second teaser to get into it and settle down with a few more long-cut snippets.

This is very helpful! Thanks!


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Arthur Lunn
Re: Editing Reel Length/Decision-making
on May 28, 2009 at 2:42:55 pm

What would help is if you watch other reels- as many as you can, to get a feel for them, and then in the first 30 seconds do something that stands out; something that makes you stick out (and in a good way).



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Mark Suszko
Re: Editing Reel Length/Decision-making
on May 28, 2009 at 4:14:12 pm

The COW happens to have a reels forum where you can see and show reels, fancy that:-)

I like the idea of a 30-second montage of highlights followed by your best, most widely representative spots in full. And at the end, maybe one slightly longer piece that shows you understand how to sequence some dialog and add emotion thru technique. Leave the bars, countdowns and slates off, make a credit list or something at the end they can access if they get that far. Chances are they won't. Best strategy is to have custom reels for every job you try for, geared specifically to what they are asking to see, or what you anticipate they want most. A sports reel, a drama reel, a car reel, a music reel, etc.

The thing about reels is, you can get typcast based on it. Even though you know how to do XYZ type of effect or style, if you don't have a demo of that, folks tend to think you can't do it, since they didn't see it. Ad agency types can sometimes get blinders on, and look for things similar to what they already like or want to imitate, instead of looking beyond that. They think you only know how to do what is actually shown, so I think you may miss out on certain work unless you show a huge range. If you want to demo something to show that range, but havn't actually done one kind of example for pay yet, go ahead and make a spec spot that shows you have the chops anyway.



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Jordan Kerfeld
Re: Editing Reel Length/Decision-making
on May 28, 2009 at 4:26:04 pm

Thanks to Mark and Arthur. You all are confirming my suspicions. Good to see I'm not on my own in my thoughts.

I understand "watch a lot of reels", but I see lots of reels that are frankly not very good. I'll give creative cow's a shot (and from the few posts and discussions i've been in i've noticed a level of professionalism thats unmatched elsewhere)...but some of these vimeo and youtube reels are downright ugly sometimes. :)

Thanks for the tips!


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