The value of a proper editing reel
I'm hoping some of you can weigh in on a question here. I'll explain why in a moment-
What is the value of having a proper editing/demo reel if you are an assistant editor and/or editor? Especially one who's hoping to get their foot in the door at a post house or become a more established editor in their market.
Now here's the why. I work as an editor/post production supervisor for a small company in the DC market and I handle dealing with post overflow- the wranging of freelancers if you will. I've put out calls for E2s and Editors before, and most recently I asked specifically for their reel, rate, and resume if they were interested. I would provide a postal address if they didn't have their reel online, no biggie.
Here are the "reels" I got in response
-Links to YouTube full length videos
-Links to personal web pages with full length videos (including one person who said you needed QT4 to view them, hehe)
-But more often than not, no reel or clips of any kind at all
I consider a reel to be either a montage of clips set to music that you've cut, or short scenes cut together in 1 file, or a combination of the 2. I'm not a fan of YouTube links or clicking a million things on a person's website. I'd rather just wait for a hard copy to arrive in the mail. However, above all, I want a REEL. And most E2s in this market either don't understand what one is, or think I'll hire them just on their resumes (which are a mixed bag).
So what do y'all think? My hope is to either be able to link to this post in the future, or cull down the important parts into a PDF.
You know, in the age of the internet & desktop DVD authoring, there's no excuse not to have a decent reel. Unless of course, you have no talent. Or you're an idiot who doesn't understand what a reel should & can be.
My reel generally conforms to your idea. There's a movie on my website with the same splash reel that starts my DVD. It's cut to music & has titles to highlight what I do. On the DVD, it takes you to a menu that lets you look at a few short, whole pieces. You can explore them at your leisure, or throw the disk in the trash at your own discretion.
This is the beauty of DVD & websites, you can offer extra stuff to suppliment your reel, but I still think you need the splash reel to kick it off.
Now in post: Peristroika, a film by Slava Tsukerman
I used to think that you needed one resume and one showreel and you sent them out each time. I've since realized that in fact you need a reel and a resume PER job you apply for. Each one tailored to the company or person you're applying to.
I also prefer to go into meetings with a DVD of clips to chat about rather than a montage to show in silence.
And what are "E2s"?
I agree 100% about tailoring resumes. I get 2 page resumes from recent graduates. That drives me crazy. I also get 2 page resumes from producer/editor/DP types who's experience tends to drift one way, but yet they're applying for a post position. Also drives me crazy. With a little delete this, expand on that, their resumes wouldn't end up in the trash pile.
The only problem I see with clips is that you're assuming you're getting to the meeting stage. I tend to use reels, either via the web or dvd, to weed people out. But as long as they're short clips, not 10 minutes from whatever type film, then I'm all for it.
An E2 is another name for Assistant Editor, at least on the east coast area :)
Nicole, there is not a more important career tool to an editor than a reel and reputation. Because you'll usually be applying for gigs outside of your market, you have no reputation and therefore, your reel is literally a make or break for a job. It'll depict how much you get paid more than your salary negotiation. It should be no longer than 5 minutes tops. If they wanna see more, awesome. Enjoy the gig.
It's fine, and a good idea to have longer examples onliune should they wanna go through and see how you apply timing in a show but if you gamble with making somone bored with your demo reel, your resume is thrown in the trash and your DVD is used as a coaster.
As far as content, don't hilight so much of what you have done... hilight what you want to do. That is to say, if you like making music vodeos, make a music video reel. Dig effects? We need to see em. Straight up story-teller? Tell some. While people stress you have less than 5 minutes to win them over, I'm here to tell you that you have about 10 seconds and that begins with the labeling of your reel and it's menu. Judging begins when your package is opened so make every detail scream that you are their next ace in the hole.
When you interview... do just that. Interview them. Make sure this really is a place you want to bless with your presence more than half of your waking hours. If their are any things you don't love about it on forst visit, brinbg em up right then. I use to interview in a tie-dyed t0shirt because I was always against trying to put dress codes on artists. This fixed that problem from the get go. If they dug it, we'd be cool. If they didn't I would have been temporary anyway.
Talk to the other artists there. Do lunch or supper with em but get em away from the building so you can guage their happiness. They will level with you.
"I'm here to tell you that you have about 10 seconds and that begins with the labeling of your reel and it's menu"
Truer words were never spoken. It's these seemingly little details that make people really stand out.
And I've done my fair share of interviewing in jeans and t-shirts. Always amusing and interesting to see their reactions, hah!
Thanks for your .02 grinner. Exactly the fodder I'm looking for!
Assistant Editors needing reels depends on the job, IMO. I've interview at boutique places where they've wanted to see a reel because they were looking for some one who could wear more than one hat and I've interviewed for bigger post houses (or TV shows) where they don't want to see a reel 'cause they are looking strictly handle the technical/nuts & bolts side of editing. Personally, if I was looking for an AE a reel wouldn't interest me because there's nothing in an reel that can show me if that person is a good AE or not.
If you are looking to "move up" in your area your personal connections mean more than your reel, IMO. Take post producers or more experienced editors in your market out to lunch/dinner/drinks (on you of course) for some quality face time. Don't hit them up for work, but tell them about yourself, what you've done, what you want to do, etc.,. and ask for their advice and how they got to where they wanted to be in the industry. I've found that a lot of people really like helping out the young bloods and sharing their knowledge. After you've won them over w/your personality you can offer to send your resum
I know of no place that wants to hire good assistant editors. Every one of them are looking for potentially fine editors at an entry level rate. As a newby, if you apply as an assistant, you'll be an intern. Apply as an editor and one can take the assistant's gig offered.
This really doesnt end. Last time I was aksed "so where would you like to see yourself with this company?" I laughed and answered, "man, I'd like to own it."
[grinner hester] "I know of no place that wants to hire good assistant editors. Every one of them are looking for potentially fine editors at an entry level rate."
Like I said, it depends on the job. I've worked at post houses that looked more "big picture" and I've worked on TV shows that don't care where you want to be a year from now 'cause all they are looking for is an AE for the next 8 weeks. I've worked w/people that have been AEing on feature films for years and people that have gone from runner, to AE, to editor at trailer houses inside of 12 months. The rules change depending on where you play.
All good advice and I agree with most of it.
I add one more thing to the "interview" process. I call it my "Technical proficiency exam", but it's really just one question. I say it's worth double your starting salary if you nail it. So far, nobody has gotten it correct. Here it is: Explain to me the difference between drop frame and non drop frame time code.
In five seconds I know whether they're BS'ing or not. A newbies answer to this question is just as revealing to me as looking at hours of their work... on line or via DVD. When viewing a sample reel there's always the question of "who did what". In an interview, very few people can bluff their way through.
[mark Raudonis] "Explain to me the difference between drop frame and non drop frame time code. "
would that be semi-colon vs. colon :-)
Just to add a perspective to this thread from a different pov, I would ask what the hiring supervisors are doing to make things better? It's all well and good to give advice on the importance of a reel, etc. and I think many editors applying for positions can do better. I've seen on a variety of forums, including here on the Cow, folks putting up reels, looking for feedback. (Not to mention the other advice I've heard from many folks that their reel never got them their jobs, but it was through their contacts. Heck, even one of the posters above recommended that approach - the "taking an editor out to dinner" type of thing.)
But each time the generic hiring supervisor receives something that doesn't quite make the cut, or could have made the cut, do they give feedback to the editors that were applying? Like saying "hey, your reel pieces are too long" or "your music montage should have been only 60 seconds instead of 2 minutes" or "sending us to You Tube is unprofessional," etc. The point I'm making is, some of the feedback needs to be given from the people hiring directly to the persons they are rejecting with specific reasons. Or else the person doesn't have the opportunity to improve their reel in a practical sense.
It also doesn't seem particularly hard to do that, just a simple "thank you for applying, your one piece reel bored us after 20 seconds and there were still 12 minutes to go and, oh btw, your You Tube screen name of Dips**t28 turned us off and scared our cat, so we threw it into the trash."
I would also suggest that even if a person's reel was one 12 minute piece, and the first minute kept you engaged, then it demonstrates that s/he can edit. If you can tell in 30 seconds or less that someone doesn't have it, then you can tell in 30 seconds or less if they do. In fact, it would seem the length of the reel (too long or too short) is really irrelevant. And as someone who does long form editing, seeing a 2 minute music video or a graphics heavy piece doesn't tell me anything about someone's storytelling.
Hiring supervisors could also make it more clear as to what they are actually looking for in a reel - long form, quick cuts, spots, graphics, etc. Part of the problem I think is vagueness on the part of the people hiring to clarify what exactly they are looking for. For instance, if reels are important to you, and you know what you are looking for in a reel, state it. For instance, say the reel should have a 60 second or less music montage, followed by "x" number of spots that demonstrate the following "whatever your requirements are". (for any decent, motivated editor, revising their reel, if necessary, to fit a specific request shouldn't be that big a deal.)
OTOH, even though I've never seen Walter Murch's reel, I'd hire him, even if he didn't know the difference between drop frame and non drop frame timecode. That's why I'd also hire Sean Cullen to be his E2 :-)
Happy New Year!
BTW, I think threads like this are necessary and helpful for editors, at least those who care, to make stronger and stronger applications each time out.
I understand the intent of your comments, but since I'm one of those "hiring supervisors", I wholeheartedly disagree with you.
First of all, no HR or legal department worth their salary would ever allow that kind of specific reply to an applicant. In this litigious world in which we live, that kind of detailed response is only inviting a lawsuit.
Secondly, I am inundated on a daily basis by many more applicants than we can possibly hire. The people who get my attention are the ones that have taken the time to know who we are, what we do, and what we're looking for in an assistant or junior editor. It's not my job to hold their hand to craft an appropriate application. The Darwinian theory is in play here. If someone is smart enough to craft a reel, application or website to get my attention, then chances are they will survive and thrive in our organization.
Finally, I work in a very collaborative, team based environment. The skillset required to make it with this work flow doesn't show up on a reel. An applicant's personality, communication skills, and attitude isn't apparent from watching a reel. Those traits come across in an interview, which is why many people DON'T put so much importance on a reel.
"It also doesn't seem particularly hard to do that, just a simple "thank you for applying, your one piece reel bored us after 20 seconds ...
For the same reasons Mark outlined, I can't really do the same thing. Aside from the time constraints, the idea of giving everyone critical feedback in a small video community doesn't exactly sound like something I would want to get involved in, professionally speaking. That being said, I started this topic with the idea in mind that I might write up a summary of all the things I personally want to tell prospective AEs, as well as what the rest of y'all think, post it to the web and then the next time I put a shout out for AEs, include the link for "application guidelines".
FWIW, in past postings for editors and assistants, I've been very specific about what the work they'll be doing is and what I'm looking for in their e-mailed "application" of sorts, and I still get the same type of responses. More often than not, when I'm in a crunch, I go with the people who have worked with people I know, or whom I know personally. When I've got the time to do interviews, I'll cull down the resumes that don't match what we're looking for, which most of the time is Producers looking to make extra money doing some editing, or Camera Operators/PAs/Grips/Fill in the Blank looking for the same thing. The interview process is always interesting and obviously the best way to guess if they'll fit in with the team.
I've strayed a little off topic, but while I would love to do as you say, and give that feedback, it's generally not possible on a 1-on-1 basis. It's the sort of thing that works well as a seminar/workshop with a local ITVA/Final Cut User Group type meeting, which my city has had in the past, but who's listening is the question ;)
[Skysplitter] "I consider a reel to be either a montage of clips set to music that you've cut, or short scenes cut together in 1 file, or a combination of the 2"
This is what I always struggle with when creating a reel. As someone hiring an editor what does seeing that they can take a bunch of disparate clips and cut them on the beat to some high energy music show you; unless that is what you are looking for? I always thought that would be good for an actors, DP, graphics, etc. reel. But not an editor. Most of my work is long form documentary work. To cut it into little chunks and put it to music would, in my opinion, be horrible editing.
"This is what I always struggle with when creating a reel. As someone hiring an editor what does seeing that they can take a bunch of disparate clips and cut them on the beat to some high energy music show you; unless that is what you are looking for? I always thought that would be good for an actors, DP, graphics, etc. reel. But not an editor."
FYI- My response is in regards to editor's reels, not assistant editor's.
I'm not advocating that the montage needs to be cut to the beat, or that the music needs to be high energy, etc. My reel is cut to a low key piece of music, albeit one that does have a good percussion track. What I look for in the music montage is 1- can they cut on the beat if they want to (you'd be surprised the amount of people cannot) and when do they choose to not cut on the beat, 2- the pacing, and 3- are they doing anything interesting with the montage (is there visual progression or patterns, some sort of color cohesion, etc). If there are effects in there, how well are they being used, are they cheesetastic, etc etc. I think the good reels I've seen sew together a few sequences, keep the flow, and make it work. I've also seen great reels where it is just disparate clips, it all depends on the person behind the keyboard.
"To cut it into little chunks and put it to music would, in my opinion, be horrible editing."
I work mostly in short form doc and comedy. And I cut big pieces into little chunks and put it to music all the time- for trailers, promos and sizzle reels. I also use montage in just about every project I work on, no matter what the content. Being able to cut a story is king of course, but montage is right up there. It's a valuable skill to have, it isn't easy as it looks, and you can easily spot when it's done wrong.
Personally, I have worked among many experienced tv editors and very few of them have or have needed showreels to get work. They get it based on their experience alone.
I didn't see anything mentioned about editor's cuts or versions versus what the director wanted. I'm self employed for 16+ years now, but in the early 90s, all my personal reels had the typical montage thing to start, but also the full spots or clips as the director wanted them and then MY version of the same if I felt strongly about something and they just wouldn't go for it. Wanted to show I could think on my own.
I get reels now from people and a majority take advantage of DVD and have chapters for montages and then full clips. With kids out of school its usually all their own work, but I've never gotten an editor's/aspiring editor's reel that didn't represent what somebody else wanted or made the judgment on.
Daily affirmation: computers are our friends.
i am an editor ..since 1980 i have worked non stop on docos and in vars tv roles.... i have no reel ... i could make one up but it would have no reference to deadlines ect i could also make up an after affects reel or a flash one ... neither of which i am particularly adept at .. however given time could fake it
broadcast is ephemeral i have never thought to collect my work
currently i am taking 'a break' give the current state of broadcast tv ... unemployable by being
eventually though i will want to work and i would want to
broaden my experience who wants to go where they went before
the question is should i fake a reel [ given that i would see it as fake therefore expect others to see it as such and of course could never defend it]
i could of course work freelance in the places i have worked in the past and break copyright and steal bits i have done
but that seems dodgy?
or rely on a resume and hope the employers are cognizant ?