Your showreels are probably the most important marketing tool you have, so it’s really important to get them right.
I thought it may be helpful to write a blog about the things you need to think about as you prepare yourself for getting demo-ready. There is a sales-y bit at the end, but it’s the paragraph that starts in red so you can easily avoid it if you want to.
So to begin with, here’s the first piece of advice – Do as much as you can yourself, but don’t do it yourself.
Hmmm… let’s begin with a contradictory statement shall we! Let me explain…
Do as much as you can yourself
Creating a reel is one of the more complex pieces of production you can do. Compiling and mixing the reads, creating light and shade in the reel, giving it some flow and punctuating the different clips is quite a bit to think about as you put a reel together. If you can self-produce a good reel you can probably produce anything that’s thrown at you. So it’s a good idea to contemplate these things, even if you’re not actually going to put the reel together yourself.
Sorting these things out in your own head will make the process of actually getting a reel done much easier, and it will help you in any production you do need to do. Finding scripts, sourcing music, understanding the different ways different plugins work are vital skills for every producer. Having a clear idea in your head will help you communicate what you want to your producer, so hopefully you’ll end up with the product you want quicker and easier.
You’re also making a reel for your future, not your past. Reels made up of genuine jobs are great if you have them – they can be very quick to put together. But if you want your voicing to be reaching into new areas, the old jobs won’t cut it. Make the reel for where you want to be, not where you are.
But don’t do it yourself
Even if you are a very good producer I wouldn’t recommend single-handedly working on your reel(s). There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, the obvious one. Producers know how to mix and produce. Meaning no disrespect to voiceover’s production skills, but producers do listen to audio differently, and have spent money on plugins and utilities that most voiceovers don’t need to.
Secondly because a producer is going to give you an objective view of the material you’re presenting. You will bring a certain amount of attachment to the performance you’ve given of all the reads in your reel which those listening to it – and hopefully casting you for a job – won’t. Presenting the very best material you can is important rather than presenting your favourite ones.
So even if you are producing your own reel, letting people you trust and who know you have a listen to a draft reel and suggest tweaks is really important.
Finding a producer and studio
So you’re not going to produce your own reel. But how do you choose someone to produce your reel?
Price is an obvious consideration, but I’m going to lay that aside as I think there are more important things to think about. If you get a great reel that brings you in lots of work, then the money you spend is a good investment – and the reverse is also true.
The first thing is to have a listen to previous work by reel producers and see if they work in a style you like. If you don’t like the sound of their reels then don’t use them. You have to believe in your reel if it’s going to be a good sales tool for you. Every producer will have a ‘style’ and if their approach to production doesn’t work for you then you’re going to end up with a product you don’t like and won’t send out with confidence. If you’re using an apologetic tone when you send your reel out potential clients won’t take it seriously.
Secondly, find someone you work well with. It’s just a part of human nature that we get on better with some people than we do others. So find someone who you enjoy working with and you both will enjoy the process of creating your reel much more, and that will result in a better end-product.
Most demo producers will have studio facilities that you can use to record your reels in, but I would say that it’s possibly good advice now to record your reel(s) from your own studio. Pre-covid there was a lot more work around that involved visiting studios and working in person, but the industry is a lot more reliant on home-based studios now, so your reel is more needed than ever to demonstrate not just your voicing skills, but the sound of your setup. You may feel that you work better in person. In which case fair enough, you need to be bringing you’re a-game to a demo session, but certainly consider having a remote session so you can show your own studio off to prospective clients.
Prep prep prep
This probably goes without saying really, but practice and prepare as much as you can so you can get the job done as quickly and easily as you can on the day. Practice reading your scripts, consider different deliveries, practice your scripts, think about mic technique and practice your scripts. But be ready to take it in a different direction if your producer asks you to. Your producer will have an eye on the bigger picture and will be trying to cover all bases in the recording session so the reel as a whole – rather than the individual clips – will be as strong as possible.
And here’s something really important
If your voice isn’t on form, postpone the session. Your voice reel is supposed to demonstrate what you sound like, so if you’re not normally husky and quiet, and you are on your reel you won’t get cast in anything that suits your voice, and the clients that do cast you will be annoyed that your voice isn’t like what they heard on your reel.
Also, voicing a reel can be hard work, and if your voice isn’t at its strongest (see the point above about lots of practice) you may end up straining something or losing your voice before the end of the session.
The day of your reel recording you need to be absolutely on top of your game.
WATCH OUT! IT’S THE RED BIT!!
Yes I do produce showreels for voiceovers.
The way I price differs from a lot of reel producers in that the more work you do yourself the less I charge. Whereas many reel producers will offer a package, I don’t. If you want to source your own scripts or your own music I won’t charge for these services. If you want to put a rough edit together in your DAW you can send me the session file and audio through and I’ll happily take what you’ve done and edit and polish it for you.
The above paragraphs about being very prepared are true for whoever produces your reel for you, but with me you can save yourself some money by doing more of the work yourself.
You need to get your showreels right.
They are something that are worth spending money on as it’s a real investment in yourself and your career. The more homework you do yourself the fewer surprises and the better product you’ll have at the end of the process. And you should review your current reels at least every couple of years. That doesn’t mean you have to get new ones made, but you must make sure they still represent you and where you want your career to go.