Hey everyone! What do you think makes a good and outstanding demo reel?
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Actual film with score playing. Use short segments (just enough to allow the listener to hear how the score supports the action) - usually 30 secs or less each. Have many different types of cues and genres - don't just use slow melodic ballad oriented cues. Demonstrate your versatility - quick action, suspense, eiree/sci-fi/slasher, film noir. Keep in mind that the music should not be just thematic - i.e., the music behind the end titles. From an artistic point over view - show diversification of instrumentation and musical genres - show you are as good at things like blues, rock, pop, r&b, jazz styles as you are at classical/orchestral styles. Highlight your ability to effectively use counter-melody and texture and demonstrate your ability to support 'hit points'. Show how you are comfortable in keys other than C major and A minor (especially if you want to score live with transposing instrumentation) and that you can effectively use modulation to various keys and non-regular time signatures like 5/4 and 7/4. Show a variety of tempos (since action scenes rarely have regular tempos) and how you can support them with various percussive instrumentation. And finally if you can, demonstrate some ethnic music from various world parts - not just one region. A little Asian pentatonic clip can be followed say by some Greek music, a middle eastern segment and then a tango. If some of the above is currently 'beyond you', go for a subset and build to it. But use real film examples when you can, not just music 'written to library'. Even though your goal is to get yourself notice by 'pull' (get directors and decision makers to ask for you based on your 'brand' and 'reputation'), you may often need to promote and market yourself through 'push'. Doing that is not that much different than for any other function/job on a film crew such as what actors do. We don't often use 'resume's to get noticed in the film industry (though some may disagree with that). In addition to having demos which are video and/or audio, you should have links to a bio and your imdb entry. Since you are not on-screen, like actors, you probably don't need a 'head shot' though having one could be useful for your various web site presence like IMDB (though you may need IMDB Pro to use it).
Thanks a lot, that's very helpful! Looks like a have a lot of work to do :) But in terms of scoring to existing film material, won't I run into issues regarding copyright and stuff?
When I said using an actual film, I meant you were hired as a composer to score a film and you are using a segment(s) from that film. I did not mean you pick some film your were not hired for and score to it (which may be done in a classroom but can not normally leave the classroom without permission from the copyright holder). When you are scoring a short, for example, the filmmaker is normally more than happy to give permission for you to use segments in a highlight reel since it promotes the film and short films are normally all about promotion of the talent. Regardless, it is always a good idea to check with the filmmaker before you do anything. After the three films I scored over two weeks were submitted to the 168 film festival last week, I contacted the filmmaker/director and asked for permission to release the three soundtracks/scores as audio files (MP3) where I normally post my music. Even though all the material was owned by me (since it was not a 'work for hire' and I did not assign away my copyrights), it is good practice since it was 'associated' with the films, that I check first. For example, there could have been a restriction which prevents the release of the soundtrack before the festival (which was not the case for 168 film festival) By the way, I do not personally have 'highlight reels'. I post complete scores/soundtracks or beginning/end tracks (if the soundtrack is long). It goes on a site with the rest of my music (film and non-film). I currently have 93 tracks posted there. I also carry with me, CDs with 17 of those tracks that I hand out for free with a business card at mixers.
That's a good point Victor, thanks for coming up with it!
Joel, getting back to your comment about using an actual film, I was wondering if you knew of any short films or clips that are in the public domain for anyone to use for scoring. I imagine it would be difficult getting permission to score a film of which you have no association with.
Ian - getting real short films to score is not that hard if you are willing to work a bit to find them. Now you are not smack in the middle of a major city so you may have to do a bit of traveling and communicating with filmmakers in Providence and/or Boston but the goal, especially at the beginning, is to write music and practice on short films. And in my opinion, the easiest films and crews to get on are the competitions. And the easiest competition is the 48 hour film project (48hourfilm.com). Here in Houston each year about 65 teams compete and each one needs a composer. Our annual competition is the weekend after July 4th. Now Boston's weekend already happened in May but Providence is July 15th. So now is a great time to get on a team while they are still looking for composers. This is an international competition - the winner of each city worldwide competes internationally and the top 6 or so at that competition move on to Cannes. Now even if you don't win (and with 65 teams competing the odds are low), there are so many artistic and interpersonal benefits to participate. Here in Houston, there are various local competitions - probably about 4 to 6 a year. There are also other International Competitions. I just scored three films for a local filmmaker for my third year of participation in the 168 hour film competition with the films showing at the Regal Cinema in downtown LA 8/20-21. You can check my profile here for links to those soundtracks. The beauty of working on competitive films is it is perhaps one of the easiest ways getting on a crew to collaborate. It will over time lead to non-competitive paid work hopefully. Now this year for example, over 15 people are going to LA in Aug who were on crew for the films I scored. If you like to not only score but get involved with other film people of various functionality, this is a great option to pursue. Now competitive films after a while can for some 'get really old' and so if you are looking to progress, your goal is to get to work on non-competitive shorts and features that pay - but scoring a film, even if it is competitive is better IMHO than not scoring. So I have a film to score which is currently shooting in El Paso but it won't be ready for me until later in the summer. So with 48 hour coming up in July, why not try out a film with a filmmaker/director I have not worked with before. It never hurts taking things 'out for a spin'. The commitment is a single weekend.
Thanks for all the input guys, I appreciate your support :)
Hi Tobias, and all interested in developing their professional portfolio, I know of a great resource for obtaining films to score for experience and portfolio building. It is a website called http://www.filmtoscore.com/ Check it out!