Preparation D – The Importance of Keeping Your Demo Reel Current (and With You)
by Evan Sprague
I’ve recently taken it upon myself to pursue Hollywood as a contractual endeavor. There’s several reasons why I made the decision to stay at Intel for probably the next 5-7 years (not the least of which is the amazing healthcare). While I get to work on some pretty cool projects here (the latest project I can’t talk about much, but let’s just say it involves vfx for a large studio whose name rhymes with “CreamLurks”), most of it doesn’t fall directly into the creative avenue that I seek to travel down. I’m at a point where I still yearn for that highly creative collaboration, even if it doesn’t pay much on the side.
So anyways, enough of my life story. In light of all these recent self-revelations, I hopped into the Craiglist LA gig postings under the film and video section and typed in “compositor”. Naturally, a ton of results popped up, most of which were for lower-budget productions, but were legit nonetheless.
I replied to a couple saying that I’m a passionate fx artist based out of Phoenix, I have an FTP server so remote working isn’t an issue, and even sent my professional resume for review. It was late at night so I figured if I was to hear anything back at all, it wouldn’t be until later the next day and I was seated with my laptop on my in-laws’ couch watching a movie. Much to my surprise, I immediately got a response from the contact for a project involving Tom Sizemore. He reviewed my resume and liked the idea of using me. He had only one question: “Do you have any work online that I could see?”
I had wrought my own destruction on this day. My website is void because it’s full of old, hack work (some of which is clearly ripped off of video copilot) that doesn’t portray my focus properly. I have some portfolio work on my home computer, but it A.) Wasn’t assembled into any kind of reel, and B.) I had no breakdowns, only the final products (most pros require breakdowns as part of the reel).
Needless to say, I lost that gig. The lesson I took away from it all was ALWAYS have your work ready to show. Always. Don’t even ask about a job unless you’re ready to hand them a polished, refined demo reel as soon as they request it. But more importantly, don’t even make them request it. Put your work on Vimeo or Youtube and link them to it directly when you send your job inquiry. Never assume that they won’t contact back, or that you can get to your reel before they do. Treat every job inquiry like you’re going to be yanked into their office for an interview immediately afterwards, and I’m not just talking about having a completed reel in general. I’m saying even if you do, have it on you at all times. Got an iPhone? Great! Put your reel on it. So when you’re walking around the floor at Siggraph and you get talking to John Lasseter and he asks you what you do, you can put the visual communication medium we know as “Film” to use and show him then and there, with the tap of your finger. Make it your moving business card. Keep it with you like it’s your wallet (which it just might end up filling).
Bottom line, that gig I lost was one little fish in a sea of thousands. Another will come along, and this time I’ll be ready (I immediately made a shiny new reel over the next week). I’m relieved that I didn’t get this abrupt reminder on a much larger opportunity. All I’m saying is, don’t ever let that happen to you.