Reeling Them In (or 50 Other Demos Today!)

I think a talent should approach the creation of a new demo reel from the perspective of a producer who might hire the talent.  This may seem self-evident but I can only conclude that many talents haven’t grasped this concept based on the demos I continue to hear.

One rule that hasn’t changed in the VO world over the years is the simple concept that you lead with your best.  If you’re a comedian doing a stand-up routine, maybe you hold back some of your best lines until the crowd is sufficiently warmed up.  But you’re not Chris Rock.  You try that with your VO demo and chances are, the producer has already moved on to the next demo and thinks the so-so corporate narration clip that inexplicably leads off your demo is the best you’ve got.   People in this industry are notorious for having short attention spans so you’ve really got to come out guns a blazin’ right out of the gate.

We’ve discussed brevity on this site before.  Demos need to be between 1:00-1:30, case closed.  You ever meet those people at a bus stop who proceed to tell you their whole life story, unsolicited?   Would you want to work with them?  Didn’t think so.  You don’t have to include every read you’ve done in the new millennium on one demo.  And certainly no need to include the entire spot or narration.  Just an excerpt and move on to the next glorious read.

Beyond the obvious demo tips of making sure to have more than a total of two clips on your demo, and trying to show some range or at least variety of tone and production so the listener can actually tell the difference between the different spots on your demo, the other thing voice talents must keep in mind is context.  Namely the fact that producers are not just having an intimate evening with your demo alone.

The odds are your demo will be one among many listened to that day which is why all these things I’ve mentioned are so relevent.  Your best reads first because they’re listening to 50 other demos today; Brevity, yet variety of reads and production because…50 other demos today.   AND don’t start with the weird read you’ve fallen in love with but rarely gets requested because…50 other demos today

On this note, a talent I used to represent started her demo with a commercial that had a dramatic music build.  The problem:  Her voice didn’t come in until the 10 second mark!  “It’s something different for me.” But a producer who has never worked with her before doesn’t know that and doesn’t care.  He doesn’t care that you’re trying to be Neil Young, switching between folk/country and grunge.  Lead with the read that gets you work most often.  Why would you turn your demo into a vanity project?  Any why on earth would you chance it that the person hiring voices is going to stick around for 10 seconds – a lifetime in the voice over world – to finally get the first taste of your voice?

As an agent, I’m evaluating demos individually of course but also how it fits and compares with the existing voice roster.  This is even when I say yes to taking on a new talent.  I’ve still got to place the demo in context of what else producers and casting will be hearing on our website.

P.S.  I love Neil Young by the way.  But I doubt he’d make the voice roster.


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One Response to “Reeling Them In (or 50 Other Demos Today!)”

  1. Kristine Says:
    February 21st, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Been listening to Neil Young (After the Gold Rush-LP) all morning!

    Totally agree!

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