Why Every Actor Needs A Demo Reel

actor demo reel

Let’s talk a bit about perhaps the most important tool of your portfolio in your quest to get a talent agent- the demo reel. This is what the agents use to determine whether you have acting prowess (or lack thereof), and ultimately if they want to sign you or not. The good news is, there are no hard fast rules. The bad news is, there are no hard fast rules. So how then to go about building and polishing a fantastic, mesmerizing demo reel? Keep in mind these crucial factors:

  • 5 – 10 years ago, demo reels were extra, not every actor had them. With the advent of tech and in house, agents demand that you have one, no excuse for not having one

Title Card

Don’t ever forget this. In the beginning and end of your demo reel, include a title card with your name and contact information for quick reference. Once at the beginning to get inside the agent’s head, and again at the end to remind them how to contact you.


This is hands down the most often discussed dilemma. How long should my demo be? The general consensus among industry professionals is that it takes an agent about 30 seconds of watching your reel to decide whether or not they will sign you. With this in mind, keep it short, nothing over 2 minutes.

Clip Selection

Only the best. Make sure the focus in each clip is YOU. If you don’t hog the screen time in the clip, have someone re-edit it so you do. Make sure everything is current and looks pristine. Talent agents like to see things that are up to date and relevant. Always put your best clip first, but make sure the following clips are just as extraordinary. Save a really strong clip for last, so the agent is left with a powerful impression of your ability. Some agents like to scrub through the reel until they find a clip they like, so don’t make them all the same. Show us your range!

Demo Reel Companies

You don’t have to book a slew of underpaying gigs just to build up a demo reel these days. There are a ton of companies that will put you on tape and make it look professional for the right price. Relentless Filmworks and LA Reels are two of the most popular that come to mind. They’ll write scenes for you tailored to your needs and even provide actors for you to work with. Just make sure the scenes are an accurate depiction of your range and ability.

Demo Reel On A Budget

  • friends shoulder in the shot
  • shoot at 24p
  • apps at 24p
  • mic link from dylan
  • sound is important
  • something decent other than nothing
  • pick a scene from acting class

You’ve got your demo reel. Now you’re ready for talent representation!

Theatrical Auditions vs. Commercial Auditions

Theatrical Auditions vs. Commercial Auditions

Is there a difference between theatrical auditions vs commercial auditions?  Apparently, there are actors out there that feel there is little to no preparation necessary for commercial auditions. I often see actors talking to one another, looking at their phone, and the best to date, cleaning out their purse in the lobby while waiting to audition for a commercial.

theatrical auditions vs commercial auditions

However, at theatrical auditions, it’s rare for actors to make eye contact, let alone speak to one another. Presumably, they are working on their script, making substitutions, preparing mentally and physically for the upcoming audition.

I have been auditioning for 38 years in Los Angeles for television, film, and commercials and I do the same prep for all three. It is my firm belief that acting is acting and preparation is a part of my toolkit. Who, what, where and why are the questions I always ask and then dig further for more info to personalize as much as I can with the time allotted.

  • Who am I talking to? Who is this person to me? How do I feel about them right now? What is our history?
  • What is my motive? What is my objective? What do I want from this person? What is my point of view? What am I feeling right now about the situation?
  • Where am I? Have I been here before? What do I see around me? Identify something that I can focus on and create the 4th wall.
  • Why am I saying what I am saying? (I must identify a reason for speaking.) Is what I’m saying important? Why am I not saying anything? Why am I present in this situation?

When I ask myself these questions and make decisions, I feel equipped to fully commit to the text and the scene as a whole. If asked to do it another way, which is almost always the case, I am ready with options and choices because I have thought about it and rehearsed it several different ways. I am able to take the direction and employ it with ease.

I would much rather leave an audition with the feeling I have given it my all and left them with a sense of who I am, than kick myself in the car all the way up the 405, wishing I had prepared.

From my interviews with casting, their number one complaint about actors is that they are not prepared. They often say the actor who gets picked or called back is always the one who comes in with a solid choice. It may not always be the choice they had in mind, but they made a choice and backed it up with thought and conviction. These are the actors who c consistently work, because they take the craft seriously.

Editor’s Note: Judy Kain has been a professional actress for 38 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 375 commercials and over 90 film and television roles.  She is a published author of the book I BOOKED IT! The Commercial Actors Handbook and is the founder of Keep it Real Acting Studios. Her more notable credit include Mad Men, The Odd Couple, Modern Family, The Middle, Bones, Castle, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, ER, Seinfeld, The District, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Friends, and The Drew Carey Show just to name a few. Learn more about theatrical auditions vs commercial auditions by visiting Judy’s page.