Demo reel disasters

What are news directors really looking for when they go through demo reels? Jacqueline Ingles, a multi-platform reporter for KXAN in Austin, Texas, sat in on a recent screening session and emerged a little shell-shocked.

I always thought it was a myth that news directors only watched demo reels for an average of 10 seconds. I was right. It is more like 7 seconds. This person zipped through tapes quicker than I could blink.

On SPJ’s “First Draft” blog, Ingles writes that she learned some lessons about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to demo reels.

Energy is key.  If you don’t have it in your stand-up or live shot, your tape will be ejected. But what does “energy” really mean? It means showing you care about your story with body language and words. Above all, Ingles says, don’t just stand there.

Variety matters, too. “The more action packed your tape is the better and the more enterprising stories you can tell the better,” Ingles says. Don’t send a tape of stories that are all basically the same; they’ll put the news director to sleep.

Of course, your first goal is to get the news director to even look at your tape. Putting it in the mail and hoping may not be the best approach, Ingles suggests, or at least not the only thing you should try. Her advice? Drop your reel off in person, if you can. “It puts a face to a demo reel. You are no longer a link or a DVD, you are a human being,” she says. “It also shows potential bosses you are aggressive and persistent.”

At the same time, she says you should put your video reel online at a site like YouTube and use email and even social media to connect with news managers. Believe it or not, Ingles got her current job thanks to Facebook.