How 2 Create A Demo Reelmake reel

How fast can it happen?

Members like yourself...are taking the fast lane to building 'effective' demo reels. Due to the uptick in reel development, activity on ANSWERS4DANCERS has never been more productive. Daily, members are giving and receiving feedback for upgrading their reels.  They want the same outcome that members like ALEX STURRUP, KELLY P. WILLIAMS, EMILY DANN, GARRETT MINNETTI, and ANTONIO MARTINEZ are having... direct  bookings based soley on video submissions.


Dakota Montavon's approach to a demo reel

'Organizing Pays Off' says Jessie Douglass-Smith

What to shoot & how to shoot it.

Here’s an outstanding example of camera work enhancing the choreography:

In Alexa Marie Gentile's video 'Stay'...two elements caught our eye. Her performance and they way her camera operator (Tommy Tibball) captured it. Together, they decided that the camera should move with her instead of being static. They produced footage that allows viewers to get inside the movement….thereby enhancing the impact of Alexa’s performance. If you want results like this, show this vid to your camera operator. It's outstanding! BTW: Tommy is responsible for more than the camera operation….he did the choreography as well.

What will it cost to shoot the footage I need?

The range can be dramatic. It totally depends on the resources and support you've got at your fingertips. Five years ago, an inventive 17-year-old (Tony Testa) created a 'killer reel' using his mother's Hi-8 camera propped on a chair in his hometown studio in Colorado. He talked friends into volunteering time and talent. Out-of-pocket, the reel that got him booked on Janet Jackson's World Tour cost less than $50. Amazing, right?

Other resourceful dancers made miracles happen by tapping into relationships. Cruiseship and Reality TV producers have been known to release professionally-shot footage when a relationship between parties warrants it.  Imagine.  All that good lighting, scenery, and camera work added to a dancer's reel...and it's free! These are not only dream situations...they are incentives to booking the next cruiseship opportunity that comes along. Team-players rule!

Okay. You don't have access to cruiseship or reality TV footage. What else is available? Competition footage? Hm. Let's look at it. Yes, there you are... performing full-out at the top of your game... but wait a minute. Are you comfortable with those huge, visually-dominating logos on the backdrop behind you? Will casting directors and agents be looking at you… or at the attention-getting logo that fills the screen? Another consideration.  To some employers... competition footage implies they are watching a dance student... not a professional dancer. Depending on the project being cast, there will be times when that implication works in your favor... and times when it doesn't. Choosing the right footage is essential.

Should you think about hiring professionals?

New technologies are changing the 'reel' game.  In tough economic times, dancers are acquiring the skills for self-generating effective demo reels. It's simple and rewarding.  In most cases, the process works like this.  What dancers don't know... they 'google' or track down amongst friends.  Taking on the job is not a big deal. Choosing between doing it or blowing what's left in the bank account is a no-brainer.  Doing it wins every time.

As the producer-director-editor-choreographer-star of your reel... you are in charge.  If you don't have an HD camera, you find a friend who does. You pull in favors. You negotiate. You communicate and collect useful info.  You pick outdoor locations instead of paying for studio space. You experiment with iMOVIE software and discover it's easier to use than you thought. You find a song that moves you.  You found red high-top sneakers, patent-leather tap shoes, and the perfect long-sleeved white T that will help you stand out when you perform in front of the brick wall behind your family's home.  The 'creative streak' in you is coming out. 

You're almost ready. As you arrive at your first location, you get caught up in revising a phrase of choreography. Inspired by NaTonia Monet's playfulness at the end of her reel, you try inserting some of your own.  Someone reminds you the camera is recording everything you're doing. You laugh it off… and get down to business. Twenty minutes later, you entertain an adventurous thought... creating a reel is one of the best growth experiences you ever gave yourself.

Tips about finding music 4 your reel?

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At 17, dancer Tony Testa used his mother’s Hi-8 camera to record his work from a home studio in Colorado. Book-ended by a personable lead-in and lead-out, Tony’s homemade reel was shown to choreographer Gil Duldulao. In days, it led to being booked as a dancer and choreographer for Janet Jackson’s World Tour. This reel confirms what an effective reel can do!


Tony’s physical presence totally fills the screen,” adds Grover Dale. “His performance reveals a dancer fully-engaged in showing what he has to offer. His style is natural, multi-faceted, and distinctly his own. Technique is present but doesn’t get in his way. He frames himself inside a clean, simple dance studio that’s free of distractions… no windows, no dance bags, no posters… just Tony dancing full-out in front of the lens. He charms us with his lead-in and lead-out. A win-win…”


Remember that a demo reel is a selling tool... and the people out there buying are in a hurry to find well-rounded, personable dancers who are a natural fit for their projects. Your personality, “look,” and editing choices are just as important as your dance ability. Within 20 seconds, most casting directors will know if they’re interested in watching more. What should you do? Present the best footage you’ve got and put your strengths up front.


Everything is possible!