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Take Charge of Your Creative Destiny with a Professional Reel

Fire in the Belly Desire Focuses on Reel Results for Filmmakers and Talent

Success in Hollywood lurks beyond luck and beyond networking in a magical black box. Demo reels show instead of tell — and that’s the secret to success on-screen and off. The digital world has made it possible to make a demo reel happen in a new way — your way. Breaking into Hollywood is daunting, even for experienced pros who have relocated from other intense media cultures.

Self Starters Win the Roles

Gather a group of talented, hand picked people around you to accomplish a specific goal -- a shared reel. Making a reel can be an overwhelmingly complex, slow system of getting a reel together, as well as the high cost.

Improv techniques focus on producing art in the moment, and it bounces off the other members of the team. Performance comes out of what the audience sees, not what you plan to do.” Get your team together and interact. Share knowledge and talent to create a piece that fits all your needs.”

Launching a Cooperative Group

Gather people you know, and people they know who want to work on specific scenes. A lot of people are eager to work, so put them together to create an improv situation.

The idea is really simple —-- you all need scenes for your reels. Scenes that look like they'’re out of a teleplay or feature film. Scenes that fit criteria for exactly what each person needs to show off their skills in the best possible light.

And low cost.

By gathering together an informal group who also needs to accomplish a very precise objective —-- 60 second demos with high production value. Gather together a complete volunteer, mini-team for a mini-project.

This one-day shoot can produce one or more 60-second clips set in the same location.

By including scriptwriters who can write scenes to meet the volunteers needs -- and a couple specs for people to sign onto -- you can maximize efficiency of time onset.

Independent filmmaking with volunteer crews is notorious for no-shows. Qualify the people who are invited. Focus on results. Keep it informal and friendly. Keep costs down — way down. Keep quality high — feature level. Self-interest is the strongest motivator there is.

The trick is to bring together people who can help one another at the same time they have something valuable to gain

The goal is for every member to add a piece to their demo reel within weeks -- if not a couple months. Then all the participants can take the next step in their careers.”

With the cost of technology going down, it’s possible for home-based creatives to shoot, edit and duplicate these scenes with very high production quality.

A truly professional group is more productive than volunteering for student-run projects. For several reasons -- student films are longer, and production spans several months. Students aren't accomplished at production -- or business. Things get lost in the cracks -- like your footage!

Having the right director for a scene is crucial -- so make sure you include professional directors who want footage for their own reel. Directors frequently want to show they can cross over to a new genre, or work with a specific kind of actor or script. They can be as motivated as actors! And often are more organized and results driven. And that motivation and skill is what you need leading a project.

“When everyone is self centered, self motivated -- doing it for self -- you can depend on people being there for themselves more than for those who are just being nice. You can trust selfish people more than nice people.

Everyone who has been involved in projects with no or low budgets knows you have to ask for twice the crew because half will ditch at the last minute. You might have to turn down 50% of the volunteers for a shoot as you select the team who has something tangible to gain from the project.

Secrets for success

Select only those who are ready and eager to make a demo. Select a wide range of the talents needed to create teams – from writers to production crews to editors. Introduce each person personally and grill them in front of the group to “Get Specific! What exactly do you want on your demo?”

Over soft drinks and the buzz of networking, people look for who they need to accomplish their goal. An actor. A photographer. A director. This is not your typical networking meeting. Each person brings handouts – headshots, scenes, lists of equipment – whatever documents their contribution to a project.

Expect unique stories to arise from these introductions -- wide ranging –talents and experiences arise from former FBI agents to kindergarten teachers to feature film first assistant directors to ice skaters.

The flow of ideas for projects are just as diverse — from a period piece to children’s drama to action genres, to special effects.

Actors are able to ask for exactly the role that would show off their best features and skills and desires. That in itself is an unusual situation for accomplished professionals not quite in the driver’s seat – yet. Some are professionals in the driver’s seat, but just want an ideal piece for their reel that will better display the range of their talents.

Early Results Document Progress...and Motivate!

Show the raw footage from the first project at the second meeting. DVD technology makes that possible.

“The most important part of the project is that all members of the project get immediate access to raw footage. Each member can use it for their own needs. Convert raw film footage to digital video tape that can be edited many different ways to accentuate each individual’s career needs.

Creative Take Charge Action

One reel creative just shot random scenes of sex, violence, laughter – anything that made it seem intense, and they threw it together. It was so simple, so smart to take charge and do something.

Why not take energy that comes from hopes and dreams -- and determination -- and make something specific happen?”

No project, no matter how great, can meet the needs of every participant. Each person has unique needs for his or her reel. The challenge is to get everyone involved and meet their self-centered needs. By planning and working together, a number of needs can be met on one project.

No shoot is simple. When you start the work of shooting, you have to get permits -- and– dealing with bureaucracy isn't always simple. Here's where working collaboratively with a nonprofit group or a student film crew can be beneficial!

Shoot guerrilla style! Get creative -- bring a big boom box and ask for donations from the crowd that gathers! What better way to get people to ignore you than ask them for money. And the more visible we were, the more people wanted to ignore us.

Don’t let anybody tell you can’'t do anything! I just go for it and do it.

Growing the Group

Start recruiting on Craig’s List and, as well as word of mouth in your network of coworkers and friends. Follow up with specific ads for producers, set designers, crews with equipment, foley and ADR artists. “ <> Offer to help an actor make a reel for free and actors will jump on it —-- but not as many crew members. Each person in the group has their own network that can participate in these projects as well.

“Attract directors and directors of photography who are at the top of their game to ensure high production value. And build a community -- spread the idea of how people can collaborate with one another on productive projects.

These ultra short clips are not for distribution –-- that reduces the need for many release forms and permissions. Have all participates sign an agreement that they are not to be distributed because of unions and so forth.

Local arts groups could support this kind of collaborative self-help project by providing seed money for rentals of professional equipment.

Equipment rental companies could sponsor the project to get their "between job" clients together with budding professionals.

A grant to help build a strong creative base would be great. Expenses such as equipment rental, permits and a certificate of insurance add up.”

Scope of Creative Work

It’s possible to put a very small but powerful film together and this small project is great practice for getting across what you want in a short time. All the participants learn a lot about how to get their point across in a short amount of time on an even shorter budget. And that's an important skill to develop in today's changing movie and filmmaking industry.

Professional production values make the project look great and it is a great way to market creative talent.”


Even casting issues involved in selecting a scene and working with fellow professionals on the team take actors light years beyond casual career management.

“The project focus forces actors to figure out exactly what they want to do with their career. What each actor wants his/her reel to be. What they are capable of and what they want to do. How to present themselves to the entertainment world.

Casting directors run into a lot of people who don’'t know what they want to do. Here they work very hard on focus vs. coming to a random audition with a white wall and paper in hand.”

Just for actors...NOT!

For actors, these 1-minute reel scenes force them to pinpoint exactly what pathway they want to take. “

They can put a stop to waiting and waiting and waiting for someone else to declare that they'’re good enough. “

Actors as Marketers, Managers and Agents for Themselves

Today’s technology is more accessible and less expensive — actors must make a shift beyond presenting their acting skills for someone and hoping they fit into someone else’s dream. Now they can put their own dreams and ideal roles into their own product. Nothing can hold actors back anymore!”

Directors Benefit from Versatility Opportunity

Directors get great practice with the ultra-short format –-- especially those who want to branch out of their current genre.

One director might want to break out of comedy into horror. In one minute a director can showcase his/her ability to immediately bring the viewer into suspense and show how they can direct every one of their actors.

Directors can sink their teeth into a real project, but without investing all their money into a longer short. Directors can refine their style and branch out with other genres without taking up too much of their time or money. There’'s a lot to be learned about creative control in a short timeframe.

Get the Team Together for Events

You can use the event platform to organize your meetings, promote your shoots and build your mailing lists for each project. The basic service is free -- and there are advanced features available to help you grow your community.

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