Voice Acting Demo Reels - How and When To Get One
Having a great demo reel seems to be this great mark of a voice actor. In today’s video we’re gonna talk about what they are, how to get them, what to use them for, and how to make a great sandwich. Okay everything but the last one.
For more great tips on how to be a voice actor don’t forget to hit the Like and Subscribe button below. And this the bell button if you wanna get notified every time I post a new video on this topic, every week. Hey, everyone, I am Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I’ve had my voice in thousands of videos, cartoons, video games, anime, commercials, all that stuff. And I’ve got probably 20 different demo reels. And I am not done updating or making them. In this video we’re gonna talk about three things you need to know about demos. What they are. When you need one. And how to get one.
First, let’s talk about what a demo is and what it’s purpose is for you in your career. The way I see it personally, a demo has one major function and that is to show your ranger. To many casting directors, directors, and producers a single audition may be enough to hire you for the gig. They hear you read their script and they hire you. But in many cases they’re also gonna wonder, “Well what else can this person do?” And they’re gonna wanna look at your demo reels to find out. This helps particularly in situations where they may need you to do more than one voice. So this’ll work well for animation and games. They’re gonna wanna know, “Okay, I had him audition for this character, but what else can they do? Can I fit them into multiple roles and save some money in my project?”
In situations where a client may not have a script ready for you to audition yet, they may be just looking for a certain style and they’ll start looking through demos and be like, “Okay, yeah, yeah. That right there, that’s exactly what I want. Bring that person in.” There have been many times in a session where I’ve been hired without an audition and they say, “Okay well we really like your spot on your demo where you did Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Take that style and apply it to our project.”
The last thing that you definitely need a demo for is when you’re trying to hook an agent. We’re gonna go into finding an agent in a different video, but you’re gonna need something to show to them when it’s time to approach an agent and say, “Hey, will you represent me?” Why do you think you need a demo? Post it in the comments.
Part two, do I really need a demo? I’m gonna be completely honest with you. If you’re just starting out and you’re looking at these videos and you haven’t done anything yet, I’m gonna say no, you do not need a demo. You are not ready for a demo. And I say this to protect you. Demo production can be a … I don’t wanna use the word predatory, but there are a lot of people looking to make a buck. And they look at someone who is just starting in voice over, doesn’t know what they’re doing, and are like, “Oh yeah. I’ll make you a demo. No problem.” So what happens is you, having no experience, go ahead and make a demo. You drop 1000, you drop 2000, $3000 on a demo and then all of a sudden in six months your skills have improved so much that you listen to that demo and you go, “Wow, that person sucks,” and you need to update your demo again. And there you go for another $2000.
So, if you’re just starting out, it makes more sense to just try to audition for some stuff. Even after you’ve been doing it for awhile, after I did it for awhile I didn’t get professional demos made right away.
What I did is I cobbled together spots that I had already done. I asked producers, I was like, “Hey you remember we did that thing a little while ago? Will you send me a finalized copy that I can use in my reel?” And most of the time they’re like, “Oh yeah, sure.” This is how a lot of on camera actors made their reels … make their reels every single day. So it’s not foreign to producer to be like, “Hey, can I have that spot for my demo reel?” And that’s the way that you should be taking care of your demo reels when you first start out.
But how do I get an agent without a demo? Well in a case where you don’t have a demo and you’re not ready for a demo, you’re probably also not ready for an agent. Agents are looking for people with established careers. I know there’s that myth out there where some like big old Hollywood agent is like, “Kid, I heard your voice from a mile away and I’m gonna make you a star.” That’s like the 1%. That doesn’t really happen. They’re looking for somebody that can bring business. And if you aren’t ready to bring business because you haven’t really started yet, a demo’s not really gonna help you in this situation. You’re gonna know when you need a professionally made demo reel, especially if you’ve been cobbling together your old work. At some point you’re gonna listen to that old stuff and you’re gonna be like, “Hmm. This doesn’t sound like what I can do and I know I can do much better. And I’m at now a professional level where a professional demo is gonna benefit me.” Your tastes will evolve and you will know when it’s time for a demo. I guarantee it’s not before you’ve booked your first thing.
Tip three, how to get a demo reel. Now we’re not gonna go into exactly how to do this, and I mentioned it before, but a good idea is to cobble together some of your past work. That’s the easiest and simplest way to get a demo. You want to make sure that you are fitting your demos into one specific category. Don’t throw a Darth Vader impression into the middle of your commercial reel, which I have heard. You need to make sure you’re sticking to your genres. Have a commercial reel. Have a promo reel. A video game. Sometimes people lump video games and animation together and call it a character reel. That kinda thing. So when you’re cobbling it together make sure you’re following the genres of voice over.
Once you’ve outgrown your self-made demo, your tastes, like I said, will let you know that it’s time to go for an update. You can either do a demo refresh, which is taking more interesting, more recent spots where it showcases your talent a little bit more and stuffing them in between spots on old demos. Or you can say, “You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s go to a professional demo studio and figure this out.”
One option that I hesitate to recommend because I’ve seen people burned by it is what I call the crash course. There are coaches out there that are looking for people to start from scratch and they’ll say, “Okay. If you wanna try voice over here’s what we’ll do. We’ll do six weeks of coaching or two months of coaching, or whatever, and then I’ll produce a demo for you. It’ll cost X amount of dollars.” So you’re paying someone to coach you for repeated sessions and then you’re gonna pay somebody to produce the demo at the end. This works for some people. It doesn’t work for others. I would advise you to look up the people that are offering you this sort of package. Look to see who their clients were in the past. Look to see if those clients ended up being successful in voice over. Don’t feel ashamed to write that person and say, “Hey, you need to give me a referral of someone you’ve done this for before.” If they’re not willing to give you a referral of someone they’ve done that work for before, I wouldn’t work with them because it means that they probably don’t have any success stories.
Lastly of course is just to go and find a reputable industry demo producer. I am going to be linking a couple of them that I have worked with in the past in the description below. You’re welcome to check any of them out. I can vouch for them 100%. They have done my demos. They have done demos all over the industry. But, again, you are probably not ready to drop this amount of money on a demo if you are just starting in voice over. A $2000 demo will not book you a $2000 job if you’re still working with a $10 set of pipes. I’m sure you’ve heard the idea of putting a $100 saddle on a $10 horse, that’s the way it goes with demos. So make sure you’re ready before you contact the people that I’m posting in the video description below.
So that’s it. Well that’s not really it when it comes to demos and demo productions. It’s just the basic questions that I get asked all the time about making demos, how to get them, what they do, and what should be in them. In a later video we may go into something more in depth on to like what a demo should consist of, what spots you should include in a demo, and all that kinda thing. But these are the basics. The bottom line is always be careful with your time, be careful with your talent, and listen, listen, listen. Go out there and listen to some other people’s demos and see if you can hear what they’re doing that maybe you’re not doing. So what category of demo do you think you’re gonna produce first? And why? Post it in the comments below.
That’s a wrap everyone. I encourage you to follow me on social media for behind-the-scenes tips and links and other videos that I do all over the place on Facebook and Twitter. And also for notifications on when I post something new on my YouTube channel. If this video helped you, let me know by giving me a Like, a Subscribe, and a comment below. And I will see you in the booth.