Griffin Puatu is a professional actor who has worked on animation, video games, motion capture, anime dubbing, commercials and more. He answers key questions that voice actors have asked about creating an awesome demo reel.
What’s in this Article?
How Should Voice Actors Make Their Demo Reels?
Obsessive research and a whole lot of trial and error.
When I first started out, I wanted to learn everything I could from the great voice actors, both all-time and current. So I poured hours and hours into listening to every interview, every character and voice compilation, and of course, every demo reel I could find.
I wanted to pick apart the patterns that made a great demo, as well as a great performance. At first, a lot of it was awkward impersonation. You want to try and embody what the other actor is doing, feel how it feels, compare it to how they did it, and then break it apart.
As for the audio side of things, I did all I could to learn how to do it myself. From recording clean vocals, EQ and compression, mixing, mastering, etc. The internet is a free library of learning resources, so I poured through hours of video and textual content to learn the craft.
Where Should You Collect Resources For a Demo Reel?
For the lines, I write the scripts myself. I do the same thing if I'm producing a demo for someone else. My philosophy is you have to tailor each demo to each individual. You want them to connect to the text in a sincere and personal way.
The problem with using lines from real TV shows or games, or from auditions you did, is that someone else already got that role. It's a bit odd hearing someone else reading lines for a character when I know who actually plays that character. I can't help but think of that other actor when I should be focused on you.
Sound effects is a mix of recording my own foley, and sampling from royalty free and open source sound effects and music. YouTube has an entire free library of sounds and music to use for creators, which is very useful.
Should you produce the reel yourself, or should you commission a professional to produce your reel?
The important questions are, "What can you do/What are you willing to do?" and "How well do you know yourself?"
If you know how to record clean vocals, edit audio, write characters and scenes, then do it yourself. If you don't know how, but don't have the money to spend on a "professional" demo producer, does that stop you?
If you're willing to put in the hours and the work, you can learn it yourself. It won't be easy, and your first couple of attempts at demos won't be masterpieces. My first few demos were terrible looking back. But they were learning experiences, and they served their purpose at the time for where I was at in my career.
As for knowing yourself, if you're pretty well-conscious of your strengths and weaknesses as an actor, as well as a human being, you've got an awareness and an edge that will set you apart. If you decide to work with a producer on you reel, you'll walk into the room knowing exactly what you want and how to tailor you demo. Or you'll know what to do to be able to make your own.
As a rule of thumb, if you're going to get someone else to produce your demo for you, make sure they ask those questions of you: What your strengths/weaknesses are, what you want to focus on, what you want to feature in your demo, and what you want your demo tailored for (video games, commercials, animation, etc.).
What’s the best way to promote your demo reel?
Promote and market yourself in a way that's honest, concise, and friendly. Those are my 3 golden rules. Generally speaking, the more accessible your demo is, the better. Anyone can watch a YouTube video, SoundCloud and Google Drive also work. If you have a website, put it on the front page. If you have a Twitter, pin your demo to the top. It needs to be the first thing a casting director sees. If you make them jump through hoops to find and listen to your demo, you've greatly lessened your chances.
How much should you spend on a demo reel to make sure that it’s high quality?
This industry is an investment of your time and money. Ask yourself, which one do you have more to spend? Likely, you have more time on your hands than money, especially when you're first starting out. So invest it. Research current demos on the market from the top voice actors, and find out not just who made them, but how they were made. Listen for patterns, commonalities and similarities of writing style, genres, utilization of sound effects, etc. You might learn a lot about writing and producing that way. It's how I did. If you're going to spend money, make sure you've put in the time into researching demo producers. When you make inquiries, make sure they're asking the right questions of you, not just wowing you with their mixing skills or who they've produced for. Make sure they ask about you, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how best you want to market yourself to studios, agents and casting directors.
How often should you update your demo reel?
Try and get to a place where you don't have to update it for a while. Your reel is a showcase, once you've got a reel that properly does so for your range, skill and niche, you're good. You should always be studying current trends, whether it's video games, cartoons, anime or commercials. You should know what the popular style and genres are, and make sure your demo reflects those as best you can. Only when you see trends changing is when you should update your demo.
About the Contributor