I have been a video editor in some professional manner or another since 2004. I am best buddies with Final Cut Pro, but I have spent my fair share of time hanging out with Avid and Premier. However, in the past seven years, I never had to create an editors demo reel. Most jobs were landed due to reputation and a few others due to an ability to interview well (I am convinced they never looked at the clips I gave them).
Recently due to applying to a few jobs where my resume and online presence were my only introduction to the clients, I knew I needed to get a reel together. Thats when I realized I had no idea what one should include in a professional editors demo reel.
Sure, in college we had covered what an animation or digital effects reel should include; cool shots set to catchy music (if you want to be unique, no techno please). But what does an employer look for in a film editors reel?
Even when I was a Creative Director and had to hire editors, I had the good fortune to have a couple of extremely talented intern editors on hand so it was just a matter of saying, 'Hey, you're salary now. Get that car spot done. Yeah, the script runs 45 seconds, but you have to make it 30 seconds. Now sprinkle some fairy dust on the Mac and make it happen.'
And they always did. (Thanks Dana, Delbert and Patrick!)
Anyway, I had no idea what the 'professional' paradigm for a reel was. So I did what I always do when I need to learn something I should have learned ages ago. I hit the interwebs.
I will save you hours of frustrated searching. To keep it short, every answer I read was a variation of the following three.
1. Music--Set a bunch of clips to music. Techno works well (seriously, it made a little sad to read that more than once). Show you can edit to a beat.
2. Clips of your work---Put together a series of short sequences from your various works that showcase your ability. Put your best work near the front because its likely that within the first 15 seconds they have either written your name down or ejected and trashed the dvd.
3. Reputation/resume---"What reel? People should just like, hear your name and think, 'Man, I want that guy to edit my documentary on the production of fair trade coffee."
If you don't have a coast to coast style reputation built up yet then make sure you're resume looks as impressive as you want people to believe you are.
The only agreement across the board was that your reel should never, ever be more than 5 minutes long. Also, make sure to put your contact information at the beginning, end and cover of your reel. Apparently a lot of people do not put their name on their work, which I was sure was mentioned in the third grade as a good idea.
To me, style number 1 makes no sense unless you want to edit music videos.
Number 3 doesn't work for me because none of the films I have edited are recognizable film titles and the thought someone would hire me just because I have X number of credits without watching them worries me. I have known too many unskilled people that had a good looking resume to think that in a professional world an employer will see I've edited 8 features and hire me sight unseen.
In my mind an editor is a good storyteller and has an innate sense of pacing. He can watch a scene and know intrinsically that shot number 3 lasts 6 frames to long. In my mind, the only way to display this is to have a series of clips showing off different editing styles and your basic skill set. So in the end, I chose option number 2.
Of the projects I have worked on, I was surprised my favorite editing was for a 48 hour film project (an entire movie from concept to completion in two days). Also, the two features I wrote, directed and edited myself I didn't feel worked well on a reel which made me rethink how I edited them to begin with. I did not include any of the commercials I have edited because, well, frankly I estimate I have edited almost 1000 of them and don't want to edit any more unless I am short to cover the mortgage....so maybe I should have tacked one on there.
Without further ado, here is my reel.
Darrell Claunch Editing Demo Reel from Knights End on Vimeo.