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Reels and Tapes

How To Make An Engaging Demo Reel


If you ask 10 different editors how long a demo reel should be you’ll get 10 different opinions… but there’s one sentiment that’s pretty consistent, KEEP IT SHORT.  A demo reel should highlight YOUR BEST work,and thus should probably not be a sampling of everything you’ve ever done.  My personal opinion is 60 to 90 seconds for most cases, and I can think of few reasons why you’d ever have a reel over 2 minutes.  One of the main tasks of a video editor is to be able to tell a clear story in a condensed amount of time.  Underscore this ability by showing off your body of work with brevity.


When applying for a position, ensure that your demo reel is targeted specifically to an individual skill or job function (i.e. Director, Editor, Director of Photography, Animator).  This may mean that you will have to create multiple reels, but you will benefit in appearing more focused.  Because those hiring have a very limited amount of time to review reels, they will likely only want to see examples that pertain to the position they are hiring for.


Demo reels seem to be divided into two types – the rapid fire “collage” type reel that shows quick shots cut to music or the segmented “scene” based reel that shows short samples of clips cut together in some context (for example, several 20 second scenes with multiple shots each). Which is “right” for you?  I’d say it depends.  Typically, the collage type reels work best with spot / commercial / short-form work while the scene reels might be most appropriate to spotlight narrative / documentary / journalism based projects. As a general rule of thumb, for whatever style reel you make, ensure that the clips are “digestible” by the viewer.  Can they take in what’s happening in the footage?  Does it appropriately highlight your abilities?  Whatever you do, pick a style and go with it throughout your reel!


Although the old saying “save the best for last” may be true in some situations, for demo reels this is simply not the case.  Make sure you lead with your strongest work…you only have a few seconds to grab the viewer’s attention.


Whatever footage you show in your reel, make sure that you had some part in it.  If you don’t have the body of work that the job requires, don’t apply for it! Instead, keep working on your craft so you’ll have a better shot for future opportunities.  Dishonesty may not only cost you one job, but in small production markets (where word travels fast) it could mean the end of a career.  Be smart!


Include your name and contact information on a quick slate at the start and end of your reel.  With all the other details and creative decisions being put into a reel this can easily be overlooked.  Stick to your basic contact info:  name, email, and website.  Your reel’s worthless if the viewer doesn’t have a way to contact you.


One way to convey the specific roles you had in your showcased clips is to include short descriptions in your reel.  For instance, if you’re an animator who did the modeling for a particular scene, include that over the video footage (i.e. “Lead Modeler”).  This will not only keep you honest about your involvement but it will give the viewer a better sense of your abilities.  You can also include the software or tools that you used (i.e. “Final Cut Pro Editor” or “Steadicam operator”) I’ve seen these designations as lower thirds or as small text in the corner of the frame.


If you’ve got an impressive client list, use it to your advantage! Major corporations, popular films, or network television programs are impressive and can be notated in your reel.  Just like highlighting your technical skills, this can be done by putting the name of the project over the reel footage in a lower third or corner of the frame.


You may want to use your demo reel to show off your work process. I’ve seen many colorists show “before” and “after” shots of their work and to great effect.  In such instances, do a split-screen or quick shot sequence to show the different “stages”.  This is also an effective technique for compositors and broadcast designers.


Not only is the unauthorized use of copyrighted music illegal, it will likely turn off potential employers.  As tempting as it might be, don’t risk getting your reel quickly tossed aside due to this technicality.  Instead, use an energetic royalty-free music track to make your reel lively and spirited ( opens in a new windowPremiumbeat has 1,000s of high-quality royalty-free tracks).


Repeating footage in your demo reel may lead others to believe you have a very limited body of work.  Instead, err on the side of brevity by leaving the viewer wanting to see more.


Check spelling, check for technical errors (glitches, noise, etc.), check for audio mistakes, and then check again!  Having an error-free reel shows attention to detail and carefulness.  Check, double-check and then have a colleague check!


Your demo reel should be online and easily accessible. Upload it to a video sharing site like Vimeo (a process made even easier with the built-in uploading tools in Final Cut Pro X).  Hosting on Vimeo insures that it’s viewable by the overwhelming majority of computer users, whereas sending a specific file type (WMV, MOV, etc.) may prove troublesome if the viewer doesn’t have the right software installed on their computer.  You want to ensure that it is quick and easy for a potential employer to view it.  When someone is hiring in a hurry, the ability to quickly shoot over a link may mean a better chance at getting a job.  Also, by putting your reel on Vimeo you can quickly swap it out when you need to make modifications or additions.


Aside from marking the beginning and end slate of the video, be sure to include your contact information on the physical DVD or website (Vimeo) as well.  You want to make it as easy as possible for the hirer to contact you!


One of the benefits of keeping your reel(s) online is the ability to keep it “active”.  Make sure you revisit it every so often… especially after you’ve completed a round of new jobs.  Your demo reel should showcase your best and recent work. Also, it’s important to make sure that all of the source files are in a place that you can easily get to them.  It shouldn’t have to be a daunting task every time you want to update your reel.  When updating, you can start by swapping weaker shots for newer and better ones.


Use your reel to showcase you. Are you a little edgy?  Got a wild sense of humor?  Don’t be afraid to put a bit of you into your body of work… it will give employers a better sense of who you are as a person.  When putting together your demo reel, use your best judgment in how you want it to highlight your personality.


Before showing it to a potential employer, give your reel a few rounds of critique with your acquaintances. What does your reel say about you?  Would they hire you based on what they saw?  Where are areas for improvement/what’s missing?  Now, take their feedback and improve!

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Whether face-to-face or over the telephone, a real-time exit interview done by a member of the college relations team is an excellent way to gather feedback on the student’s experience and to assess their interest in coming back. Having the students fill out an exit survey and bring it to the interview gives some structure to the conversation.


Students work very hard at completing their work and are generally proud of their accomplishments. Setting up a venue for them to do presentations (formal presentations or in a fair-type setting such as an expo) not only allows them to demonstrate their achievements, but also showcases the internship program to all employees.


Conducting focus groups and feedback surveys with these representatives of your target group is a great way to see your organization as the students see it. Focus groups in particular can yield information about what your competitors are doing that students find appealing.


Providing students with access to in-house training—both in work-skills-related areas, such as a computer language, and in general skills areas, such as time management—is a tangible way to show students you are interested in their development.

You may also want to consider providing interns with information about nearby community colleges: Many students will be interested in attending during their work term to take care of some electives and/or get a little ahead with the hours they need to graduate. If you have the budget, you may also want to consider paying the tuition for courses they take while working for you, but, as is the case with housing, any assistance you can provide—even if it’s just providing them with information about local schools—will earn you points with students.


One of the greatest advantages to students in having internships is the access they get to accomplished professionals in their field. Consequently, speakers from the executive ranks are very popular with students—it’s a great career development and role modeling experience for interns. Having a CEO speak is especially impressive. Best scenario: Your CEO speaker is personable, willing to answer questions, and willing and able to spend a little informal time with the students after speaking—your interns will be quite impressed.

For you, having your executives speak to interns is another way to “sell” your organization to the interns, and get your executives invested in (and supporting) your program.


New-hire panels are one of the best ways to showcase an organization to interns as a great place to work. These are panels of five or six people who were hired as new grads within the last three years. They act as panelists in a meeting of interns, giving a brief summary of their background and then answering questions from the intern audience. Your interns get insight about your organization from your new hires—people who they perceive are like themselves and who they consequently view as credible sources of information.

In these meetings, I’ve found that the interns consistently bring up the same topics: Why did you choose this employer over others? What was your first year like? How is being a full-time employee here different from being an intern? Do you recommend getting a graduate degree? In the same field, or an M.B.A.? Is it better to go straight to graduate school after the bachelor’s or better to work a while?

It’s also fairly consistent that the new hires will offer other types of advice to your interns, such as how to handle finances those first couple of years out of school. (Their typical advice: Don’t run right out and buy a new car, and, Start contributing the maximum to your savings plan as soon as you are allowed.)

College relations staff should attend these sessions, but should remain unobtrusive, staying in the back of the room so as not to stifle the conversation. By being there, you stay aware of what is on the minds of your target group, and you can answer any detailed questions that may come up, such as those related to benefits.


Although some programs—especially those that are very structured on the university side—make visits by career center staff and faculty a regular practice, most do not. In general, career center staff and faculty members have relatively few opportunities to visit employer work sites to see firsthand the types of experiences that their students are getting. By inviting them to your site, you will build a better working relationship with these groups, which can lead to more student referrals, enhanced campus visibility, and increased flexibility on their parts when your business needs dictate it.


Involve your college recruiting teams—whether they are “volunteers” who participate in college recruiting, staff members dedicated to college recruiting, or some combination of both—in your intern program. They can sponsor social or professional development events, and help to orient the interns to your company culture. In my experience, college team members served as cooks at intern picnics, hosts at speaker events, and drivers for social outings such as ball games.


Having a dedicated manager for your intern program is the best way to ensure that it runs smoothly and stays focused on your criteria for success. Unfortunately, the size and resources available to most internship programs mean that this isn’t always possible. If your program isn’t big enough to warrant a dedicated full-time staff member, an excellent short-term solution is to hire a graduate student (look for a student working toward an advanced HR degree) to be your intern, and put this college relations intern in charge of the daily operation of the internship program. This gives the interns a “go-to” person, and gives you and your staff a break from the many daily tasks involved in running a program of any size. For this to work, you have to plan the program structure in advance (don’t expect your intern to do it), and be very accessible to your college relations intern


Students mention flex-time as one of their most-desired features in a job. (A flexible time schedule during their internship eases their transition to the workplace.)

If you think about how students spend the day on campus (varied schedule each day, with varied activities such as work, class, social time), you can understand that 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday is a bit of an adjustment for them. A flexible schedule can make them feel less chained in by an unchanging routine.

Other work arrangements that have been found successful with students include keeping them on as part-time, remote employees after they go back to school (depending on the type of work they do for you and whether they have a willing manager), and having them come back and work over school breaks for a couple of weeks. These are excellent ways to keep communications open and build a stronger bond.


Pairing a scholarship with your internship is a great way to recruit for your internship program—and this is especially true if you are having difficulty attracting a particular type of student or student with a specific skill set to your program. Attaching a scholarship can increase your pool of candidates with the desired qualifications.


Few employers can afford to provide fully paid housing for interns, but you’ll find that you get a lot of appreciation if you offer any kind of assistance toward housing expenses. If that’s not possible, provide assistance in locating affordable housing: For those relocating to the job site, the prospect of finding affordable, short-term housing can be daunting. Easy availability of affordable housing will make your opportunity more attractive to students, broadening your pool of candidates.

If you can pay for all or some of your interns’ housing, be sure to design (and stick to) a clear policy detailing who is eligible. This will eliminate any perceptions of unequal treatment. In addition, be aware that employer-paid or employer-subsidized housing is considered a taxable benefit. Check with your internal tax department on exceptions to this.

You will also want to consider the issue of relocation, which is separate although related to housing. Many organizations pay some or all of their interns’ relocation expenses to and/or from the job site.


Whether in paper booklet format, or presented as a special section on your website, a handbook serves as a guide for students, answering frequently asked questions and communicating the “rules” in a warm and welcoming way.

A separate intern website serves many of the purposes of the handbook, but has the advantage of being easy to change. You can use your website as a communication tool, with announcements from the college relations staff or even articles of interest written by the interns themselves.


It’s important that everyone “be on the same page,” so to speak. Make this happen by holding an orientation session for managers and mentors as well as a session for students. Orientations ensure that everyone starts with the same expectations and role definitions. This is time well spent—the effort you put into these sessions will pay off throughout the program.


Providing interns with real work is number one to ensuring your program’s success. Interns should be doing work related to their major, that is challenging, that is recognized by the organization as valuable, and that fills the entire work term.

You can guarantee that hiring managers provide real work assignments by checking job descriptions, emphasizing the importance of real work assignments during a manager/mentor orientation sessions, and communicating with interns frequently throughout the work term to determine who they perceive what they are doing.

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Tips for Developing Adaptability

-  Change your thought process

-  Force yourself to take risks

-  Encourage others to be open minded

-  Embrace learning 


Keep moving forwarding and just do stuff. ​
Turn your ideas into action.  ​
The Career Success Center has lots of ​custom ideas for you. ​


You live, eat, work, study with others, ​so they all are a part of your life. ​
They have lots of ideas, experience, and contacts, and ​should be a part of your life design​



Life and the career process ​is not just one or two things-​it is a process.

Turn bumps in the road ​into learning opportunities. ​




Ask lots of questions, ​research your options, ​be active in class, ​follow interesting organizations​ and people​





Learn different ways to look ​at things to get unstuck​





Get into some real work, try stuff, reflect on what works for you and refine your next steps to designing a better life




Narrow your testing options, build some ideas, select some ideas, and plan the quick/cheap/easy prototype

Ask a lot of questions



Create some future Life Sketches; do real brainstorming and think up lots and lots and lots of ideas

More = Better



Consider your views on the world

Reflect on what work is and what it means to you

What dysfunctional thoughts can be reframed?

What's the life challenge/opportunity we want to solve and/or learn more about?


Don't try to change what can't be can REFRAME!

(HINT, you have to work with, not change, gravity)




Take some personal assessments 

Evaluate your current work/play/love/health

Open up meaningful discussions with your family and friends