Revisiting what makes a good reel

Recently, I have been involved in the process of choosing animation interns for our summer animation internship. We have had hundred and hundreds of reels. I wanted to talk about some of the things that make a reel interesting.

1) Lets talk about the most simple – make sure it works well. Believe it or not, many people dont check if it works. If possible have a back up

2) Title and format – Simple is better. white over a black background is all that is necessary. Also, organize the dvd so that I can just hit play and look at the work. I dont need 10 chapters with sub chapters. Make it easy as possible for me to view the work.

3) What to begin with – Basically, you want to grab the attention of the viewer with the best work possible. Don’t save your best stuff for last. It may never get seen. Thats not to say that you should not put good work at the end of a reel. Always start strong and end strong.

4) Same old, Same old - If I see another canned physical test I might go crazy. We see alot of the same thing over and over. Whether its an animation mentor character jumping on some poles, or the same ringling assignement where you have to model yourself and animate a piece of dialogue…. It all starts to blend in. I want to see original ideas. Stories, interesting acting. Remember, its always about the ideas and acting abilites. Polish can be taught. Focus more on coming up with original acting and good ideas. The problem with many animation schools these days is that they seem to be copying each other. We see many different reels that contain similar models. If possible, create your own character designs.

5) Cover letters and reel breakdown. Keep the cover letter simple. Don’t try and write an essay about why you think you should be the one. It will always come down to the work. The cover letter and resume are glanced at. I often find it interesting that students have business cards that say character animator on them. They are really nice and glossy. Sometime, the presentation impresses me, but what I find is that the work on the reel did not have as much put into it as the dvd case and fancy cards. Also, you are a student, not a character animator. Less is more…

In closing, animation has come a long way since I was a student. We have higher standards. The important thing to understand is that good ideas will always win out. Show me an interesting character, not the same damn thing I’ve seen over and over. Be original with your characters, ideas, acting… everything.

-Hope this helps a little.

Andrew