November 4th, 2014

Whether you want to break into the world of VFX or you’re simply looking for your next role, a great showreel is an essential part of the process. So what do we look for in a candidate’s reel at The Mill? From London to LA, the Talent Managers across our four studios share a breakdown of what makes a great reel, including answering your questions in the comments section and on Twitter.

An artist’s showreel can be the difference between being invited in for an interview or not. It’s your chance to capture viewers and tell your story. The Mill excels at delivering innovative, brave work with a strong focus on storytelling. It’s the story that captivates the audience. Even if a commercial is only a minute long, its story should evoke an emotional response that resonates with the audience and gives them a direct connection to the product.

Storytelling is at the heart of the industry, so you need to reflect that in your work. From the length of a reel to the content, The Mill Talent Team shares their tips on how to craft a reel that effectively communicates your story and gets you noticed.

For more great advice, join our @MillTalent Q&A! Find details on how you can participate at the bottom of this blog.

Tom Knight – Talent Coordinator (LDN) 

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Show your best work first and keep it around 60 to 90 seconds. Grab a viewer’s attention from the beginning and keep them engaged through out with your best work.

Don’t try and show me everything – it doesn’t all have to be perfect, polished work. Show me what you’ve worked hard on and what you want to progress in as people at first glance will concentrate on the negatives e.g. don’t do an amazing model and then show horrible texturing, lighting and rendering etc. Show us your amazing model and create a simple environment and lighting set up for it in order to show off its best attributes.

Start frames and end frames should contain contact info and personal details as well as the software you used. Software symbols are great and look nice.

Clearly identify your responsibilities on each shot and what the project is (personal, professional, university project) – all at bottom or top of the sequence. For group work, identify your personal responsibilities on the project. Some people might assume you are taking credit for it all.

It’s really important to grab the different versions for shots or jobs you have worked on during production. This may be straight after delivery or along the way. This is invaluable for keeping your showreel up to date and of the best quality, and so you can pick and choose the best work. The worst thing that can happen is creating the best piece of work in your career but not getting the material you need for the breakdown!

Think about separate reels e.g. one for generalist skillset and one for animation. You might have a particular leading towards one discipline but you want to become a generalist early in your career. This can be a great tool for introducing people to the diversity of your skillset.

Cat Gulacsy – Talent Manager (NY/CH) 

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Have a strong opening. Your reel represents who you are as an artist, and is an opportunity for you to represent your strengths and to lure your prospective employers. Open with a shot that best showcases your talents and authentically reveals your personality.

Use comprehensive breakdowns. Again, you should represent yourself authentically. Please do not ever share your work without a clear breakdown on what you've contributed to the shot. Address your contribution to each part of your reel. What did you contribute to the shot? Did you track the shot itself, or did you model the hero character?

Giving a clear definition as to what you've done gives your prospective employee an understanding of not only what your capabilities are, but also what you are further capable of as we invest in you as a member of The Mill family.

You're an artist; don't limit yourself to what's in your reel - if not in your cover letter, then in your interview! Your cover letter is an opportunity for us to get to know you outside of your work. List your goals and ambitions as an artist.

In the interview itself, chat to us about your traditional capabilities as an artist. Share with us your portfolio, i.e. paintings, traditional photography, drawings - any kind of visual art you work on outside of the visual effects world is incredibly useful!

Remember, we are here to encourage and support!

Lyndal Heathwood – Talent Manager (LA)

It’s always important to put your best work first, and really sell your skills. Give the viewer an honest picture of what you can do. Really sell your skills at the beginning. People aren’t always bothered to forward on to something that interests them.

Let the viewer see your diversity of skills. For modeling reels, the tendency might be to give your most complex examples, but it’s also important to show that you can approach things in a more simple way.

Topology and wire frames are important to see, this really gives us an understanding of your process. This is also important with UV’s as well.

Keep it fresh and exciting and most importantly up to date. We shouldn’t be looking at the great work you’ve done only to realize it was all 5 years ago.

Don’t always give your most complex examples for modeling reels. It’s also important to show that you can approach things in a more simple way as well. Topology and wire frames are important to see. UV’s as well.

Want to know how to break into the business? Mill Talent will be answering your questions on this blog and on Twitter this week. To ask the Talent Team a question: leave a comment on this blog or tag your questions with @MillTalent.

Find out more about careers at The Mill on our 'Careers' page and follow @MillTalent on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates from our Talent Team.