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I Made a Demo Reel, Now What Happens?


Where to Send your Demo Reel & How it Will be Evaluated

Part 2 of the Demo Reel Series written by Brian Clapp, Former News Director & Co-Founder of SportsTVJobs.com

When a new Head Coach gets hired in the NFL, one of the first things they do is fire all of the Assistant Coaches and start building their coaching staff. The reasoning is simple. As Head Coach you want to surround yourself with people you trust or people you can train to do things ‘your way.’ A new guy in power doesn’t want someone linked to their predecessor who has a different style or different loyalties.

It’s not nearly as dramatic, but the same thing is often true in Television. If a new Station Manager or News Director gets hired they generally want to bring in at least one new face for their broadcast team. Every News Director knows their success is dependent on the on-air talents’ ability to connect with the audience. Even if the content is great, if the audience doesn’t like the person on TV they won’t tune in. There are many ways to find jobs on-air, but stations that just hired a new News Director or Station Manager often present an opportunity. You can find this out by visiting industry blogs and trade websites, LinkedIn updates and just good old-fashioned networking.

The Processaaron rodgers packers qb ted thompson general manager

When I was first named News Director I was always on the lookout for new talent.  I’d get about 7-10 Demo Reels per week and would spend an hour every Wednesday morning watching them. I wanted to make my mark by hiring someone great that would be linked to me, just like Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is linked to General Manager Ted Thompson.

The Packers drafted Rodgers while Packers legend Brett Favre was still near the peak of his career. Why would they do that? Because Thompson had just been hired as General Manager and he wanted to start developing his guy. If Thompson had not have taken a risk with Rodgers, he wouldn’t have had a legacy to call his own.  Same thing happens in Television.

My process wouldn’t exactly make NASA envious, it was pretty simple. I would pile up the DVDs, kick back in my less-than-comfortable chair and ‘get to work’. After watching a tape I had three choices:

  • Quick trip to the ‘No’ pile 
  • A slightly longer trip to the ‘maybe worth a shot if there is a future opening’ or,
  • ‘Let’s call their agent’ and learn a little more


What are News Directors looking for?

 
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First impression. Let’s not kid ourselves. Looks are important, but it’s not as simple as being the most handsome guy or the prettiest girl. There is a ‘TV look’ and an overall presence. TV talent has to fill up the screen with confidence and charisma. If someone is timid on their Demo Reel, no audience will buy into them. But please do not misinterpret presence as being cocky, cocky gets a quick trip to the “no” pile. Nobody watching wants to feel like the on-air talent is looking down their nose at them.

How will you relate to my audience? This great country of ours is a melting pot of people and cultures and it was my job to know what type or person would work with my audience. On the East Coast some intensity and passion goes a long way, on the West Coast things are a little slower and laid back. In the South you better know College Football and NASCAR and in the North if you don’t know hockey then don’t even bother applying.

Experience. I was working in the 13th largest TV market; I couldn’t hire someone fresh out of college without some real experience. If I was News Director at a smaller local station, a fresh face is exactly what I would have wanted. On every Demo Reel I’d be looking for proof of what this person could do comfortably. Have they ever done a “live shot”? Have they done a one-on-one interview with anyone important? I needed to know that they could handle the pressure of the moment and not just a staged performance. Nobody gets nervous interviewing their friend, or faking a live report.

If someone landed in the ‘let’s call the agent’ pile I’d spend some time digging for more information. Before I presented a possible hire to my boss, I had to be darn sure that the person was also a fit with the newsroom staff and culture. Not every Sportscaster or Reporter has an agent. If they didn’t, I would just call them directly. If they passed that test I’d make a pitch to my boss and see where it took us.

When your tape lands on a Station Manager or News Director’s desk, it comes down to whether you will resonate with their audience and whether you will fit in well with the culture. And don’t worry, even if you don’t make the "Let’s call the agent" pile, your tape still might get passed on to another friend in the business who has a better match. The TV world is a small one, and if you are good, you will be found.

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For more ideas on how to make your demo reel and where to send it read Part 1 of the SportsTVJobs.com Demo Reel Series