Killer dance and performance showreels: how to stand out

Killer dance and performance showreels: how to stand out

Showreel for Kim Farnum, dancer with Charlotte Desorgher’s Company of Dreams, in ‘Scheherezade’ (2018).

Kim Farnum is a dancer from the Company of Dreams troupe, who performed in their tour of their Oriental dance show, ‘Scheherezade’ that finished in November last year.

She’s one of the ‘Company’ dancers rather than one of the principals and they’re really very special and unique. They’re all professional-level dancers, but as well as dancing in the troupe, they all hold down other jobs or another career to survive financially. Their dedication really stands out, as dancing at that level requires so much commitment, energy, time (and money).

I was particularly struck by Kim’s quietly confident demeanour and her obvious skill both as a performer and a dancer. In Scheherezade, she plays a variety of roles: a village girl, a ghoul, an assassin and a powerful siren of the seas and she’s mesmerising to watch.

In this particular case, I’ve made a reel from Kim’s performance from just one show as a keepsake, but essentially a showreel is a short video that shows examples of an performer’s skills and style.

Why have a showreel?

They say a photo tells a thousand words, but a video tells eighteen million… Nothing can compete with video for showing your personality and how you dance and act. I can’t think of a better way to show people what you can do without being physically present in the room, and it’s often a requirement for auditions, so casting and photography directors can narrow down their selection to those they feel are most suitable.

What makes a killer showreel?

  • Keep it short

If you ask around, you’ll get different answers from everyone on how long a showreel should be, but nearly all them agree that ‘less is more’, and that it’s about quality, not quantity.

You’ve probably heard that famous line, “You have just 7 seconds to make a good first impression.” from Roger Ailes, a media strategist and I’d pretty much agree with him. Keep it short, and only show your very best work. Opinion varies on what the ideal length, ranging from  2 and 5 minutes, and others say your reel should be no longer than 60 and 90 seconds.

Remember that If you want to use your showreel on Instagram, it will need to be 60 seconds long or less.

A longer reel is sometimes a requirement for some dance companies or auditions. I’d suggest a 2 minute video for YouTube or Vimeo if viewers want to see more or if you need it, but to have a cut-down 60 second version that you can use for social media for greater impact.

  • Show off what you can do

Keep it varied and show your versatility – dancing solo, with a partner, group work,  as well as different moves – lifts, turns, pirouettes. Make sure any complex moves you can do, that set you apart from your competition, are highlighted and shown off in your reel.

Don’t underestimate the power of facial expressions and showing the character of the role. And if you usually perform in a group with others, make sure you show a variety of roles and styles.

  • Show the right stuff

If you want a particular type of role, make sure you include routines that show that you have the skill and the style for it – so people can see that you’d be right immediately.

  • Your contact details

It sounds obvious, but it can get overlooked… don’t forget to include up-to-date contact details: your name, email, social media handles and your website address, if you have one.

  • High quality video clips

Blurred clips taken by your mates on their smartphones generally look awful, amateurish and are unlikely to be good enough. I’ve seen some that are so shaky, and follow the dancer as they move, they make me feel quite dizzy and almost sick. A dance company or other employer is more likely to take you seriously if your reel looks like it was put together professionally.

Good quality video editing is crucial. You also want the focus to be on you – the last thing you want is for the viewer to be distracted by different colour casts or a cut that doesn’t work.

  • Add music… the right music

The music needs to be good, and also suit your style of dancing, and you may need to pay for the rights to use the music, unless you opt to use royalty-free music. If you do a lot of dramatic moves, lifts and turns, and fight scenes, make sure the music works, otherwise the music will just distract the viewer.

If you want your own music, poetry, songs or speech included, just bear in mind that cameras and phones aren’t designed to give high quality results and that dedicated sound recording equipment and editing may be needed to get good sound.

  • Hire a professional videographer

As a dedicated videographer, I can take a variety of shots at different angles, that show your skill, character and personal style, and ensure all the clips work well together, and ‘flow’, to give a professional look to your reel.

At the editing stage I can also add your own footage if required, and add music, titles, captions and subtitles as needed.

Good quality video doesn’t come cheap 

Good quality video, lighting, sound and editing requires expensive equipment and specialised skills, as well as having adequate insurance and DBS certification if working with young children, so not surprisingly it’s not cheap to produce quality video. Also bear in mind that a large part of the work in creating the reel is done after the shoot, in post-production.

How much does it cost?

As a guide, my basic fee for a three-day video job for those working in the creative or performance arts is £950. But there are ways to get the price down so it’s much cheaper, by splitting the cost across a group of you.

Don’t forget you may need to factor in additional costs for:

  • studio/location hire
  • make-up and hair
  • music licences
  • travel expenses
  • special requirements (non-standard lighting, wind or smoke machines or other specialist equipment)

What does that cover?

Before the shoot:

An initial meeting with you, your group (or school/academy/company representative) for you to tell me what you need, and to agree what format/length the reels will be, the location, music and sound requirements, and the structure and scheduling of the shoot.

I’ll arrange to visit the location to check what equipment will be needed,  source and hire studios or locations as required, or liaise with theatres if filming a show, and check costs for hiring any specialist equipment (if needed)

I’ll then provide you with a shoot plan, schedule and quote as well as my terms and conditions for approval. A 50% deposit, paid in advance, is required to confirm the booking.

The day of the shoot:

I’ll set up lighting, camera equipment and sound, and carry out test shots before the shoot. If you are doing several different choreographies, you’ll need to factor in costume and make-up changes as well as factoring in lighting and sound adjustments for each routine.

If the shoot is being split across a group, each person will be allocated a time slot and this will normally be around 2 hours each to allow time to tailor the shoot for your choreography. 

After the shoot:

I’ll edit the video(s) and provide you a link to view this for approval and for any corrections to be made. If changes are needed, then depending on what these are, these may incur additional costs. On payment of the final balance, your video(s) will be sent to you (usually via WeTransfer).

It doesn’t have to cost the earth…

I offer packages for groups of dancers or other performers, dance or drama schools and academies, who can be filmed together on the same day in the same studio or other agreed location. For example, four dancers being filmed on the same day and at the same location, could expect to pay around £250 each for their 2-minute showreels.

If you have your heart set on a particular style of location, I can work with your suggestions or source suitable locations for you subject to your budget.

If you need something a little different, or have specific requirements, please feel free to get get in touch for a tailor-made quote.

Perhaps you’re a group with an creative idea combining a story, spoken word, mime or dance or choreography that you’d like filmed.

Or maybe your school or academy are putting on a show and they or the performers would like to have something to remember it by? The cost can be shared across all the performers as a very affordable way to get a professional quality video of your event.

Or you’re performing in a show and really want to have video that focuses on your part, to use for your showreel to get more work. For groups, I can produce split showreel from the footage so each of you gets your own showreel from the show.

If you have your own video footage that you want to include or use for your showreel, I can incorporate this with video from the shoot for an additional fee, or provide video editing as a separate service.

As it’s New Year, I’m also offering a 10% discount for any video jobs that are booked in January 2019.

If you’d like more information, or get a quote, please get in touch by email, SMS or phone call.

heather@lightninginabottle.co.uk / +44 (0)7963 506636

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