by: Maureen Browne
Having a good reel is crucial to your hosting career. Good headshots and a strong resume will only get you so far. It’s your reel that Casting Directors use to determine whether or not they want to bring you in for an audition, or even better, a “general” meeting. I’ve cast several shows where I never held auditions – I only looked thru hosting reels to determine who I would then call in as a “callback.” Your reel is your calling card. If you don’t have one, make one!
Casting Directors have so much on their plates that they’ll determine in the first 15 – 30 seconds whether you’re right for their project or network. Yes, seconds! As a former Casting Executive at E! Entertainment Television and the Style Network, we’d receive hundreds of submissions, both in the mail and online. We’d devote time each week, ideally each day, to viewing the reels that came in so we could find the next Brooke Burke or Greg Kinnear. Thankfully we found Joel McHale.
Make sure you don’t waste these precious seconds with long montages. What’s a montage? Where you’re doing all kinds of fun stuff to show a casting director you’re daring or kooky. Don’t start out by saying your name five times either. We got it the first time. Put your strongest segments up front. Start with a good standup or two. Make sure it’s current footage of you, and we can easily identify who you are on your own reel. Are you the girl on the left or the right? If you’re the girl on the left, then don’t let the girl on the right do the talking on your reel.
Your reel should highlight your personality. It’ll make you different than the other hosts. And remember, it’s hosting and not acting. So be yourself.
Your reel doesn’t have to be long. Focus on quality rather than quantity. I’d rather see a good 1:30 reel than a mediocre 2:30 – 3:00 minute reel. A short reel may just be enough for me to call you in versus seeing too much and deciding against calling you in. Leave them wanting more!
I like interviews on a reel. You, your face, and even your body need to be in the shot so don’t just show a hand holding a microphone or the back of your head. Truth be told, most of us don’t really care about celebrities on your reel. Most people ask celebrities the same questions and the celebs have standard responses for them. There’s nothing too spontaneous about that. You can be even more creative doing a “man on the street” piece and you can show us your improv skills at the same time.
If you decide that you want to shoot your own footage, make sure the camera and sound quality are good and there’s proper lighting. And be creative. Think outside the box. Reels shot on Venice Beach, Hollywood Blvd. and in Times Square – they’ve been done hundreds of times. Show us something we haven’t seen before. Make it interesting so it sticks in our mind. But most importantly, show us what you’re passionate about so we can see who you really are as a host.
Hopefully you’ve found these tips helpful.