9 Ways to Get Your Resume Reel Into the Small Stack

By Brandon M. Mercer, Region 2 Director and News Director, KTXL

By Brandon M. Mercer, Region 2 Director and News Director, KTXL 

I’m screening the remaining 1,127 resumes reels for two MMJ/reporter openings we have and recently, at EIJ, I spent three mornings coaching reporters on their resume reels. I can’t tell you how frustrated, bored, annoyed, and disappointed I am with so many reels that prospective reporters/MMJs submit as examples of their best work.

Most news directors watch 5-10 seconds of your reel.  If you don’t have what we’re looking for in that time, your link is deleted, and you don’t get a call.

At my station, I’m looking for energy, walk-and-talk motion, demonstrations, and good writing.  At other stations, it might be gravitas, or a specific polished “look,” or it may be investigative pieces that the ND wants to see.

For the EIJ sessions, I came up with a number of tricks for getting news directors’ attention, getting your shot at moving up markets, and getting a shot at doubling your salary. It all starts with what shots you choose for the first 15 seconds.

If you’re a “walk-and-talk” reporter, don’t put ANY shots of yourself just standing there. If you are a reporter, don’t start with anchor shots.  If you’re an anchor, show your skills at the HARD parts of anchoring like breaking news, field anchoring, or a challenging interview, not just reading a VO.  

Most stations don’t pride themselves on a slow-paced newscast, so don’t give them a slow-paced reel. Use fast edits and smart natsound to show you understand pacing.
·        2-second shots
·       Lots of variety
·       Use nats to get attention, just like you do in your stories!
·       Put your best stuff first.  If it’s not a slam dunk clip, save it for later.  If it's not a perfect standup, save it for later on the reel.
·       Use stuff twice.  If it’s a great live shot, use a clip at the top, then show the ENTIRE live shot later on your reel, along with the package.
DVDs are so 2002.  Send a link. No one has the time to load 100 DVDs, cue them up, wait for them to play, and eject them, but we can go through 100 links in an hour. Unless an ND specifically requests a DVD, use a link.  And, you’ll save yourself all that money for burning the DVD and mailing it! 
Create a webpage for yourself, don’t just post a YouTube link.  You can use YouTube or Vimeo, etc. to host your reel, but don’t send news directors there! EMBED it in your own personal page!
Talent who have their own pages control the branding, and they can better promote themselves.   Often I find myself watching a reel on YouTube, and then clicking on OTHER reporter reels on the right-hand side, where YouTube suggests similar videos!!  
Before emailing or printing out your link on a resume, make sure it works. So often, reel links are for hidden videos, private, or are broken links, and then you just look sloppy.
Don’t put your college stuff on there, unless you were brilliant in college.   
If you are in a small market, avoid in-studio intros, because they immediately brand you as small market.  When you’re in the field, though, no one can tell if you’re small market or big market – you’re just YOU.   
If you don’t have any recent stuff, take any job at a TV station that gets you in the door, and then go make a better reel at that station.
When discussing your reel with a prospective employer, be honest.  NDs want to know the back story of what’s on there. Did you throw something together in an hour, or did you work for three weeks on it?  If you shot it, say you shot it.  If you made up a standup to demonstrate your skills, say that.  Don’t pretend you were on air at NBC Nightly News if you were just holding their mic flag, etc.
Don’t put anchoring on there, unless you’re an experienced anchor.  Even if we’re considering you for an anchor job, we want to know that you can think on your feet and do breaking news, walk-and-talk, and handle complex stories.  We’ll ask for an entire A-block if we are really considering you for an anchor job.
If you ARE an experienced anchor, put on both good interaction and breaking news.  We don’t need to see you reading a VO.  We trust that you can read prompter.  Later in the tape, put some examples of you saving the day when the director/producer made errors.  How well do you reference a lost live, a cat jumping on the set, or a wrong video clip? 
Make it LONG!  I get two-minute clips every day, and then I ask reporters to see more of their work.   There’s no reason to keep it short.  If we like what we see, we’ll keep playing it.  We want to see how you’d do in a typical month, so put a bunch of stories on there.  If someone only watches two minutes, who cares?  But if they WANT to watch more, make it easy!