Top tips: Crafting a demo reel and landing an interview in TV news

April 10, 2019 01:30

Crafting a demo reel can be a daunting task, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. Landing an interview might seem impossible, particularly if you have no professional experience working on-air. Here’s what you need to know about crafting your reel and securing interviews as you weave your way through your television news job search.
Get more practical advice from hiring managers of what they actually look for, plus hear how THEY got their big breaks! Watch: Landing your first (or next) news job

Start your demo reel with a quick montage. It should run anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds and showcase all of your assets as a talent. You should look camera-ready, with neat hair, full make-up and sharp clothing. Select video clips where you are performing at your highest potential. Include interactive and engaging stand-ups. You need to make a good first impression. Most news directors will decide if they are interested very quickly. Grab their attention!
Select three strong stories for your reel. These reports should be written well, shot well, and edited well. Your on-camera performance and your track should be solid. The stories should each run about 1 minute and 30 seconds, give or take 15 seconds. It is best to take this as an opportunity to showcase your versatility. Start with a hard news story. You can follow that with an issue-based story, and then maybe a feature report. There are no firm rules when it comes to story selection but you generally should show that you can cover a variety of stories and that your skills meet or exceed industry standards. The better the stories, the better chance you have at keeping news directors’ attention. You want them to keep watching!
Ultimately, the purpose of the demo reel is to get you an interview. Therefore every piece of video you select for that reel should be chosen with that goal in mind. Overall, news directors are busy. You don’t want to waste their time. When deciding what to put on your reel, you should think: short, powerful and memorable. At the end of the reel, you can edit in a black slate with your name and your contact information. Keep it up for about 15 to 20 seconds.
So remember …
  1. First impressions are crucial.
  1. The content is what matters most.
  1. The purpose of a demo reel is to get you an interview.
Follow this formula …
Montage (30 to 60 seconds) + 3 Stories (about 90 seconds each) + Slate with your name and contact information (15 to 20 seconds)
A solid demo reel is the most important thing required for a job search in television news. But there’s more to it. The industry is highly competitive, and you should always strive to be ahead of the pack. 
Here are some tips that will help you land a job interview:
  1. Build connections long before a job is posted. Industry conferences, informational interviews, and asking news directors for feedback on your stories are just a few of the many ways you can get yourself ahead. Aim to position yourself as a candidate for a future job posting rather than simply applying to jobs as they are posted.
  1. Research the market and reflect that in your cover letter. It is industry standard for resumes and cover letters to accompany a demo reel. You should never send out a standard cover letter. Rather, you should write a new cover letter for each job you apply to, and that letter should illustrate that you have an understanding of the particular news market.
  1. Create a strong and concise resume. Your resume should be short and simple. It should include all of your media-related qualifications, as well as your media-related skills, industry awards and/or achievements. Highlight any different languages you speak, different countries you have traveled to and your community involvement or volunteer work. If your only experience with media is through school, that is just fine. Overall, the idea is to showcase that you have a background in communications.
  1. Identify stations and cities where you want to work. Become an expert on the places that you are interested in. Make connections with those stations. Fly out to those cities. Try to arrange meetings with news directors in the markets you like. Plan trips that can allow you to gain exposure to local cultures. Look for the news teams and the areas that will allow you to become the kind of journalist that you want to be and to cover the stories that you are interested in. This approach will prepare you for when opportunity strikes.
About to graduate and looking for your first news job? Download our complete guide to landing your first news job, incuding more on crafting your demo reel, how to write a strong resume and cover letter, why and how to network and what to expect on day one. Let's get you hired!