Posted on Monday, March 16, 2020

Crafting a Compelling Sizzle Reel

This is a visual industry. If you expect to win over every audience with your script or a bright idea laid out on paper, unfortunately, these strategies alone won’t always make the cut.

When pitching to network executives or trying to raise funds for your production, you need to grab the audience’s attention with an engaging display of your work.

How can you do this? A sizzle reel.

What is a sizzle reel?

The term “sizzle reel” comes from the idea that you’re “selling the sizzle, not the steak.” You’re selling the feeling, the intangible elements of a project. You’re selling emotion.

A sizzle reel, also known as a demo reel or pitch reel, is a 2 to 5-minute video that uses visuals, text and audio to showcase a production’s style and voice. Many creatives use this tool, including actors, editors and videographers.

Your reel shouldn’t be lackluster or dull. If you’re trying to win over a network, you want to give them a taste of what your project is about and why they would be remiss to pass up an idea like yours.

Think of your sizzle reel as a short film, a compilation of key scenes from your production or a thrilling trailer. Anything that you feel is enticing and likely to get your idea green-lit.

Start by identifying your audience.

Before creating a sizzle reel, you want to ask yourself, “Who is my target audience? Who am I trying to reach and what do I want them to take away from my sizzle reel?” Creating a sizzle reel with purpose and then going into a pitch with goals will create a much more fruitful experience, regardless of whether or not your project is green-lit.

If you’re showcasing your work to network execs, they’ll want to know what demographic you want to reach and advertising opportunities. You need to walk into a pitch with responses to these questions in mind.

If you anticipate any questions your audience might ask about your project, whether network executives or possible investors, this will increase the likelihood they’ll have a positive response to your pitch. Always have facts and research about your project in your back pocket (not literally).

To avoid confusion, make sure to include how you contributed to each clip in your reel. For example, if you did the mixing for a particular scene, make sure to label that somewhere during the scene so the audience doesn’t think you were the writer or director.

Is shorter better?

It may seem difficult to showcase your best work in 1 to 5 minutes, but if you craft your sizzle reel intuitively, this is plenty of time to win your audience and move your project forward.

You want to leave your audience wanting more. A sizzle reel should give them a taste of your idea, not every little detail.

In this case, quality is far more important than quantity. Sure, your sizzle reel may include just three clips that amount to a total of 1 minute and 30 seconds, but if that work is purposefully included and tastefully done, that could be just enough to sell your idea.

While sizzle reels can be as long as 5 minutes, with the rise of social media and video marketing, audiences are less inclined to watch longer videos. Consider the busy schedule of your audience, too, and you might think otherwise if your reel is 5 minutes or more.

Let your professional storytelling ability shine.

Even if your sizzle has abrupt cuts and just a few clips, you still want to establish a narrative.

However, don’t get lost on your quest to generate excitement. You want to create a coherent sizzle reel, ensuring that there’s no confusion among your audience after your reel is played. You’ll want to have an identifiable beginning, middle and end.

Having a clearly defined story in your sizzle reel will elevate your perceived professionalism, making a stronger case for your project and your contribution.

How do I ultimately win over my audience with my reel?

Producing before pitching is a smart move. If you walk into a pitch empty-handed, especially without anything visual to show for your idea, it’ll be up to your audience’s imagination to determine the overall goals and tone of your project. Showcase your skill and what you bring to the table. When sharing a reel to entice buyers or raise funds, these audiences look for production value, storytelling ability and professionalism.

Production value tells potential buyers or investors that your project has something unique about it. A selling point. A sense of thrill and excitement. A feeling.

Storytelling ability shines through a well-curated sizzle reel. Your story shouldn’t feel detached or distasteful.

Combining production value and storytelling, ultimately your audience wants to get a sense of your level of professionalism. How much do you know about the industry? Are you conveying an aura of expertise and zeal? For an example of a good sizzle reel, check this one out.

Create from the heart.

At the end of the day, winning over an audience is more of a formality than anything. Before thinking about getting your project green-lit, or getting investors for your film, think about what you want to create.

Think about your passions, your wildest dreams, your vision. Think about a project you’ve always wanted to create. Now, channel those swirling thoughts and emotions into your work.

Whether your project is green-lit or not, at the end of the day, if you created a project with positive intentions, you’ve already won.