What is a sizzle reel?
Sizzle reels are short promotional videos also known as demo reels, highlight reels, show reels, promo videos, pitch tapes, or teasers. Actors, editors, videographers, and other creatives use them to showcase their work. In fact, director and producer Taylor Kavanaugh says that when looking to hire for a project, he considers two things: whether someone is easy to work with, and how good their sizzle reel is.
Sizzle reels also help sell TV shows to networks, raise the money to fund films, and provide an overview of an exciting new product. In these cases, the reel serves as proof of concept, selling the idea by generating excitement.
How can your reel bring the heat?
No matter what type of reel you’re making, these tips will help you learn to create a successful one.
Keep it short.
Traditionally, sizzle reels could be as long as 5 minutes. With the shorter viewing times on social media and so much other enticing content to compete with, expecting someone to watch an entire 5-minute video may be unrealistic. Now the average sizzle reel length is closer to 1–2 minutes.
Consider your audience.
What’s your video’s target audience? For example, if you’re pitching a show, are you trying to sell it to a network or to the prospective audience? “A network executive is going to want to know what demographic you’re trying to reach and who they can get as advertisers. An audience just wants to see the show,” says TV editor Gerry Holtz.
Think about your intended audience and what they’re looking for in your video. Try to answer their questions before they come up. If they’re likely to want numbers and evidence of research, give it to them. If they want quick cuts and energetic music, experiment with those for extra sizzle.