If you are a voiceover artist just starting out, then you are going to need a set of demos. The most common are corporate and commercial as a majority of the work you'll find is there. The other primary demos are narration, animation and videogame, all which need their own demo reels should you like to start finding work in those areas.
What does a demo do?
This may sound like a silly question, but it’s actually well worth asking. A demo is not going to book you a job, but it will get you heading in the right direction to set up your own voiceover career.
If you come from the world of acting, then you can consider your demo as your auditory headshot. It gives the client a rough sketch of what you can do within their market, but they will need more information, and you are unlikely to get booked straight off the back of a demo.
In the case of animation demos, it showcases a voiceover's talent within the animation world, with the purpose of helping an actor get seen by an animation casting director.
Demos can be held on an voice actor's website or on their profile on various casting sites including Backstage, Actors Access, Mandy, and Spotlight.
How many clips should be in my animation reel?
You want between 7 and 10 clips. The full demo to be roughly 60 seconds and have a variety of styles and each clip should be between 5-15 seconds. Think of each clip as a snapshot of the character and the world they live in.
Also make sure each voice is unique, not just to you but to the market as a whole. Impressions of famous voices (Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, etc.) are cool, but they are unlikely to get you work. A fellow voiceover actor is already out there voicing that character, and your reel is there to show off your specific voice. Casting directors want to know what you can do, and you alone. So best to leave impressions off this one.
So with all this in mind, here are X steps to write your own animation reels.
Step 1: Research
Start by selecting a genre of animation. Try to let each demo clip exhibit a different style of animation. Here are just a few different animation genres:
Animated shock comedy
Saturday morning cartoon
Military and warfare
Zany cartoon (think Loony Toons)
Research the style. Hop on YouTube and find a couple clips of various examples of your chosen genre. Take note about who the audience would be for this genre and how that effects the vocabulary used in the animation.
Step 2: Pick a character type
Pick a character archetype from your genre and design a character and a loose story line. Think about the broader picture. You’re only writing a small excerpt of a scene, but this character must feel as though it is from a full animation, so ask all the question you would ask for a traditional character analysis.
Who is your character?
Where are they? Think time periods and locations.
What is it they are trying to achieve? What is in their way?
Step 3: Draft the scene
Think of a scene in which your character will need to speak to another character. Write out the scene in detail as if it were a novel from your character’s perspective: what do they see, who are they talking to, what they say and how do they feel about it. Also include responses from other characters and any action that takes place.
Step 4: Extraction
From that ‘novel,’ select an excerpt of your chosen character speaking and now you have your script. Remember it doesn't need to be long, and you can also voice two characters in the scene as long as it suits the style.
Give your little extract as much drama as possible. Demos with conflict and multiple tones even within a single clip are always more interesting than single-toned scenes. Like an audition monologue, you want to show as much variety in the character as possible in an efficient amount of time.
Hope this helps! Please feel free to reach out if you find yourself stuck in any part of the process. I am more than happy to help.