11 April 2013

The demo reel

Those of us trying to make a career in broadcasting have quickly learned that it takes a lot more than a deep voice or a knowledge of sports to find work on the airwaves. It takes preparation, connections, practice, and a little bit of luck. But one of the most important calling cards – and part of the process that you can control – is the demo reel. (Here's my current crop)

Making a demo reel is no simple task. It is completely impractical to make a separate reel for each job one applies for, yet each hiring manager is looking for something different. One network may value letting the game breathe, while another may value over-the-top histrionics. Some may prioritize play-by-play work, some may be most focused on your comfort level in front of a camera, and still others most want to hear how you call the big play. A demo reel should find a way to impact any viewer.

This year I’m trying to raise the level of my demos by adding some excitement up front. I may be laid-back, but I like to think I know when to get excited, and I need to show that to producers.

So for my latest soccer demo, I gathered some of my favorite calls from the last four years of soccer broadcasting. As you may imagine, this was half the fun! Looking back on some of the most dramatic and memorable moments from the past few years (and evaluating my call of the play) probably took up the better part of 2-3 days. I went back through my highlight DVDs from the 2009 and 2010 Dynamo seasons and looked at most of my televised broadcasts from 2011-12, wrote down what I thought were the best calls and plays to grab someone’s attention, and then began to narrow the list.

The finalists amounted to about 12 minutes of footage, and that’s without almost anything from the 2011 Dynamo season, since I don’t have easy access to video from that year. Since I was aiming to keep the total demo around 10 minutes long, and I still had to fit in some play-by-play, cuts were a necessity.

As I narrowed things down, I also had to choose between putting all the highlights together or splitting up the radio and television calls. Since so much of my career has been in radio, and those are some of my most passionate calls, I definitely wanted them in there. But games are called very differently between radio and television, so in the end, I decided to split up the radio and television calls, labeling them appropriately.

Once I had the highlights down to about 5 minutes, 30 seconds, I had to identify a good on-camera clip so that television producers know what I look like. Last year was my first year in television, and it definitely took me a little while to get comfortable in front of a camera. I wound up going with part of the demo that helped land my ESPN3 work last year, an opening with Brian Dunseth from a Dallas-Philadelphia game.

I wanted to use a different game as an example of play-by-play, but after checking out a few clips, I decided it was important not to use a game I called remotely from a studio. While it is a skill in its own right, calling a game from studio does restrict your sense of atmosphere and does not allow for the sort of perspective I tend to use in a broadcast. So I picked a five-minute segment from a Dallas-Seattle game that included chances at both ends and a discussion with partner Ian Joy about the importance of a halftime substitution.

In the end, I've got a video less than 15 minutes long that should give you an idea of what I bring to the table as a soccer announcer. Hopefully it does the trick! Here's the final product:

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