I've had a few demos in my 15 years in Los Angeles. I'm happy to say the material has improved over time as the quality of projects I've been fortunate enough to work on has improved. Having picked the brains of casting directors over the years, worked with my agent on my demos and viewed many an actor demo I feel I've formulated some worthy opinions on the subject. Recently on an actor-centric Facebook group the subject of demo lengths came up. An actor in Vancouver said people there were recommending 6 minutes as a length for actor demos. He asked the members of the group what their thoughts and experiences were. After adding my 2 cents I thought that would be a nice first endeavor at something I've been putting off, the blog. So, here is my first, and hopefully not my last, blog entry.
"No one will watch a 6 minute demo except person who is using it to represent themselves or that person's mother. A minute and a half to 2 minutes has become the norm. I don't know why anyone would suggest anything longer than that unless they've been in the business since the 80s and have a strong emotional connection to the work they've amassed, which frankly the people casting today, producers included, don't have the time or patience to watch. Casting directors I've spoken with have repeated emphatically when it comes to demos they want to see "the meat and no fat," meaning your BEST work as an actor even if that includes editing down the scene to exclude the other actor's work, even if they are a known talent. No filler. No one-liners. No you giving George Clooney the keys to a Maserati on the Vegas strip saying, "Your keys, sir." or worse, nothing at all. The professionals watching these videos don't have time to watch anything other than your best work, in a brief period of time, and the actor as a professional doesn't have time to show them anything other than their best work."
One thing I didn't mention in the Facebook comment that I wanted to is no montages. They don't show the actor acting. They show the actor in different outfits with different expressions on their faces. Again, not acting. Montages fall under the "filler" category.
This only addresses the length of an actor demo, and some content to include and avoid. There is so much more to the subject I hope to address at another time that I include in my classes and workshops. For now, this is a start.