Pietro Passarelli

Doc Showreel-How To

How to make a documentary showreel

How to make a documentary showreel

I’ve been rounding up some tips on how to make a documentary show-reel and is here what I’ve gathered, talking to people and trying it out, and this is my showreel I did some time ago following these principles:


it shouldn’t exceed 1 minute maximum, I think 40 seconds is Ideal. but the way to work it out is to decide first how many elements are you going to showcase and of what kind.
Think 10%. The top of the iceberg, the best of. It’s like when you are doing a research brief, you do a 1 to 2 pages long summary of the most relevant and pertinent information, you don’t do a 15 000 dissertation on how you found them.
You should focus it, and be aware that for instance a show-reel for documentary researcher is different from a show-reel for DOP, etc..It should showcase a variety of material, and content,
So mine are mostly considerations for a shooting researcher showreel for factual entratainment/documentary work.

For a documentary showreel you'd need: well framed interviews, actuality sequence, GVs, and Camera movement (ie POV, PAN, Tracking Shots, Over the shoulder, etc..),
combining the choice of this elements into a good variety of effective Sequences, the give glimpses into the story of the project they belong to.

However it should be a selection of the "best of" and not an extended portfolio of what you have been doing since the first time you’ve picked up a camera.

Think story, action, sequence,and shots for each project you decide to include.
See the shooting for the edit post for more details on how to film and cut a sequence, so that you can reflect this in the showreel


For a Doc Show-reel personally I think is best to use original sound bites, and edit the show-reel accordingly.

Rather than putting a song underneath, and suppress all of the sound design of your pieces, as well as the sound bites that can help you showcase content and meaning.

After all audio is 50% of a film.


I found it was useful to plan the overall structure using a ratio, for instance:
If you are aiming for 1 min in length and decide that you have got 4 piece you would like to show.
Then 1min : 4 = 15sec. So every piece should be no longer then 15 seconds, which gives you a chance to cut through sequences composed of 3 or 4 shots for each piece, of an average of no more then 3 to 4 sec each .
I think some proportion like this helps to give it a good rhythm, or as starting point to break the rule.

This sounds very clinical but it might help you to make a thrill selection and structure it in a way that flows and showcases your editing skills as well.

Other Editing principles for show-reel

Try and cut with motion and movement as much as possible, it helps keeping it flow.
For instance for the same action, you can use one shot that shows the beginning of an action to a different shot that shows the continuation of the same action. While to To cut on the next sequence you can select a shot that help you with the transition.

Viewers Feedback: A top tip

if you want to see how people are watching your show-reel, you can upload it on wistia to get a video heat of the analytic.

Last but not least here is another example, this time using music in the background (and joining different genre of project from different people):