I wanted to talk a bit about spec work. It has come up a few times on the Demo Reel Critiques lately and I thought I would share my opinion on it. What is spec work? Spec work is doing work for another company or brand either as a creative exercise or to try to win their attention or money.
The short answer?
Don’t do spec work. And if you do, DONT put it on your demo reel.
Spec work is often done with popular brands, who already have a strong brand image. Apple, Nike, BMW, Gatorade, MTV. Doing something similar to them has no creative merit and doing something off brand looks weird and unprofessional.
Keep in mind that there are no “cover letters” with demo reels. Explaining each piece in your reel is not an option. Having work on your reel with other’s brands in it say to the viewer, “I did this piece for this client” Explaining yourself after the fact seems shady and can lead to “what about everything else in the reel?” thoughts.
What to do Instead
- Channel your time and creative energy into doing your OWN animation.
- Try entering a Five Second Project where you have more control over the animation.
- Make up your own brand If you want to work with logos and do something more commercial looking.
- Make a spot your a friend’s small business or website. (I did one for a local coffee shop that ended up getting me some local attention)
- Do something abstract. Do something crazy! Screw the popular look and make something totally personal and new. Go nuts!
The Bottom Line
In this business, you will probably be making commercials and animations for other people your entire career. If you do something on your own time, don’t rehash what has been done or do free work… Instead, make something that is truly your own.