The Last Project

What is our job? Really, what is it? Is it to keep our students from breaking or stealing the equipment?

Is it to teach them how to load their latest “artistically shot” video to SchoolTube?

In my opinion, it is to get them ready for the “real world” and to help them become productive citizens in their chosen career. Since we are broadcasting, production and film teachers, I’m going to assume that their chosen career will be broadcasting, production or film.

It’s the end of the school year, and we have imparted our vast wisdom and shown them all of our secrets of production, so now how do we arm our students with the proper tools to venture out into the cold-cruel world? That’s where the “Last Project” comes in. My suggestion for a final project is a written résumé and DVD reel. For this article, I will focus on the DVD reel and some suggestions on how it should be structured.

Before we discuss how to build your DVD, do you know how much time your students have to make an impression-- just to land an interview to get that entry-level job or internship? Much less time than it took to read to here.

Your students will get 15-20 seconds from most News Directors or Producers, so make it count. If they make it past the first 20 seconds they may get an extra 30 seconds. If they make it past the first minute, it might get put in the “consider” pile.   That may seem a little cruel, but it’s the truth.

Back in my producer days, I sat in on quite a few viewing sessions with the News Director and other producers to look at tapes for on-air talent and videographers. We gave them 15-20 seconds to catch our attention and hopefully they didn’t have 30 seconds of slate. Get to it! A News Director’s time is short and there are a million other things they need to be doing besides sitting through a slate with your contact information.   Print your contact info on the label, on the case of the DVD and on the DVD Menu. If they make it to the end, they’ll want to know who you are and don’t make them hunt for it.

Most successful résumé reels that I have seen start with a montage showing the applicant’s BEST work. No fancy effects, just dissolves or cuts, and this should go about a minute and then put some full pieces showing as much variety as possible. If it’s a reel for on-air work, don’t put any background music under the stand-ups or anchoring. If the résumé is for editing or videography, music might be OK for a montage but nat-sound is much more powerful.

The full tape should be 5 – 8 minutes and no longer than 10 minutes.   Most News Directors I have ever known would not sit through more than 10 minutes of a résumé reel. They have made their decision about bringing a candidate for an interview way before that.

With all of that said, I thought I would get a professional opinion from one of my former News Directors, Keith Esparros, who is currently the Assistant News Director at KNBC in Los Angeles. Keith calls himself a bit of a rebel when it comes to student résumé reels. “I think first, reels should highlight whatever this person feels is his/her strongest talent. If they’re good at writing and putting stories together, that should be the first thing on their reel. If they feel like they’re real good on camera, then maybe put on a few standups,” according to Esparros.

Esparros went on to say, “I think what happens all too often is that kids put themselves in a standup montage at the top when they’re clearly a novice at being on camera. That gives guys like me a chance to reject the video before I ever get to see if they’re a pretty good writer, or a good storyteller.”

“So ... in a resume reel, I want to see how they put together stories, how they write, what THEY feel is their best work.  I also need to hear their voice and see how they look on camera.” Esparros said, “I tend to give more time than most to resume reels.   I generally will watch the whole thing until I find the work not up to what I need.    In other words, as long as I'm seeing good stuff, I keep watching!    I only eject it when I feel this person isn't what we're looking for.”

Keith said this applies mostly to reporting jobs. He said when it comes to applying for an entry-level job the written résumé is most important. “Tell me what you've studied and what you've done.  I want to know you have worked on some productions as a student.   I'd like to know if you have any experience at all.  If you were an intern, make sure that's on the resume.  If you have actually ever been paid for your work, even better! What I like to see on a resume is professional experience.  If that doesn't exist, I need to see what is his/her education and what have they done to demonstrate their dedication to this field.”

What Esparros is not interested in is a biology major who is going to become a travel agent and thought it would be fun to work in TV for the summer. He says that internships take energy and effort for a TV Station, but he is willing to make that effort if he thinks he could be helping a young journalist start his/her career. He says he has no patience for anyone else. I would imagine a lot of News Directors feel the same way.

If your students are like mine, they are not sure what exactly they want to do in the TV or Film business, they just know they want to work there. That’s fine, just have the reel reflect their best work so they can at least land that internship or first job. They’ll figure out quick enough what positions they like and what they don’t. For those in news, it’s usually at the 3am fire with a live truck. You’ll either love it or hate it!

Here are just a couple of more things your students should think about before sending out their résumé and reel. They’re not in High School anymore. So, first, lose the “cutesy” email address. Nobody cares that they are or . It’s not professional. Second, clean up the Facebook page. If an employer is seriously interested in granting them an interview, they will look. Also, all those “cool” party videos on YouTube … they might want to take those down.


Dupont-HeadshotAlbert Dupont has been the Advanced TV Broadcasting Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005.  The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools.  The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans.

Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Dupont was a news and sports videographer for WVUE-TV in New Orleans for twelve years and news producer at WAFB in Baton Rouge and KATC in Lafayette for five years.  As a sports photographer, Mr. Dupont was a field videographer at the New Orleans Saints games from 1994 to 2009.  He also was a videographer at two Superbowls and numerous college national championship games in a variety of sports. He is an Avid Certified Instructor in Media Composer 5.