Mood Reels

ConflictThe latest craze in film fundraising is the development of mood reels. The mood reel consists of clips from other movies cut into a sequence that would be reminiscent of the feelings to be generated in the future film. By using similar music, production teams hope to set the tone and create an emotional atmosphere to pitch potential investors.

The mood reel is not too different from a living reel, except for the use of someone else’s work. Any form of previsualization helps to gain the attention of investors and clarify the type of film being made. Similar to animatics, a rough animated version of the storyboard, the mood reel is designed to introduce a logical decision maker into the world of the picture.

Mood reels are typically 2-5 minutes in length and intangibly present an emotional background or give the audience a feeling about the story. These compilation pieces can also give a sense of the types of shots, timing and effects that will be used throughout the film.

The drawback to a mood reel resides with the investor’s ability to separate the mood and his emotions from the short and translate it into the possibilities for the feature film. This is a similar problem to having an investor read a script without knowing how to properly read scripts – Causing them to miss the subtext and demand more overt content.

Mood reel or not, the most important element for an investor is whether or not he can trust the filmmaker’s artistic choices in transferring the story from the page to the screen. The filmmaker either knows his film inside and out and can communicate it, or he can’t. This requires the filmmaker to be a good verbal communicator and not just a visual communicator.

The reason behind the continual search for a visual tool like the mood reel is because the average investor prejudges the story. The more niche the film’s distribution, the greater the prejudgment.

Walt Disney was the first to experiment with storyboards, artistic renderings and the like in order to sway bankers. There is an entire warehouse of composites created by Disney artists experimenting with concepts, as they attempted to reduce Walt’s ideas to paper or canvas. While most of the images are symbolic or give a feel for the concept, they have in their own right become valuable works of art.

The skills needed to make a great feature film are very different than making a great mood reel, trailer, short, or other promotional piece. Yet, investors continue to prejudge a filmmakers feature ability based on these preliminary tools, so its not surprising that filmmakers have shifted to using a mood reel – Taking advantage of great art that already exists.

Copyright © 2014 by CJ Powers
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2 thoughts on “Mood Reels

  1. I’ve not yet used one of these, but they sound intriguing and I might at some point give it a try. Couple questions:

    1. What kind of legal ramifications might there be to using content that others have created, even reassembled into a reel of your own making?

    2. It seems that a fair amount of time, energy, and even money could be poured into creating a mood reel. Alternatively, might not those same resources be poured just as successfully into making a small trailer for the film which the producer has in mind? For instance, I’m thinking of Jon Erwin and his funded proof of concept pieces.

    3. Do you know of any online examples of a mood reel to which you could point us?

    Thanks!
    ~ Paul

    • Mood reels are designed for private one-on-one conversations. If “published” they infringe on copyright protection laws. Think of it as a personal music mix that is legal until it becomes published.

      The reason mood reels are so popular is due to its high quality and inexpensive cost (typically less than $100 to make). But again, they must stay as a private tool and can’t be published without copyright infringement.

      Those who need to make the reel public tend to use stock footage intermixed with a few character shot and cut it similar to a trailer. However, it is not as elaborate or as high of a quality piece as a trailer.

      As for the Erwin proof of concept reels, I haven’t seen one and can’t speak to it. However, in the world of investments, anything used to help investors understand your concept or story is worth the effort.

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