February 2014

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February 2014


Tips for Portfolio Reviews

Ann Cadaret Scene Design & Technology Commission

Portfolio reviews will happen in Fort Worth, and this is a great opportunity for people to practice showcasing their work. Each year, professionals and educators volunteer to review over 30 portfolios from the scene design areas alone, so this is a thriving, valuable resource for all Institute members, at any point in their careers.

Portfolio reviews are offered in many different areas. For specific information on deadlines and information needed to apply, click here.

The Scene Design Commission offers reviews for anyone with a portfolio in scene design, scenography, scenic art, props or a combination. (Other Commissions offer reviews in costume areas, technical direction, lighting, sound, and more. Participants may review with more than one Commission.)

The physical (hard copy or digital) portfolio should be

  • Clean, clear, ¬†and concise. Be clear about the importance of each item in one or two sentences.
  • Never apologize for the work or the condition of the portfolio.
  • Keep things positive. Find the silver lining and focus on that.
  • Turn the work so it faces the reviewers.
  • Be selective and let the reviewers focus on the best work.
  • Keep images as large as possible.
  • Make sure images/objects are labeled.
  • Clearly indicate what is your work and what is others’ work. Give credit to the appropriate person.
  • Be prepared to take notes for improvement.
  • Proofread the resume.
  • Proofread the portfolio.
  • Show more shots of the process.
  • Show the best work first.
  • Have something to say about everything in the portfolio.
  • Clearly indicate responsibility for a production or a specific item.

Presentation and comportment during the interview is also important.

  • Be honest.
  • Don’t be afraid of not having the “right” answer, since there seldom is one anyway.
  • Ask the interviewers to clarify what they are asking if you don’t understand.
  • Feel free to ask questions. Portfolio reviews are meant to be helpful, not intimidating. Let the reviewer(s) know if you are interested in getting comments about the way you show your work as well as the work itself.
  • Watch your time. Present the work and leave time for feedback and discussion.
  • Practice the presentation with distractions.

If you are fortunate to attend a school where portfolio development is emphasized and practiced or are already professionally connected, then you already know how important these guidelines are. If you are not in such a situation or are just starting out, then perhaps you will find this helpful as you prepare for Fort Worth reviews.

Frequently asked questions are

  • How much should I have in my portfolio?
    Just your best work. This may be many things or just two or three things. Know which portfolio items you will present, even if you don’t get to show everything. Reviewers may want to look at additional items if time permits. This is especially true if you have scenic designs, scenic art, props, AND design assisting all in one portfolio. You decide whether you want to hit on all areas or just one. Then plan your presentation accordingly with your best work.
  • What size portfolio is best?
    There is no “best.” It depends on what you are comfortable carrying and presenting, whether it goes on a plane or not, and what size images will be presented.
  • Should I have a digital portfolio or an actual one?
    The safest bet is both. Everyone should probably have a digital portfolio, even if it is just a simple slide presentation. A website should be readily and quickly accessible. No matter how basic or tricked-out an online portfolio is, it is still nice to see artwork and ‘hard copy’ portfolio material.
  • How should I orient my portfolio?
    Landscape or portrait, either one is fine, but try to keep mostly or all to one or the other.
  • Should I include drafting?
    Yes! But not to the exclusion of other items that show growth as an artist.
  • Should I pick one good photo of a design or have several small ones?
    Try to get a really good, large image of your work. Or at least have images as large as the quality ratio will allow.
  • What is the best way to label my work?
    Neatly, consistently, and clearly. Name of production and your contribution are essential. From there, you can add other designers, name of producing organization, year, and information as is fitting.