Dos and Don'ts when self taping for an audition.
What is self-taping? How do I self-tape properly?
Self-taping has become very common and it's a great way for casting directors to audition talent all over the globe, it's cheaper, more convenient and easier to manage. It is also a wonderful thing for actors! You get to audition from anywhere in the world, from the comforts of your home/work/classroom, you don't have to drive hundreds of miles for the casting and you don't have to wait for hours to be called in for a reading.
It seems like a great solution for everyone isn't it? Yes it is, but...you have to put some time and effort into your self tape in order to catch the eye of who ever is watching (this could be a production assistant, a casting director, a producer, a director or all of them!) so you want it to look good and worth remembering. Casting directors watch hundreds of self tapes every week, keep that in mind!
Let's get into specifics...
- Learn your lines. I cannot stress this enough. A self tape is not a cold reading. You are usually given the text and after that you have several days to film your audition which should give you enough time to memorise the lines. If you know your lines from A to Z it shows commitment and interest. In the rare case that they send you the script and expect you to send it back by the end of the same day or the day after - check step 10*.
- Always shoot horizontally. No exceptions. If they see you filmed vertically they won't even open the video.
- Find someone good to read with you (unless it's a monologue). Yes, I'm sorry, you cannot record your voice for the other part or just do your lines with no partner. Acting is reacting, in order to show your full acting potential you need human interaction, even if the reader is not an actor it still helps enormously. Also the reader is always off camera, you don't want him to get cast instead of you right?
- Shoot with a neutral background. Yes your bedroom is beautifully decorated, and your couch is wonderful, and that painting in the corridor is great, but you don't want the attention of the person watching to deviate to something other that you. I recommend to choose a clean white/gray/blue wall, or if you don't find any, to secure a sheet (please not a wrinkly one!) in the background as a last resource.
- Lighting and sound. Make sure you've got good lighting and that sound is the best possible. Natural light is best. Make sure you are not shooting with your windows open to the street noise, or while a neighbour is drilling his wall.
- Dress for the part. But don't over do it. You are dressing to suggest it. No crazy makeup or accessories.
- Camera. if you have a real camera then go for that, and if you dont, it is absolutely fine to shoot with your smartphone. Make sure the camera is stable on a tripod or properly attached somewhere, ideally the camera should remain in one position the whole time and the reader shouldn't be holding it. Casting directors are not looking for a 5K video audition. 1080p is ideal but 720p is fine as well.
- Framing. It doesn't matter if you're standing or sitting, you should always be in the center of the camera.
- Acting. Don't be lazy about your character choices and keep your performance strong all the way till the very end of the tape. Don't look directly into the camera, look slightly above it or a bit to its right (you can make a mark with a bit of tape)
- * In this rare case, if you are not able to memorise the lines, make sure that on camera you are holding the script down and that it's not moving around. Always glance down, then look up and say your line, you don't want to be reading and looking down, they won't be able to see your face!
- Editing. If you are asked to tape two different scenes, you will have to find a way to edit them together into one video, one scene after the other. There are several phone applications you can use to do so, like iMovie, Magistro, Splice but I always use Premiere Pro. Don't add any artsy touches to the video, they honestly don't care.
- Instructions. Carefully read the instructions that have been given to you by the casting director and respect them at all times - or you risk your self-tape to be ignored.
Good luck with your next self tape!
I hope this article is useful next time you have to self-tape, if you have any questions do not hesitate to drop a comment below! :-)