Checklist for Self-Tape Auditions
The “self-tape audition” – the term that meant absolutely nothing to me a decade ago. The term that represents the biggest change in the industry. The term that has caused me stress, tears, and hair loss. OK, it’s really not that bad. But with change comes a necessity to adapt, and that can definitely bring on some qualms.
Thankfully, Atlanta now offers a plethora of self-taping studios. Visiting one of these studios relieves the stress of having to shoot, edit, and even direct your own audition. However, as affordable as some of these services may be, we don’t all have money to shell out for every audition. Self-taping doesn’t have to be expensive. In an effort to be economical, as most working actors are forced to be, we would recommend saving the trips to the self-taping gurus for your big auditions and taping your own auditions in between.
No need to grab that vomit bag just yet. We’ve got an easy to follow checklist of what you will need for self-tape auditions:
Guess what? Technology is amazing. If you’ve got a Digital SLR camera and you know how to use it, then great, use that. But most smartphones will do just fine and it’s cheaper. Just remember to shoot horizontally!
Other things to keep in mind when setting up your camera: position the camera at eye level; frame should be medium to close-up; and rest camera on a steady surface or tripod.
Light yo’ self! Stay away from overhead lighting as that can cause harsh shadows on your face. Try using all natural light, and avoid mixing light temperatures that can throw off the white balance. You want to look good, so this may be something you decide to splurge on a bit. You can pick up some cheap clip-on lights from a hardware store or invest in some LED film lights. Amazon offers several options for lighting kits – a cute l’il kit all ready to go!
If you want to a fancy schmancy over-achiever, watch this information YouTube tutorial on Three Point Lighting by DiCasaFilm. Teach yo’ self!
There’s no place like home. To avoid the hassle of having to drive to another location, the ideal situation would be to have your equipment set up permanently in a quiet room at home. If you don’t have that luxury, be sure to have all your equipment packed for easy transportation, and think about investing in a cart. Find a room that is quiet (no noisy neighbors and obnoxious street noise) and doesn’t echo. Before spending mullah on sound high quality sound equipment that you may not even be able to use (admit it! You’re not a sound engineer!), play around with different rooms and minimizing echo by using area rug, hanging textiles (not on your filming wall of course), or even putting up some acoustic foam panels. Eventually though, start researching those external mics that work for your camera.
Always shoot in front of a neutral backdrop! Blue and gray are always purdy. You are the star of this audition, so don’t distract the casting director with a cluttered background. If shooting at home, consider painting your wall a solid color or hanging a big curtain. As an alternative and for mobility, buy a collapsible blue/green screen; keep in mind though, they’re generally too small to provider a clean backdrop for a full-body shot.
Just as you would for an in-person audition, do your actor homework. If you are currently enrolled in a class, rehearse your script for your acting coach and fellow students to get constructive notes. Research the project and style. Follow specific slate instructions from the casting director.
As much fun as it is to wear costumes, please don’t. Stay away from black and white; the former causes the floating head effect and the latter will draw focus away from your beautiful bright eyes. Avoid wearing distracting patterns and logos. While you’re not wearing a costume, dress the part. A Business Person would look very different than Athlete.
Call in a favor…eek! Ask a friend, preferably in the industry, to be your reader. Your reader should stand to the side of the camera and serve as your eye line. She should speak quieter, since she is standing closer to the camera, and give a muted performance. A good reader will be a good scene partner, giving you just enough to react to without distracting from your performance. This is YOUR audition, after all.
8. Editing and Compression Software
And here is where patience goes to die. But don’t worry! It’s the last step, and once you’ve got your system in place, this will be a cinch. If you’ve got a Mac, iMovie works fine for editing your auditions. You really don’t need anything fancier, and it’s free! If you have a PC, get a Mac. JK! Just used Windows Movie Maker. Both programs are easy to use.
Compressing files…ugh. Oftentimes, your file will be bigger than the maximum file size indicated on the audition notice. Sometimes, you can avoid using a compressor by selecting smaller size options when exporting. If not, a great (and FREE) compression software is Handbrake; it also works on both Macs and PCs.
Be sure to label your file exactly how the casting director instructs. Send your file via WeTransfer, HighTail, the provided ShareFile, or upload directly to your acting profile, like Actor’s Access.
Self-tape doesn’t have to equal self-doubts. Just follow these tips and trust your instincts as an actor. Break a leg!
Newton, Matt. “13 Tips for Better Self-Taping.” backstage. April 11, 2014. www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/backstage-experts/13-tips-better-self-taping/
Ross, Maw. “8 Tips to Make Your Self-Taped Audition Look Its Best.” backstage. September 5, 2014. www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/backstage-experts/8-tips-make-your-self-taped-audition-look-its-best/
“How to Self Tape.” Puro Casting. www.purocasting.com/self-taping
“Self Taping Equipment Guide.” StageMilk. April 29, 2016. www.stagemilk.com/self-taping-equipment/