Self-Tape Secrets for Success
Tips from a working actor and casting directors.
FILM YOURSELF BEFOREHAND
The Mistake: Actors often think they are ready for their audition as soon as they have memorized their lines. The problem with this is not that they aren't prepared, but that without filming themselves before the audition they do not know where their eyeline is, how their facial expressions are translating, or anything else that casting directors will definitely make note of. This small mistake puts you at a disadvantage when you are submitting your auditions on tape.
The Secret: The solution to this is easy, film yourself before your audition and watch the recording so you can be aware of how you look on camera and make any necessary changes to your performance. When you do this, two very important things happen: (1) You get to see yourself and find out what’s working and what’s not and change your approach to the audition until you like what you see; and (2) You get to rehearse for your audition several more times so when you record your final take or step into the room for an in-person audition, you are settled into your role and know exactly what choices you want to make, how it looks to the audience, and how you want to portray the character. Do not be afraid to film yourself and record several takes trying out different choices to find where you feel the most confident and comfortable. This way you have an advantage over your competition.
BE PREPARED AHEAD OF TIME
The Mistake: You get the call for an audition and you read over your script. You find out you need a reader so you call a friend and they agree to read for you at your specified time. You rehearse your lines over and over again until you think you've got it and then finally put your script down and go to sleep. What is wrong with this scenario? Well, let's think about what could go wrong: Your reader could be late, your playback sound could have issues, your wifi could cut out, your camera battery could die, etc. I want you to be so prepared that none of these things phase you on the day you are shooting your self-tape audition.
The Secret: Now it's not exactly a secret but moreso things actors often overlook when thinking about preparing for their audition. Being prepared for your audition involves more than just knowing your lines and having a reader. In addition, you should: have your lights, camera, and background set up, have your wardrobe picked out, set plans with a reader either in person or via Zoom, make sure all your equipment is charged, check your playback sound quality and know what time your tape must be submitted by and always be early to submit your tape. By doing all of this in preparation, the only thing you need to worry about the morning of is focusing on your lines and your character. Take the pressure off yourself by being prepared ahead of time.
USE A GOOD READER
The Mistake: Anyone can be a reader, right? Wrong.
The Secret: A bad reader is not going to make or break your audition. That said, a good reader can help your performance by taking simple directions, not distracting you, reading straightforwardly, not stumbling over words, not speaking too loudly, and keeping pace with your character. There are many ways to find a good reader if you do not have a go-to, but here are some of my favorites: join ACE Studio and always have a reader on hand here, ask a friend in your acting class, join an actors Facebook Group. However you choose to do it, make sure your sound is working properly for both your reader and your own setup and review the recording before submitting.
REVIEW & LABEL YOUR SUBMISSIONS
The Mistake: When you submit your self-tape with the default file name, i.e. 10000_36978522153_2007437861753_n.mp4, casting directors on the receiving end cannot easily put your face and name to your tape.
The Secret: Label your self-tape submissions beforehand to make things easier on everybody. Ideally, include your name and the character you are auditioning for. (I.e. DanWarner.JamesBond.mp4) If you are not sure how to do this, I have a tutorial on my Youtube channel that will walk you through this process step by step. Check it out here.
DO NOT SUBMIT MULTIPLE TAKES
The Mistake: Actors who are unsure of how to approach a character and what choices they should be making often submit 3, 4, or even 5 takes of the same scene of an audition. This may not sound like a huge issue, but If you send in 4 takes and for some reason your best take was 3rd on that tape, the casting director may never watch it at all.
The Secret: Only send in one take! Limit yourself to your best self-tape read, check your sound, lighting, wardrobe, etc and decide on the submission you want casting to watch. Simple, right? Unless the casting director specifically asks for more than one take, only send in your best one. If they want a slate to be part of the same tape, do that! If they don’t, do not include it. Be respectful of the casting director's time and read the instructions for each submission since they are not all the same and do what is asked according to the instructions provided.