The Self Tape? A Quick Audition Fix? Oh no!

It’s my last post for now from the Hollywood Hill, and here are a few thoughts on the infamous self-tape:

As auditions these days are coming in with faster and faster turnaround times, Casting Directors are frequently using self-tapes as a way to filter initial submissions for a role and it’s clear that the self-tape is here to stay. The plus side is that you may get seen for a role, via self-tape, that you’d never get called into the room for in person. This is a great chance for casting to get to know you, and for you to even book a job. Because more and more often, actors are actually being cast off tape!

This can seem pretty daunting, as you’ve suddenly got to become the director, cameraman, sound operator, lighting guy, editor and IT expert, all at once.

But you can turn these less-than-ideal conditions to your advantage. Mostly because you can continue to hone your performance until you get it right, and you’ll only send in the best audition possible.

Self-taping is a huge subject, and demands a lot of training and experimenting to get it right.

Here are Gaby’s Top Tips: lighting and sound are super important, with sound being the most important. If they cannot hear you properly, they’ll get frustrated, and turn off your tape. Your Reader is most probably also your camera operator, and as such, that person will be closer to the mic than you. It’s imperative that your reader not be louder than you are.

In addition, there can be no gaping dramatic pauses before or after lines, no matter what the script says. Pauses on a self-tape are like energetic black holes, and the energy collapses (again, cue the casting directors to turn off your tape.) You have to “self-edit” during the shooting of the self-tape itself, and make sure that the energy keeps moving forward, without seeming to rush.

You can take your time within your line, where you’ve earned it, but there can be no gaps between your line and the reader’s. It’s a fine art all its own, and is NOT the same as a live audition, or watching a final project, that has been carefully shaped by an editor and director.

TV dialogue (more than film) moves very fast these days, especially on television shows with commercial breaks. And there are more commercials these days than ever before. So the writing is fitting in as much information as possible into each scene. Your pacing should move along at a good clip, energetically, but never be tempted to rush. Never sacrifice strong moments for speed. Acting without moments seems to take even longer! But you can do both – strong, clear, specific moments that are time-compressed.

Sometimes, you don’t have a lot of time to prepare before taping. You can, of course, use your sides, out of frame, to stay word perfect. But it’s important to get your face up off the page as much as possible, and connect with the reader, just off camera. When you look down, you cut off your connection to the viewer, and that is death in a self-tape. So only look down to pick up your next line. Never bury your face in your sides.

 

Finally, the process of editing, uploading and/or sending your tape can be the most time-consuming part of the whole self-tape exercise. So make sure you know your submission deadline, and leave yourself enough of a window to get it in on time.

Familiarise yourself NOW with how to do all these things. Get yourself a YouTube or Vimeo account, and learn how to upload to those platforms. Some actors challenge themselves to do a self-tape every day for 30 days, to become so quick at it, their last-minute self-tape auditions are a breeze.

You’ll need to know how to use iMovie, or similar software, on your iPad or tablet, to piece together separate scenes onto one track. The iPad video camera is fine for self-tapes.  And most often, your slate track will be separate from the scenes (a “slate” is when you say your name, sometimes your agency, sometimes your city, sometimes your height, and which character you are reading for.)

Finally (phew!) – always follow the instructions very carefully, because each casting director has a different method on how they want the tape to be shot, and how they want to receive self-tapes.

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