21st century auditions
Self-tapes have become vital to the industry. Be it Film, TV, Theatre, Commercial or otherwise, self-taping is one the most important tools for modern actors to master.
Self-tapes should be treated with the same level of importance as an actual face to face audition. Treat the self-tape as if you are in the room with the Casting Director.
If you shoot it well, and perform as if it were a regular audition, it will be considered as such.
There are a few things that you should pay attention to when producing a self-tape, your performance should be 100%. Here’s a few things you can do you to standardise your self-taping:
- Film in landscape on a blank background
If you don’t have a camera use your phone to film. You absolutely must secure your phone and film in landscape. This is a deal breaker. Portrait (or selfie mode!) looks amateurish. Landscape allows your performance to fill the screen whereas portrait mode leaves black space either side. In landscape the native aspect ratio will be 16:9 which is the same aspect ratio you we get for most TV and Film these days.
Similarly, filming against a blank background is very important. Heavily detailed backgrounds are distracting, which is the last thing you want to happen when a Casting Director is looking at your audition. Please also make sure the lighting in the room you are filming in is bright, we need to be able to see you. Please avoid filming outside (unless the CD has requested) as it reduces the quality of sound.
DACRE MONTGOMERY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJ1zhq3yNBM (The standard! This self-tape ticks all the boxes. This should be what all professionals treat as their baseline.)
- Eyeline offset to camera lens
Just a matter of treating the camera as you would if you were on set. As in, DON’T stare straight down the lens! The only time you should look in the lens is when doing an Ident or Slate. Ask whoever is reading in with you to stand next to the camera and be your point of focus.
RACHEL MCADAMS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XfUUYK7Gkg
- Have someone reading in the other lines (for you to REACT to)
It is always preferable to have someone else reading in the other lines. If you only perform your own lines to camera then that is exactly what they will see. Just your lines. Where’s all the acting that will be expected of you when the other character is talking? What if you are auditioning for a role that barely says anything in the scene?
ELLEN PAGE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9adGbO74ikQ (Not quite a typical self-tape, but a great example of needing that person to react to.)
- Keep the camera as still as possible
Your performance can be stunning, but if we can barely see it because someone isn’t holding the camera straight it won’t count for nought. Consider getting some kind of tripod for whatever type of camera or phone you are using. If you don’t have access to a tripod, get creative with balancing your camera on books or propping it up somehow.
If there is absolutely no other way, and the camera HAS to be held by someone, a good bet is to make sure they can rest their elbows on a solid surface in front of them. Doing so will mitigate most of the wobble!
HENRY THOMAS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA5giyG8E7g
- Pay attention to preferences stated on request
If there are specific instructions attached to a self-tape request, READ THEM. COMPLY WITH THEM. Has the Casting Director asked for it to be prepared in a particular accent, do they want specific details in the late, have they asked for a full length shot at the start of the tape, do they want it as one clip?
STEVE CARELL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMyXPYxaBpk (When asked to take it a little further, watch through to the end.)