If you’re an on-camera actor, you probably have been asked to submit a self-taped audition. Heck, we have put people “on tape” for theater auditions, so even actor who aren’t making camera work a priority have probably run across a request for a self-tape. But, you ever asked yourself, “Am I executing this audition up to the industry standard?” Or, “How do I make my submission stand out from the crowd?” Maybe you are even saying to yourself, “What the heck does self-taping even mean???” Whatever your concern may be, if it has to do with self-taped auditions, we are going to cover it here.
A Self-Taped Audition, or Video Submission is an on-camera audition that you put together on your own, then send to a casting director, producer, director, talent agent, etc.
- To streamline the casting process, and save time for casting directors and producers.
- To eliminate the need for the pre-read casting appointment, therefore saving time and money for the casting team.
- To collect submissions from a larger and more diverse pool of talent.
The Tools and The Tech:
- HD Camera – a smartphone camera is typically sufficient.
- External microphone – if your camera does not record audio well.
- Tripod – your image needs to be stable.
- Editing software (iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, etc.).
- Soft, diffused light sources – so the video looks good.
- A neutral background/backdrop (not white; blue or grey are good color options for your backdrop) – so casting is not distracted by other objects in the frame. If you are using a cloth backdrop, please iron it so it’s wrinkle-free.
- A reader if you are submitting a scene with multiple characters.
- A YouTube or Vimeo account for video sharing.
In order to to be considered for as many acting jobs as possible, today’s actor needs to be able to produce quality self-taped auditions with little lead time. Typically, you will have at least 48 hours to get a tape together, but I have seen some requests that are due the next day. Yikes! One of the most challenging aspects of self-taped auditions is finding a reader when submitting a scene, so we suggest building a network of trusty actor colleagues, and working together, exchanging favors, so video auditions are smooth and fun. If you are a SAG-AFTRA member, your local union office might have a setup where you can tape, and be sure to check with your talent agent, too, as some have self-taping capabilities.
- Read and follow the instructions provided by whoever requested your audition tape. You should find details about when the submission is due, where to send the video, how to send the video, etc.
- Wardrobe: Wear something that suggests the character, but not a costume.
- Slate: Your slate is, typically, a very important part of your audition, so make sure you slate well, and follow any specific instructions about the delivery (sometimes it’s more than just name + agency, and sometimes the slate needs to be framed in a full-body shot).
- Framing: Unless otherwise specified, the medium-close up (head and shoulders) frame is suggested. This framing allows auditors to clearly see your face and eyes.
- Eye-lines: Slate into the lens. Place scene partners and other targets near the lens. Commercial reads usually go straight to lens. Follow any other instructions provided by the casting team.
- Testing: Do a take then review the footage.
- Make sure the lighting is good.
- Make sure the audio is good.
- The Sides: Holding your script is fine, but do you best to keep your eyes up and out of the page.
- Label your video in an easy to identify way: ActorName_RoleName_ProjectTitle.
- Don’t ignore the instructions sent with the audition invitation.
- Don’t play your looks (eye-lines) too far away from the lens. Casting wants to see your face and eyes as much as possible.
- Don’t bury your head in your sides. Do you best to improve your sight-reading skills so you can take the lines “off the page” and to or near the camera.
- When doing scene work, don’t record your own voice and play it back as the reader, unless it’s a last resort. Some casting directors actually prefer no reader voice at all if you can’t find a live reader. Do your research, and find out what the CD expects. Whenever possible, find a human to work with.
- Don’t allow your reader to overpower you with their volume or performance. You can ask them to talk a bit quieter than normal, or take a few steps back from the camera if you are using an in-camera mic.
- Reminder: Do a take, then review the footage for performance, picture and audio quality.
- Don’t use a lot of props. A cellphone is fine if the character is on the phone, but don’t go crazy.
If you aren’t comfortable using an editing platform, you will have to get savvy at making your “slate to read” performance seamless and exceptional. You might also need a camera operator to handle the starting and stopping of the camera.
WeTransfer.com is a web application that allows you to share large files via the Internet. If casting prefers that you send a file and not a link to a video hosted on your YouTube of Vimeo, then you will need to use WeTransfer (or similar) to deliver your audition. Once your video file is ready, head to WeTransfer.com. The app is very user friendly, and you can send a note along with your file, which we recommend – keep it short and sweet and to the point. And don’t forget to title your clip appropriately (see above for a recommendation).
Below is an example of a medium-close up frame:
Here is a video with some helpful hints:
So, as you can see, there is a lot to consider when putting together industry standard self-taped auditions. We hope this helped, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment, or contact us to set up an private coaching appointment. We also focus on self-taping in Camera 2, so if you have not taken a course with us, considering signing up. You can check out our current schedule by clicking here. And you can subscribe to our website for more posts like this, and for updates on upcoming classes and workshops.
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David S. Hogan
Co-Founder, Mighty Tripod Acting Studio