The entertainment industry is 24/7 and is becoming increasingly global. More actors are working their ability to be local hires and getting on planes to fulfill their bookings. With this increased globalization of the acting industry, comes a seismic shift in the casting process. Think about what the change from paper headshots to digital headshots did for the industry. Well, a massively similar change has occurred in the fact that more and more offices are asking actors to self-tape their auditions and email them in. Every other private coaching session I run is an audition on tape.
This is a big win for actors in that it means you can compete for parts that aren’t cast or shot in your city of residence. Taped auditions are also a walking-talking dream for actors in that they offer the actor a greater level of control.
So with this new opportunity, let’s load the dice in your favor and make sure you deliver the best self-taped audition you are capable of producing.
1. Sight and Sound.
This is basic stuff, but so many actors still let this one slide. You need to be well-lit and clearly audible. These are non-negotiable. Your performance does not stand much of a chance unless these two elements are damn near perfect.
2. Key Equipment Items.
An HD digital camera with a strong microphone and a tripod. A solid color background. Natural light works well, as long as where you’re sitting/standing doesn’t cast any unflattering shadows on your face or create a blown out image. Lighting is an art in and of itself. Since many actors will be shooting this in their homes, please try and conceal elements of your life out of the frame: i.e. meowing cats, magic bullet blenders, discarded legwarmers, etc.
Always test the sound and image quality before you do a read: make sure you can be heard easily and look reasonably flattering in your selected garments, so that casting professionals don’t click away. You want to present a clean canvas, like your going out on an exciting date but not trying to over impress.
4. Hold on to that Script.
You absolutely must know your lines inside and out. You can’t be nailing your audition and thinking about your next line at the same time. This is an absolute and deserves no further discussion. EVEN SO, you must keep those sides in your hand even though you’re not looking at them: this demonstrates that you are malleable, and not married to your current read, and that the audition you are presenting here is indeed a work in progress which will only get better and better.
5. Don’t Slate.
Unless you were given express instructions to slate, slating is actually a rookie mistake, though an understandable one.
My A-List clients refuse to slate self-taped auditions (and yes...audition tapes are still requested from this level of actor). Their argument: they irrefutably reject the herd mentality, and preconceived, mindset that all auditions must be preceded by a slate. Conclusion: If it doesn’t say to slate, then don’t slate.
6. Instructions are golden.
For all the opportunity and control that self-taping allows actors, the instructions attached to these auditions are often a long list of seemingly anal-retentive demands from the casting office. Some of these demands come attached with threats that if even one bit of minutiae is missed, the entire audition will be tossed in the garbage. Even though it’s annoying, you need to read these instructions several times slowly, and make sure you’ve met all requirements before you submit your tape. It would be a dear shame if your brilliant audition wasn’t even considered because a casting office required you to be sitting down while you were recorded, and you happened to be standing.
7. Your reader.
Your reader should be seated to the right or left of the camera, as close to you as possible, while still being off-camera. Don’t worry if in the scene you’re talking to a male, but your reader is female. I’ve never seen that affect the success of an actor booking off a given tape.
8. Frame it.
You need to plant yourself in the center of the frame with the lower portion of the frame at your mid-chest and the top of the frame just above the top of your head.
9. Sit or Stand.
The camera is not the main event here. You are. Don’t bring any attention to the camera by moving it around, or you run the danger of distracting production or casting from watching your tape. Thus, make a decision to sit or stand throughout the entire scene and stick to it so the camera can remain fixed.
10. Shoot every scene individually.
Unless given specific instructions, record every scene individually: this gives you time to hone and get each scene right—and make brave and fun choices—so that you feel good about it, and feel like you’ve shot your best performance. You can always cut the scenes together later.
Shooting scenes separately means all awkward transitions between scenes that happen during in-person auditions are gone! You can go from asking your best friend why he killed your goldfish to negotiating the price of bananas in Egypt without a hitch!
I help my clients book their taped auditions by coaching them to their winning performances, so they’re featured at their best, ready to send to casting or reps.
Revel in the ability to compete for roles on your own terms. But make sure you do it right!