By Brad Holbrook
Self Tape. The term was coined several years ago when a casting director knew of an actor who might be good for a role being cast, but who was out of town. The CD would call and say “I’m faxing the sides. Can you put yourself on tape and overnight it to me?” and the actor would make some attempt to do so, probably with a VHS camcorder. The video was taped and shipped. The CD submitted the actor, and magic either happened or didn’t. But the point is, for the first time ever it was possible to see the out of town actor read for a role, within a day or two of being asked. Untold dollars were saved by not having to fly someone in for an audition, which used to happen all the time.
The term “self tape,” which so perfectly described what happened then, has long ago lost its original meaning. First, it’s no longer tape. And, in most cases, it’s no longer created by “self,” the actor submitting the audition. But like “Scotch tape”, the name sticks, and will probably always be used. The ways actors “self tape” today can vary from comically bad to highly polished professional. You need to know about three very important considerations that will show you where you are on that scale, which also indicates how likely you are to book the job.
1. How a video audition differs from a live one. When you are in the room with the casting director you expect to be able to ask a question or two about the project or character. Live, you will usually get an adjustment to do the sides a second or even third time. On video, you’re on your own. Which means more thought should go into the audition when you’re recording one. Is your take on the character and situation really as clearly thought out as it could be? As original? As uniquely yours?
At ActorIntro, we offer professional guidance to guarantee you’re making the best audition video possible.
2. The shot. Your taped audition should be shot in close up. Which means that you must be extraordinarily still. Video accentuates movement, and much more so in a close up shot. Place your eyeline for the other characters in the scene within a few degrees either side of the camera lens, a much more narrow restriction than might seem appropriate. But again, the camera distorts space and a slight distance from the lens works best. In almost all cases you should sit, no matter what the character is doing. This will help you stay grounded and limit any extraneous movement. Lighting should be even, soft and flattering, and audio should be crystal clear, not like you’re talking in an airplane hangar.
At ActorIntro we insure the highest level of quality in production values, with HD video, perfect lighting, and professional audio.
3. Delivery. I have seen pages and pages of “instructions for submitting a self tape” that would make even a seasoned electronics engineer weep. And many casting directors have different rules. I get it. They want to “help you help them”, but in doing so have made it nearly impossible for anyone without a solid background in video editing to comprehend, let alone honor the requirements. They embrace the idea of self tape but they don’t want to have to deal with any of the inevitable headaches. There are many codecs, file types, delivery sites, naming conventions, on and on, and none of them is the gold standard, yet. So everyone has one set of guidelines they are familiar with and they don’t want to deal with any others. For the DIY self-taper, this is usually the Achilles heel of the whole project.
ActorIntro delivers auditions usually within an hour and takes care of all the delivery requirements so you can concentrate on the only thing that should be on your mind: performing the audition! After all it should be best of you that’s on that “tape,” not just your blood and tears.