8 Quick Tips for Self-Tape Success

In these days of awesome technology, some casting directors are now opting to have actors send in taped auditions in addition to–or sometimes, in place of–traditional, in-person auditions. This method of casting has some serious benefits: save time, save gas, no parking fees . . . but easily the best part of filming and submitting your own audition is the unprecedented amount of control it gives you, the actor, compared to traditional auditions. Admittedly though, if you’re accustomed only to the traditional casting process, the procedure of recording an audition may seem a bit daunting at first. Thus, behold–I offer you the following tips to help streamline the process, and come out with your best audition video possible:

1. Film Quality

It’s important to remember that the casting team watching your video is not expecting to see a multimillion-dollar-film level of quality here. They really do understand that you’re filming yourself on a webcam or your phone–maybe an actual video camera if you’re lucky–and that the quality of the tape will reflect that. By all means, make your video neat and professional, but try not to lose sleep over your tape looking a smidgen fuzzy, or off-center, or not expertly lit. Which actually brings us to . . .

2. Lighting

Again, while your lighting setup will probably fall a bit short of professional quality, the lighting you use is very important. After all, decent lighting is the only way they’re going to be able to see you in your video! Some suggestions: Choose to film in a well-lit room. Make sure your light source (such as a window) is not behind you. (If you stand in front of the light, you will end up being dark and very hard to see.) And if you do a test run on your camera and the video is still poorly lit, start scavenging your home for any portable lights that might be contributed to your cause. Rig floor lamps, desk lamps, and anything else light-producing however you must in order to sufficiently light the space in which you’ll be filming. Trial and error! But very much worth the trouble.

3. Background

This might seem like a no-brainer, but the most favorable background for shooting is one that’s blank (doors work well for this). If you have no other options besides a wall full of stuff, it’s not the end of the world . . . but in general, the fewer distractions from watching you, the better.

4. Clothing

The best clothing choice is something in a solid color, free from any sorts of stripes or busy patterns. Keep it simple, skipping any overly large or distracting accessories and jewelry. And also, as much as I hate to confirm the rumors, the camera does indeed have a nasty little habit of visually adding extra weight to your body. Thus, it would probably behoove you to make your wardrobe choice with this in mind, and avoid anything unflatteringly baggy or unflatteringly tight.

5. Makeup

For ladies–you may find that you need to wear a bit more makeup than usual in order for your features to show up on camera, and to avoid looking washed out. If you’re especially savvy, you might even experiment with a little contouring action, to further emphasize your features and define your face. Trial and error again! Do test runs with the camera in order to gauge your makeup needs.

6. Slating

Your audition instructions may already tell you exactly what the casting team wants you to do or say on your tape, prior to performance of the actual audition itself. If that’s the case, then simply following their directions. If they don’t specify, just use a standard theatrical slate: state your name, followed by the name of the character for which you’re auditioning. Be sure to make your slate friendly and confident–a good way of thinking about it is to imagine you’re introducing yourself to another person (which, in fact, you really are). This is a valuable chance for you to show your professionalism and winning personality–don’t ruin your first impression by being monotone, boring, or in any way unpleasant!

7. Your audition: don’t keep recording indefinitely!

Alright, this is a tough one, and here’s where the downside of recording your own audition comes in: it’s all too easy to try one take, watch it, see something that could be fixed, record again, watch it, see something else that could be fixed, record again, watch it, see that you’ve successfully fixed the first two things but now have something else screwed up, record again . . . get the picture?! As innocent and useful as it might seem at first, allowing yourself to engage in this sort of nitpicking will make you crazy! Also, oftentimes, the more you keep re-recording to fix things, the more likely it is that your takes will get progressively worse, not better. Try to approach it the very first time as if you’re at a real, in-person audition, and give the absolute best performance you can. Do not fall into the trap of allowing laziness or lack of commitment to occur because you can “always just record it again”. Do you best, give yourself a couple tries if you really need to, then BE DONE.

8. Submission instructions

Once you’ve recorded a successful audition (hooray!), you’re obviously going to need to send it to the casting director. This is the point where you double–no, triple!–check the instructions they have provided. There may be a website to which you are supposed to upload your video, or you may be expected to send it via email. See if they ask for your resume and headshot, or if they request that you list things like your height or clothing sizes. And for goodness sake, be extra sure that you have the correct email address for the casting, and that you address your email (if at all possible) to the appropriate person.
Well, that about covers it. Now go break (virtual, videotaped) legs!

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Elizabeth Elizabeth Sekora is an actress and classically trained soprano living in Los Angeles. She has 24 years of experience in theatre, film, opera, television, and voiceover work, and holds a Bachelor of Music degree from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. www.elizabethsekora.com.