Since auditions will be done via self tape for the foreseeable future, now is the time to take your at-home self-tape studio to the next level. We’ve previously given you tips on how to create a setup, as well as best practices when it comes to capturing the audition. But now it’s time to perfect what you already have so that you can get the self-tape audition process down to a science, especially with current social distancing practices in mind. Keep reading for actionable steps you can take, as well as for some key insights from casting directors.
Adjust for a virtual reader.
Nothing is worse than preparing for and being ready to film your self-tape audition, but having no scene partner to perform it with you. If you live alone, this might be a very real challenge for you in terms of social distancing. But during her livestream with Casting Networks, casting director Rose Rosen said that it’s an acceptable practice to have a virtual scene partner, and she used the example of actors phoning in their readers via FaceTime. So if there’s no one in your living space who can read for your auditions, we recommend adding a second tripod and phone attachment to your set-up to accommodate a virtual scene partner. With this in place, you can keep the phone or tablet being used for the call at the proper height. That means you’ll be able to see and engage with your virtual reader while still maintaining the correct eyeline. The Smart Easel is an environmentally-friendly option for an attachment that will adjust to the size of the device you’re using for the call. And if you’re in the market for a virtual reader, check out the ActorTrade app. The service is built on a free-trade system that allows actors to connect with and read for each other.
Streamline your capturing process.
We understand that space may be limited, but if at all possible, designate an area in your home where your fully-assembled setup can reside. When your agent sends you a self-tape audition request, there are a number of things to starting thinking about. You’ll need to research the project, start getting the lines down, interpret the scene, etc. You don’t want to add one more thing to your to-do list when working on a self-tape audition, such as having to assemble your at-home studio every time you get one. Editing is another step in the process that can potentially be eliminated. If the directions from casting don’t require editing video, take it out of the equation. We recommend adding a wireless remote control to your setup. With it, you’ll be able to connect to your camera to start and stop recording, all from your mark. This will come in handy since virtual readers can’t operate the camera like their in-person counterparts, and it will save you from having to edit out awkward footage of you fumbling for the record button before and after each take. There are a number of affordable options on Amazon tailored to the type of camera you use, and some even connect to smartphones.
Put the focus on the performance.
This final tip isn’t about adding to your self-tape setup and may instead require simplifying it. Casting director Rita Harrell said in her livestream with Casting Networks that she’s seen actors go too far when it comes to staging their self-tapes, such as filming in the kitchen to match the setting of an audition scene. Harrell advises to instead keep it simple and stick with a blank background. This tip keeps the focus on the acting, a value casting director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd echoed during a SAG-AFTRA panel on self-taping. Byrd recalled that she once received a self-tape so heavily edited that it could’ve doubled as a short film. “[I thought that] all it needs is a one-sheet, and they could put it into a film festival,” Byrd quipped. But she cautioned that overly producing a self-tape can distract from the performance.
With these tips in mind, you can use this time to step up your self-tape game so that you’re ready for any and every remote audition that comes your way. The industry is ever-evolving, and in light of current events, self-tapes look like they’re here to stay for a while. There may be uncertainty as to what things will look like when productions resume, but you can ensure you’re submitting your best self-tapes in the meantime since castings are still happening. And during BGB Studios’ recent casting director “Zoomfest”, casting director Ramani Leah reminded actors that though the industry might change, “your craft is not going anywhere.”