It never gets easier for the humble actor. The time was, you’d get a script, learn it, toddle off to an audition a week later and give it all you got. But times have most certainly changed. The rise in content sharing sites and fibre optic-mijgicamy has made finding auditions much easier, but more stressful. Producers and casting directors now have easy access to showreels, voice reels, headshots and CV’s, and if that wasn’t enough, self-taping is the new big thing.
Self-taping is a simple way for directors and producers to audition lots of actors, usually from the comfort of their offices. You get the script, the part they want you to read, and you record yourself and send it back. It all seems very easy, but there is an art to it.
A good self-tape can get you the job there and then, a bad one can make you seem amateurish. So, what are the rules and regulations when you’re recording yourself playing Henry VIII but are still in your pyjamas from the waist down?
Landscape Artist of the Year
If filming on a phone or tablet, do it in landscape. This avoids two black rectangles closing you in, and doesn’t look weird on a laptop or TV. Landscape can give more context to the scene and gives you the freedom to explore the frame. Without it, your character feels boxed in, and so will the viewers.
Do your homework
Quite often you’ll be given very little time to do a self-tape. It’s important you take the time to read the script and get a feel for your character. Make some choices. They don’t have to be final, or the right ones for that matter, but if you show at least one aspect of the character well, you’ll leave them wanting more. Just because you’re in the comfort of your own room doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the work.
This is personal preference, but I always begin my self-tapes with a black slate of my name and spotlight number. Very similar to an actual clapperboard in film and tv, it provides someone looking at the files with the info they need straight away. I also think it acts as a good opener. Allowing the audience to get relaxed and know who they’re watching before the acting starts.
To costume or not to costume?
Once again, this is very subjective. A costume isn’t going to make or break your chances of getting a role. I would always suggest against a full rigout of period drama skirts and the like. Just wear something comfortable and understated that helps you, and gets across the feel of the character. Otherwise, you’re just doing the job of the wardrobe department instead of acting. I should give them a taste of how you envision the character.
Even if you’re in a groups scene with twenty other actors, you only need one or two others to give you the lines for the other characters in the scene. They are really only there for the eyeline. Somewhere for you to look at; preferably not too far away from where the camera is placed. Their performance doesn’t need to Oscar-worthy either. It’s just something for you to react to.
Often with self-tapes, and with actors generally, it’s easy to be critical of your work. Don’t get bogged down in this. Do a maximum of six or seven takes which show off the character and your choices. Some takes will naturally show some choices better than others, and there isn’t much you can do about it. Review them periodically to try and add to your own performance each time.