How to do a Proper Self Tape Audition

How to do a Proper Self Tape Audition

How to do a Proper Self Tape Audition, blog post by Darius Stevens Wilhere

(Please pass this on to every person you know who goes to auditions or does self-tapes! You could help them get jobs they might otherwise miss.)

So you want to get more parts?

On the many different feature films, documentaries, commercials and corporate videos I’ve worked on over the past couple decades, I’ve had the opportunity to watch tens of thousands of auditions. And only recently with the explosion of independent projects and global casting, has self-taping become a broadly acceptable form of audition.

I think self-tapes are an awesome way to save time for people working on films either on the acting side or on the production side. BUT, and that’s a big but, the overwhelming majority of self-tapes I’ve watched are truly terrible on the technical side. I’m talking about thousands and thousands of self-taped auditions I’ve watched in the last 6 years alone. And it’s a shame, because as a director or a producer, I have to fight my discomfort at the technical problems to try and see the acting when I only want to focus on the acting!

You can do it, but it’s annoying because we really just want to watch how good you are as an actor and not how bad you are as a camera operator.

And almost everyone makes the same mistake. They shoot it like a selfie. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no. You are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Let me show you what I mean. There are four basic ways you can do a self-tape.

1. Selfie Modie with cluttered background = Bad

This is the most common form of self-tape that I see, usually with either a simple background (which is fine) or a messy background which is fine. Please note, if your dog or pet runs through the frame or jumps on you mid-audition = do another take. We don't think it's funny unless it's in the script, keep it professional people. 

 1 - Selfie Modie with cluttered background = Bad

1 - Selfie Modie with cluttered background = Bad

2. Mobile phone held by a friend = little better but not good.

I would say about 20% of the self-tapes come in with a friend shakily holding a camera often add a weird angle because they are standing and you are sitting. It's certainly better than selfie style, but you can do better. 

 2 - Friend holding phone or camera, shaky, weird angle, messyish background = not good enough.

2 - Friend holding phone or camera, shaky, weird angle, messyish background = not good enough.

3. Mobile phone or camera on a stable surface or a tripod = acceptable.

Okay so you've got your phone or camera on a stable surface or really reaching here, a tripod. Instantly your self-tape is something where we can start focusing on your acting instead of the camera movement.

 3 - Camera or phone on a stable surface, background not too messy = acceptable.

3 - Camera or phone on a stable surface, background not too messy = acceptable.

4. Recorded on a DSLR or professional camera with a clean background = good.

And finally we come to the version of preference. Nicely shot. Now we really are looking only at home good your acting is and if you can physically fit the part.

 4 - Shoot it like a boss with a stable, good camera and clean background = YES!!!!!!!

4 - Shoot it like a boss with a stable, good camera and clean background = YES!!!!!!!

Make sure you also record a slate at the front (Hi my name is ________ my contact info is _________ and I'm reading for the part of _______________) so we can see you in a medium shot as well.

 Make sure you do a slate at the front so they can see you in a medium shot.

Make sure you do a slate at the front so they can see you in a medium shot.

There you go. A quick shout out to my incredibly talented friends who shot this with me, Luca and Luca! Follow Luca Riemma on instagram and Luca della Valle on Facebook.

Alright, now look at the above images and ask yourself which you think a casting director, producer or director would rather see?

I can’t speak for all directors, but I can tell you that when I see a well recorded self-tape, I pay a lot more attention. It tells me that this actor is not only serious, but they understand the importance of quality in the small details.

And before you get all concerned about something like this costing a lot of money, it doesn’t. It can be done with a cheap, used DSLR for a couple hundred bucks set up on a fixed tripod in your house. And when you aren’t doing self-tapes with it, you can use it to film yourself practicing so you can watch yourself back and work on your craft. A win-win if I ever heard of one.

At the very least, set your camera on a stable surface and frame the shot so that it is lit acceptably and we can see you. I also recommend not speaking directly into camera, but to another actor or friend just off camera so it approximates the show.

And if you don’t want to buy a camera, that's fine too! Go make friends with someone who has one. Honestly the first network connection actors should make is with people who want to shoot. Together you can make magic.

And if you can’t get a DSLR and don’t have a friend with a camera and have to use your mobile phone, don’t handhold it selfie style, put it on a tripod and frame it professionally and ensure the lighting isn’t terrible.

These small things help showcase the most important thing about the self-tape: your acting.

Anyways, I think I’ve made my point. If you need more specific direction on it, let me know in the comments and I’ll fill in any details I missed. If you are interested in learning about shooting with a DSLR camera, you can check out my DSLR courses on my course page.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe and feel free to email me about what episodes you’d like to see at dare@darecinema.com.

How to do a Proper Self Tape Audition, blog post by Darius Stevens Wilhere
 

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