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Mastering the Art of Self-Taping: A Guide for Actors with Tips from Casting Directors

Updated: 6 hours ago

Self-taping has become an essential need-to-know auditioning skill for actors. By practising and paying attention to detail, you can develop the skills needed to create compelling tapes that showcase your talent to casting directors that help you land your dream acting roles. This article covers some useful tips to help you improve your self-taping skills and achieve success in the acting industry.

Self taping an actor on a mobile smart phone
  1. Introduction

  2. What Kind of Camera

  3. Audio Quality

  4. Choose your Filming Environment Carefully

  5. Ensure any area you use is well-lit

  6. Choose a simple background

  7. Noise

  8. Costumes

  9. Editing

  10. Practice your Performance Beforehand

  11. Recording

  12. Sending Your Self-Tape

  13. That's a Wrap!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Check out the video below for a quick overview in just over 3 minutes.


Introduction


Mastering the art of self-taping involves understanding lighting, sound, camera angles, and framing. It also requires selecting the right equipment, rehearsing your lines, and ensuring your background is appropriate. With practice and attention to detail, you can develop the skills needed to create compelling self-tapes that showcase your talent and help you land your dream movie roles.


Self tapes are incredibly important for casting directors and producers because they allow them to review potential talent quickly and efficiently. However, many casting directors say they will only present a tape to a client if it meets their standards. Therefore, as an actor, it is crucial to get it right and ensure that your audition tape is of the highest quality.



What Kind of Camera?


Any camera you use for your auditions must be of good quality, clear and not grainy or blurry. Technology is rarely an issue these days because smartphone cameras tend to be such excellent quality!


When using a smartphone, use it in landscape mode and on a stable surface. You can purchase a cheap camera tripod stand from Amazon for around £15 to £20. Here's one which also comes with a wireless remote shutter for ease of shooting different takes.


Camera to use for self taping

Audio Quality


It's also crucial to ensure that your audio quality is top-notch. Remember that the casting director not only needs to see your performance but also hear it clearly. If the audio is crackly, it will be difficult for them to understand your lines.


Most casting directors do not want to hear any empty spaces between your lines, so it's best to record with a reader. Make sure the reader's lines can be heard clearly but quietly.


If you have trouble finding a reader, you can record the other role lines on your phone, have someone dial in and read the lines remotely, or use a platform like WeAudition, which provides actors/readers for around $10 per month and is available worldwide.


Choose your Filming Environment Carefully


There are several things to consider when choosing a space for filming your auditions.


Ensure any area you use is well-lit:

Natural lighting is ideal but can fluctuate with weather changes. If sunlight goes in or it begins to rain, lighting will become an issue. One option is to use softboxes or a lighting ring, which can be an inexpensive option for adjusting your lighting to make it more dynamic and illuminating your face evenly.


Choose a simple background:

Ensure the background is plain and clutter-free. If you don't have a bare wall, you can purchase a photography backdrop, use blinds or a bedsheet. Perfect background colours are white, cream, blue or grey. All of this will keep the casting director's focus on you and how well you are performing.

Noise:

Additionally, ensure that the space you use is free from any background noise and isn't echoey, as that could distract from your performance. Choose a quiet area and ensure no ticking clocks, phones, pets, or other potential distractions are present.



Costumes


The way you present yourself in a self-tape can significantly affect how you are perceived. It is essential to demonstrate that you understand the character you are portraying to make your audition stand out from others. Wear attire appropriate for the role you are playing or similar to the headshot submitted for the part. Try not to wear clothes with distracting logos or patterns; solid colours work best.


To avoid any distractions from your performance, keep your costume simple and minimal. If you choose to use any props, only use those that are essential to the role.

Remember, first impressions count, and we want to keep the focus on you and your acting skills and increase the chances of future audition requests.


Read Blog Post: A Guide to 6 UK and Ireland Casting Websites to Find Acting Auditions


Editing


When filming, there's no need to film in full high resolution; around 720p should be fine. Set up and film in a medium close-up, have the camera and reader at eye level so the casting director can see your face entirely and film in landscape. All of this will help speed up the editing process.


There's also no need to purchase an expensive editing suite; you can use the iMovie editing software on your iPhone, or a free option I recommend downloading is the Clipchamp app. Clipchamp is excellent as it also allows you to edit and compress your self-tape, reducing the upload time without losing any quality. This will help and be appreciated by casting directors who must download and sometimes upload your tapes to show directors and producers.


Also, remember to refrain from using filters or overlays. Casting wants to see you. Camera effects can make it harder for them to tell if you're right for the part.


Lastly, it's essential to watch your takes multiple times to identify any areas for improvement. Sometimes, a recording you initially disliked highlights your talents, or you may find scenes that need reworking. Having the confidence and self-awareness to analyse your own performance is crucial to grow as an actor. If you're still unsure which to send, you can always ask your agent or a trusted peer for feedback to help you decide.

Green screen, filming camera and actor acting
Practice, Makes Perfect!

Practice your Performance Beforehand


When auditioning for a role, treat it as if you were doing it in person. Prepare and rehearse your lines, and work on creating a compelling performance that engages the audience and conveys the character's emotions effectively.


I recommend doing several takes of each scene and becoming accustomed to delivering the character's lines while discovering the nuances within the text. These subtle and complex variations in an actor's performance can make a significant difference in the final outcome.


Before a shoot, dive deep into your character to get a better understanding of their personality. You can interview yourself as the character to learn about their backstory or do everyday tasks, such as preparing a coffee or cooking dinner while being in character, to help you get into the right mindset.


As an actor, it is essential, when possible, to always have your lines memorised. If you constantly look at your lines when you're on stage, it can disrupt your focus and take you out of character.


Sight Reading: This brings us to another important skill for an actor: learning to sight-read. The more familiar you are with a text, the more you can play and experiment with the character. But how do you achieve this when, for example, a script is presented minutes before an audition?


Sight-reading is a way of script reading that makes it appear as if you had actually prepared the scene beforehand. This tends to be covered in drama school. But for those who have travelled alternative routes into acting, you can always consider taking an audition course at places like The City Lit, in London.


Recording


It's crucial to follow any instructions given by the casting director. Not following them could result in your tape being discarded right away. Read any instructions given at least twice to ensure nothing is missed.


Casting directors can require specific accents, close-up and full-body shots, body profiles, 3/4 shots, and profiles depending on the role and if it's a film or commercial audition. These instructions will be specific, so it's crucial to follow them closely.


Slate/Ident: Some directors may ask for a slate, also known as an ident, while others may not. In case a slate is required, follow the given instructions precisely. You may have to introduce yourself by stating your name, agency, and height. Speak confidently, be natural, keep it short, and practice.


When recording the script, even if the first take seems satisfactory, record a few more takes to have multiple options for editing. This will save time and prevent the need for rushed retakes.


Taking breaks between takes, drinking water, and refreshing yourself is essential. Overdoing it can lead to exhaustion and may affect your performance. After taking a break, you can return to the material with a more balanced and fresh approach.

Sending your finished recording to a casting director
Remember to always check before sending!

Sending Your Self-Tape


It can be tempting, after all the hard work that goes into a self-tape, to hit that send button without reviewing the material first. But it doesn't matter how much you've perfected that performance; always double-check before hitting send.


Most casting directors have different specifications regarding labelling and sending, so make sure to thoroughly read the guidelines that they have sent so as not to avoid any confusion and to maximise your chances!


Instructions may provide specific requirements for formatting the video, including file size, type and preferred filesharing method. They will also inform you about how to title your video before uploading.


Common free filesharing platforms are:


Wetransfer: Transfer up to 2GB free.


Dropbox: Dropbox Basic is the free version of Dropbox, offering 2GB of storage. You can refer others to earn up to 16GB of storage.


Vimeo: With our free plan, you can upload or create two videos per month and send private download links for your self-tapes.


Art of Casting with Emmy Nominated Casting Director Louise Kiely

Some key moments to consider watching are:

  1. From 07:41 What is a casting director's job?

  2. From 21:35 The importance of meeting the director

  3. From 32:15 What is a chemistry read?

  4. From 55:24 Casting for TV vs commercials

  5. From 01:08:13 Recording a scene for casting

  6. From 01:15:30 How can you tell if an actor has potential


That's a Wrap!


At this point, you should have a clear understanding of the dos and don'ts when it comes to creating a successful self-tape audition. By adhering to the guidelines outlined above and taking note of the advice provided by casting directors, you should be able to set up and produce high-quality self-tapes that will help you achieve your goals.


Puro Casting, Aisha Bywater, and Mark Summers, all offer excellent tips on creating and showcasing your abilities to the fullest.


Remember: By making a good impression, even if you don't get the role, you can increase your chances of securing your dream role through repeated casting audition requests.


If you need more advice, why not read this article, Career Advice and Guidance for Actors


As always, please leave your comments below, and you can also follow me on LinkedIn, where I share and repost industry-related news and jobs.


Also, don't forget to sign up for my blog newsletter, where you can stay up-to-date with my latest posts and receive a promo code for a 20% discount on an Actor Mentor session.


Wishing you the best of luck and happy self-taping!

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