NEED TO SELF-TAPE? HERE’S WHAT TO DO.

 In Auditioning, Pilot Season

I adore this whole self-tape movement we’ve been seeing lately. It lets you give the exact audition you wanna give. What’s not to love?! We have a wonderful, sound proof taping room here at the Studio, with talented people to read with, great lighting and sound; someone to edit and upload it with a chyron of your name, the project and role you’re reading for. Yup, we make it easy because I’d rather you spend the time on your character and the audition itself without worrying about the logistics of it all. But…if you find you need to self-tape at home, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

 

 

They want to see and hear you clearly…

I know I sound like “Captain Obvious” here, but you’d be surprised. That low light, mood lighting that you feel might be creative in setting the tone, is likely to leave the wrong impression. They want to see all those beautiful nuances you’ve created in the character, rather than notice the lighting. And you can actually create mood with your acting. So keep lighting simple; not too harsh, moody or with shadows across your face.

You must be heard clearly. I don’t think you have to go out and buy a fancy mike unless you want to. But relative quiet is essential. Barking dogs in the background or excessive noise will distract from your beautiful ‘performance.’

Proper frame is a good thing…

Unless otherwise instructed, try a nice medium shot: from your mid chest, and leaving a little head room. I’ve heard some people say things along the lines of, “But I want them to see this outfit! It’s so perfect!” Well, not really. You want them to see YOU, not what you’re wearing.

Mind your back…

A solid background is best. (Blue’s and grays work beautifully.) If that’s not possible for your set up, just be sure to remove anything in the background that draws attention – like a clock; a painting; the random odd knickknack, etc.

What to wear…

Again, avoid anything visually distracting. And don’t feel like you have to have the ‘perfect’ wardrobe. Sometimes that does more harm than good. For instance, if you’re reading for a cop, don’t go rent a uniform; or for a nurse, don’t borrow an outfit just to give it authenticity. It’s the one thing that’ll make you look like a beginner – whether you are, or not. Just dress in the flavor of the character. If you’re playing a cop, maybe a blue collared shirt might work; a nurse might wear a simple top. Conversely, you don’t want to come off as completely misunderstanding a character by dressing completely out of character. A lawyer in a courtroom scene probably wouldn’t wear a Grateful Dead t-shirt. Yup, I’ve seen that done.

Don’t completely change clothes between scenes just because the character is in different locales. It’s distracting and confusing for the viewer. Maybe for the second scene, you could just remove your jacket or sweater; or let your hair down; or mess it up; or any number of things. In all, you don’t want to come off as having gone to great lengths and heights for this audition. It will be seen as desperate. Let your work speak volumes – not your wardrobe.

Where to look…

Have your reader stand slightly off camera. You don’t want to look directly into camera unless it’s specifically called for in the sides. You can place additional characters that appear in the scene to the other side of camera just to give some authenticity and realism to the scene.

Your reader…

Make sure that your reader isn’t closer to the mike or audio source than you are. Their lines shouldn’t be louder than yours. If the other character in the scene is a female, do you have to get a female reader? Nah. It really doesn’t matter – male or female – just get someone that’s a good reader.

Props in the scene…

I would mostly avoid them. Again, it makes you look like a beginner whether you are or aren’t. There are exceptions to everything of course. Having a cell phone if the character is on the phone is fine and isn’t distracting. Using your thumb and pinky to pretend to be on the phone is. 😊 If the character is, say, having cocktails in the scene, and takes a dramatic pause to sip the drink, then it’s perfectly fine to use a glass of water – because the prop is an integral part of the scene. If your character is rifling through a briefcase, handbag or backpack, that’s fine to use as well. And may be necessary to create a bit of the primary/secondary focus needed in the scene.

But mostly props are frowned upon. If your character is shooting a gun, I wouldn’t use one in the scene – prop gun or otherwise. It makes the viewer wonder whether it’s real or not! Simply hold your hands as if you’re holding the gun. You’ll convey the meaning, without the distraction. Yeah, I’d say weapons of any kind are generally frowned upon. Just use your own discretion when it comes to props. If it’s distracting, then leave it out.

What truly matters most….

…Is your prep. They decide in the first 30 seconds or so whether to call you back or not. So nothing gets you that callback like a well-prepared character. Go. Be. Brilliant.

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