Many Casting Directors are choosing to request self-tapes rather than hold in-person or remote auditions. Below are some tips to help get the most out of your self-tapes and create a professional-looking set-up in your home.
Below is a helpful video tutorial that outlines some of the best tips when it comes to filming your self-tape. While this video was not created by Breakdown Services, we find it very straightforward and useful for Actors.
Self-Taping Tips & Tricks from Adam Stephenson on Vimeo.
Follow the Casting Director's Instructions
Casting Directors will often provide detailed instructions on what they need from you in the "Audition Instructions" section of your self-tape invitation.
This can include how they want the performance framed, how many takes are needed, file naming requirements, and what they are seeking in the performance. Be sure to read and follow the provided instructions. Failing to follow instructions can hurt your chances of being considered. To learn more about how to rename and upload self-tape video files using your Eco Cast Self-tape invitation, click here.
Your "frame" is what the camera sees. Unless otherwise specified by the Casting Director, self-tapes are usually framed in a moderate close-up, from the chest to just above the head to best capture facial expressions and emotion.
Shoot in Landscape Mode
If you are using a mobile device, make sure to shoot the video in landscape (horizontal) mode. This helps prevent the video from appearing sideways, upside down, or too small when viewed by the Casting Director. Avoid shooting in portrait (vertical) mode, and double-check that your portrait lock orientation is turned off.
Use a Backdrop
Performing in front of a solid-colored curtain is ideal, as the waves in the fabric provide depth. A good second option is to find a blank wall. Too much clutter in the background can distract from your performance.
Make sure that you wear clothing that does not blend in with the color of your backdrop, and avoid choosing a backdrop color that will blend in with your skin tone or hair.
Try to record in a quiet room with a lot of soft surfaces to reduce echo/reverb. Rooms with a lot of echo can make your dialogue sound muddy and hard to understand.
While the camera mic is acceptable in most cases, it can help to use either a shotgun mic or lavalier (small lapel) mic to record your dialogue. These will help reject background sounds so your voice comes through clearly.
Make sure you are well lit from a light source(s) in front of you. Daylight from a window is best for even, natural lighting. Inexpensive LED camera lights are available from a variety of retail sources if you cannot film in natural daylight. Otherwise, position a bright, bare lamp or two to the left or right side of the camera for shooting your audition.
Be aware that direct overhead lighting creates deep shadows on your face which can change your appearance. Fluorescent lighting tends to give off a yellowish-orange hue.
Avoid bright lights or stark white backgrounds directly behind your head. These can cause you to be backlit on camera, which will create a shadow and make it difficult to see your facial expressions.
Find a Quality Reader
One of the key things Casting is evaluating is your ability to deliver and react to dialogue in a believable manner within the scene. Therefore, (unless otherwise instructed) do not simply record just your side of the conversation.
Find a friend and have them stand off-camera and read as the other role(s) in the scene. The reader doesn’t need to give a full performance, they just need to say the lines clearly.
Make sure your reader stands behind the camera, or directly next to it, to ensure that you are performing towards the camera. Unless specifically requested by Casting, make eye contact with the reader and not the camera lens. Also, unless specified by the Casting Director, never show your reader on camera with you.
Memorize Your Sides
In most cases, the Casting Director will require you to use small sections of the script (or "sides") to audition. To give the best audition possible, it is recommended to memorize these sides before taping your audition. Not only does it look more professional, but being memorized will allow you to perform without holding your sides. This prevents any visual distractions (the pages or device you are reading from coming into the frame) or noise (paper rustling) from taking away from your performance.
Review Your Tape
Always make sure to review your self-tapes before submitting them. You'll want to check that the scene is recorded properly, the sound is clear, and you are well lit and in focus. Make sure you have all of your chosen files ready to upload, as once an Eco Cast Self-tape submission has been sent in, it cannot be edited or deleted. Once you are happy with your audition, you can follow the steps in this article to upload your files to the Eco Cast Self-tape audition invitation and submit them.