How to self tape for impact
What is a self tape?
A self-tape is a pre-recorded video an actor submits to casting director or team as an audition for a character role in a film or stage play. The part of the script that is delivered is known as a "side". The tape is edited or trimmed and sent via email or uploaded to casting. One advantage to a self-tape is that you can shoot until you feel that you have the best representation of your performance to show. Stage actors must be aware that casting will be watching for more physicality and vocal quality to see how well you project.
Here are some great examples of taped auditions https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/great-actors-audition-tapes-11860/
Keep in mind that the performances on tape are great; do not copy the background settings.
Your self tape should look and sound great. You absolutely must have clean and clear sound and your image must be well lit, no shadows on your face or background.
You must be believable in the role, do not break character, ever. Be in character even during the beats.
Don't use a ton of props or too much costume.
Make strong choices for the character.
Know the material or concept of the project you are casting for.
Cell phone or DSLR
For cell phones the video and audio quality can be good quality. Try to invest in a phone lens kit to enhance to look of your video. Sometimes a close up lens will look better; sometimes a wider shot will be great. Cell phone lens kits are fairly reasonable in cost and worth the investment. A tripod and a mount for you phone is a must. It should be at least eye high and mounted level, not tilted up or down.
DSLR cameras are always a better choice if you have one handy but you still need a lens that gives good image quality. A medium length zoom will do (50 - 100mm) range is good for medium to portrait type image. Have a memory card that can handle the file sizes of video footage like a 16 or 32 gig card that you can dump to your computer if you run out of space. Get a card reader for your computer if you do not have one for the card type you record on. A decent tripod that doesn't wobble and can raise to at least your eye high so the camera isn't tilted up or down when you shoot.
Your phone has a built in mic with settings for voice and recording interviews, use this setting if you must but make sure there is no background noise. You can also buy lav mics if you want a bit more quality but you will have to learn how to use them.
Your DSLR has great sound built in but with either mic you want to be in a place with absolute no background sound.
If you have great natural light with no shadows that shows you skin tone well go with that. If you need lights go with a large soft diffused light source that does not make shadows on your face or background. Also stand far enough away from the wall so that your shadow does not show on it behind you.
You may need 2 diffused lights, 1 in front to fill your face and one to the side to fill in shadows or give your background some depth. A ring light is good for Zoom meetings but not for auditioning videos. Never use your cell phone light!!
Use a neutral color wall like white or grey. If there is no wall use a bed sheet or curtain that is not wrinkled.
Your study before taping:
Be off book for your self-tape. You will have anywhere from a day to maybe a week to prepare but being off book is always best to deliver a truly full character without breaking to remember or read a line. It's not always held against you if you do. You can place your sides somewhere that helps you to see them while taping so that is doesn't look like you are reading but you should practice this method for line of sight, like reading from a teleprompter or cards.
Having a reader:
You can record the lines ad play them back but it's always best to have a live reader.
Make sure the reader is speaking as if they are really talking to you, not flat reading. Read so that they can be heard on tape, use the same voice throughout the reading, dot use an accent or any way that draws attention to them, DO NOT READ STAGE DIRECCTIONS.
If there are directions follow them. If not-
Wear form fitting tops, shots are usually tight, don't wear anything that matches the background or your skin tone. Wear collared tops or v-necks. NO RED, WHITE OR BLACK. Avoid stripes ad herringbone patterns.
If you are asked to slate, make sure to read the instructions carefully. Every casting director wants something slightly different. Some want full-body shots, others tight close-ups or profile shots. If the instructions don’t specify, shoot the slate vertically and the read horizontally (if you’re filming on your phone) and adding it to the end of your read. Her other practical tips for slating include:
To shoot a self-tape, use a tight frame that goes from your chest to just over the top of your head. (This is called a medium close-up.) Make sure your reader stands close to the camera to create the correct eyeline. And keep your camera at eye level!
Since your frame will be tight, it’s best to stay mostly still while filming a self-tape.
Another common self-tape mistake is incorrectly positioning the reader. “The most effective eyeline is when your reader is almost straddling the tripod, standing (or sitting) right next to the camera. If your reader is even a few inches too far from the camera, we will not get the full impact of your eyes.
Finally, make sure your camera is at the correct height. Placing it too low can create an unflattering angle that will do you no favors. Make sure your tripod is positioned at eye level or just above; if you’re using your camera, you can stack books on a table or shelf to achieve the desired result.
There are tons of inexpensive easy do it yourself digital editing software packages out there based on your computer system. For self tapes you don't need anything fancy just cut, edit and save. There are eve apps that allow you to edit rogt on your cell phone if you shoot on it. I'll leave that part to you.
Most importantly, do not delete anything for a week or so after you send it off just to be sure you don't have to resend or send another one.
Submit you tape as directed by the casting directors specifies. Read the directions carefully, check email or upload link, go slow and be sure not to make any mistakes. You will sometimes be told length or file size, number of takes to send, scenes to send separately, type of file (mov, mp4...) Follow all directions, take your time, reread everything to be sure. Submit early if possible, you never know if they will send you notes to resubmit.
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