I asked my actor friends what they felt was the biggest hurdle when self-taping, and the number one response was this…
Finding a reader.
And while finding a reader for your self-tape can be frustrating, it can also be a major benefit of self-taping. You can choose someone who will give you something, whether it be chemistry, timing, direct-ability or just flexibility… when you walk into a Casting office, your reader is your reader and they are often 1. not actors and 2. cranky about getting direction from you.
Here are some tips to help you get over the reader hurdle (listed from best option to least favorable):
1. Find an actor pal to read with you. (Obviously.) In fact, do yourself a favor and have a “self-taping group” of actor pals. This way, you aren’t stuck if your usual reader isn’t available to help out. Find your tribe, start a group text chain and use each other, as needed.
- One caveat here: don’t let your actor pals over-direct you. The nice thing about having an actor opposite you is that they can provide you with some real perspective. But at the end of the day, it is YOUR audition. Listen their feedback, but YOU need to decide whether or not to incorporate their notes.
2. If you can’t get a reader in person, use Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, etc. Even if there’s a slight internet lag, you’ll have someone with whom you can connect. Don’t worry about the slightly tinny/mechanical quality of their voice. It’s not ideal, but in 2020, we’re all very used to the sound.
3. Find an able-bodied non-actor who can take some direction. Maybe your neighbor is a writer who understands timing or perhaps your roommate did theatre in high school, or your mom is an avid reader… as long as they can follow the dialogue and incorporate feedback from you, they’ll more than suffice. (Hot tip: summarize the scene, and then give them a few minutes to look it over so they aren’t reading it totally cold.)
- What you don’t want in a non-actor is someone who has an overly thick accent/doesn’t really understand what they’re saying, can’t pace it up/slow it down, or is a child, (unless the scene is written between your character and a kid.)
4. Use a rehearsal app to “read with yourself.” This is a worst case scenario because it eliminates the possibility of spontaneity. The forced/planned timing involved in using these apps tend to make your beats either rushed or overly drawn out. These apps are terrific for REHEARSING/LEARNING your lines, not performing the scene. Use these as an absolute last resort.
And the I-HAVE-TO-MENTION-IT-BUT-PLEASE-FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-MIKE-DON’T-EVER-DO-THIS:
5. Don’t read with anyone. If you just say your lines and pause in silence when the other dialogue is supposed to be read, that’s not a performance. That is just saying/reading lines. This will never make a successful audition. Ever. Seriously. The best thing that could possibly come from a read like this, is that you hear from casting that we want you to do it again, but this time with a reader. But it’s more likely that we won’t be able to see enough of a performance to request another take.
Creating your “self-tape tribe” is the key to finding a reader.
Whether your group consists of friends or coaches or family members… or all of the above… having a go-to list will relieve the anxiety around finding a reader when you’re on a tight deadline.