One of the major complaints I hear regarding self-tapes, is that actors often feel like they’re acting in a vacuum.
“This character should clearly have a Southern accent, right?”
“Should I show the action in this scene? Do they want to see me fall?”
“This scene could totally be ironic and sarcastic, OR it could be heartfelt and genuine… should I do it the way it’s written, or the way I think it should be done?”
“The other character in this scene is obviously her brother… or is it her ex?”
“Why couldn’t they just have seen me in person?! I have so many questions!”
Well, you can calm your performance anxiety, friends. In terms of your character work and prep, self-tapes should be treated no differently than live auditions.
You can (and should!) use the following information to help inform your choices:
1. The breakdown header: there is a wealth of information provided when you see who is involved in a particular project. (I ranted more about this topic in a previous post.) Header info is a great source when thinking of appropriate tonal choices.
2. If you were given multiple scenes, each section will represent an important character aspect, trait or turn. We’re not giving you gobs of pages to test your memorization skills. Re-read the breakdown before you scan through your material, and look for different facets of the character in each scene.
3. Any notes from Casting: if there’s a certain note that will undoubtedly be helpful to your taping process, we will provide it. (Why would we want you to audition without pertinent info? Who does that help?) If we want you to do an accent, or wear something specific, or treat the other character as your brother, even though he’s your ex, then we will tell you. If we don’t give you those kinds of notes, just use your instincts to make choices based on what you see on the page.
4. When in doubt, use the material as your guide. Don’t assume that the stage direction or character description included therein is a ruse. This is not the SATs; the writer is not trying to trick you.
If ultimately, you STILL feel you are missing information that would truly affect your performance, then don’t be afraid to ask! You can have your reps reach out to Casting with your questions, (or you can have them ask if it’s ok for you to call directly.) The Casting team may not realize that there is something vague about the material. Again, we will never PURPOSELY leave out information that would have a significant impact on your choices.
So in lieu of over-thinking or stewing about having to do this on your own, remember to trust your instincts (and the writers/Casting team,) and prepare your self-tape scenes the same way you would any other audition piece.