Hey Actors! When it comes to self-tapes, these are some of the more common issues I see, (and how you can avoid them!):
#1: EYE LINE
It’s easy to overthink where you should be looking when faced with car scenes or a scene with multiple characters, but the easiest solution is to keep it simple. We (and the camera) need to see your face. You can acknowledge the entrance of another character by looking slightly off camera/to the opposite side of the camera, and then bring your eye line back to the reader. For car scenes, keep your face forward and engage with the reader in the moments when you feel you would’ve turned sideways to look at them. If you’re not looking at/engaging with your reader, your performance will start to feel one-sided. Always bring your eye line back to the person who is in the room with you.
#2: FANCY EDITING TRICKS
Title cards, cross fades, fade in/out, 4K are all not necessary. Casting Directors don’t use them… you don’t have to either. If we need to edit your tape, those fancy-looking tools can make it difficult for us to find a clean cut. They also add to your file size (significantly.) If you’re wondering why it takes forever to upload your tape, this could be why. Keep it simple with hard cuts and a slate instead of a title card.
#3: FLAT ENERGY
“Doing less” because the proximity of the camera makes you feel like you can be small is a trap into which MOST actors fall. However, your energy will come across as completely flat if you’re not projecting it past that device to your reader. If there is an energetic void between you and your reader, we will sense it in your self-tape.
#4: SPENDING OODLES OF TIME ON A SELF-TAPE
If you’ve done your prep and are as ready to audition as you would be if you went in for a live read, then your self-tape shouldn’t take long. Do not do more than three takes before you watch it back to see if you have it. (You probably do.) If nothing else, you will be able to see EXACTLY what you’re aiming for in the 4th Any more than that, the performance will start to dissolve. If you spend hours on your self-tape, you’ll either end up sending one of your very first takes or you will send a take where we can see your choices coming a mile away. (Also: preserve your relationship with your reader and be efficient with your time.)
#5: IGNORING DIRECTIONS FROM CASTING
This. Happens. CONSTANTLY. Be one of the actors we admire for their professionalism and follow directions, (and for the love of all that is holy, adhere to deadlines!) Also, we put important performance notes in our self-tape requests. Look there before you read through your sides for extra context and notes.
All of these things are easy traps to fall into because of timing, technical issues, trying to “stand out”… but when it comes to self-tapes, all Casting wants is for them to look like an audition that took place in our office.