Updated: Aug 22, 2019
Self Taping has become increasingly popular with TV and Film Castings. Check out these handy tips on what makes a great self tape -
"What is a Self-Tape?"
A self tape is a digital audition. It is requested by a casting director, the actor films themselves and then is submits it to the casting director (or through their agent) electronically.
Casting Directors usually provide the sides, instructions, and deadline, and then it is up to you to film, edit, and return it to them on time.
"So they sent me the script and they want me to film myself? sounds simple..."
Self taping is pretty straight forward but there is a big difference between a good and a bad self tape. Most Casting Directors wont watch past the first 10 seconds of your self tape, remember they could have hundreds of submissions to watch. So its important yours looks professional and really showcases your acting. Follow these tips to give yourself a better chance of creating a great self tape.
1. Preparation is key!
There are several things you should do before you even turn the camera on.
Read any instructions you have been sent through thoroughly.
Go through the lines one by one and write out whether there is an underlying subtext – any clues to help you understand how the character is feeling and what they are thinking?
Mark the sides with notes – change of pace, volume, emotions, movements, where is your character from? Does this effect their voice? Make bold character choices - What is your characters background, rich/poor, shy/confident…
LEARN THE LINES!
Although you should consider any stage directions in the sides don't stress over the action too much, too much movement is off putting for the viewer.
2. Choosing where and how to tape:
Make sure your record it in a well-lit room, against a plain wall to avoid distractions. Light yourself properly, use natural light if you can. You can also use lights in your house - Soft lighting is the best choice for a taped audition, and you should choose from a large source which casts soft, diffused shadows. Hard light is from a small light source and would cast a sharp shadow.
Pick somewhere quite with no distracting outside noises.
Choose suitable clothing that doesn't distract from you. Its OK to hint towards the character but do it without making it look like you tried too hard :)
If filming on a phone, be sure to film in landscape, not portrait. Make sure the camera is eye level and is NOT looking down or up at you.
Basic props are OK as long as they add to the character and you feel they are essential - cup, cigarette etc
Frame in a mid-close shot unless requested otherwise (chest to top of head). Your eye line should be close to the camera as they want to see both sides of your face.
Don’t go too far from the camera (unless you have an external microphone).
Sit or stand depending on what feels comfortable/appropriate for the character and scene.
Use the rear facing camera on a phone if possible, front facing cameras don't produce the same quality of picture
4. Performance Tips
Start with a slate/indent – name, age, agent, role you are reading for – clear, confident straight to camera (OR HAVE A TITLE SLATE)
Take a few seconds to show you changing from yourself into the role of the character through body language
Try to change your voice – this doesn’t have to mean accents, but changing tone and volume signifies emotion and shows acting range
Don’t move around too much
Use gestures and mannerisms
Face gestures and showing train of thought often makes the character feel more human - eye rolls, huffs etc (but only of relevant!)
"What if there are two characters in the script?"
Good question! If there is another character in the script have someone read in for them from behind & slightly to the side of the camera –It is important you look at and engage with the other reader rather than look straight at the camera. Find the best reader you can, it WILL make a difference with your performance. Finally make sure they speak softly and aren’t too loud.
6. How to send the self tape
Self tapes need to be saved as MP4's
Make sure you label the file with your name, and the audition title and role. Even pop the agents email in the end if you'd like!
Send the file via the free online site WeTransfer it doesn't clog up anyone's emails or drop box and you know once they have received it and downloaded it :)
Don’t over think it!
Don’t do too many takes - If you can’t get it in 3 takes, take some time out, then try again.
Check out this Self-Tape example on our Youtube channel and why not subscribe to our new channel MATalentUK for future acting tips and updates