Everything that arises in an audition is actually excellent prep for being on set. Everything you are practicing in an everyday self-tape is skill-building for best tools and practices for being on sets. None of your self-tape efforts are a waste of time!
Let me prove it to you.
As frustrating as it may be to navigate so many elements in your self-tapes, like eyelines and framing, this is all strengthening your attention to what will be required when you are hired.
Learn lines fast. TV scripts especially give you rewrites the night before filming.
With self-tapes, you also have limited time to get those lines in your brain. TV world has a super fast turnaround time from auditioning to hiring, so auditions are often needed with 24-48 hours notice.
Use dots on the wall as scene partners. Some spaces on set are too small to fit an actor plus a camera, so you might have to act with an imaginary scene partner.
Likewise with self-tapes. Filming your scenes with specific eyelines makes a self-tape scene feel believable, like you are inside the world totally. Use multiple eyelines for multiple focus points. Get as specific as you would when on set.
Deliver choices quickly. So many last minute changes arise, and filming on the day will feel like moving frantically through an obstacle course!
Self-tapes also require that quick decision-making. Make character choices that feel natural to you, quickly. Find your version of the character, quickly. Essentially, you’re constantly working on new characters! You are getting adept at making strong character choices with little info or time to go on. Go for it!
Let go of perfection. No filmmaker will ever tell you that the film that they made is exactly—frame by frame—the film they imagined. The story and vision morphs infinite times during the process. When filming, we move fast. So you don’t have time to get stuck on anything. You can’t go back and do a take 20 times.
So, practice in your self-tapes to let it go quickly and keep moving forward. It will teach you to trust your instincts more. And remember, there is no such thing as a perfect take. What one person thinks is perfect is not what another person thinks is perfect. So just let it gooooo. Keep it moving.
Deal with technical hold-ups. There will be tons of technical hold-ups on set. Sound issues, lighting issues, location issues, etc.
For self-tapes, Studio Coach Athena Colón’s advice is my favorite: set up your self-tape space at least an hour before you are filming. (Try it once, you’ll probably find yourself amazingly focused during the actual acting work!) Avoid the last-minute pressures of tech issues. Give yourself the mental space to be the technician, and then be the actor.
Work with the camera frame. There is a sixth sense that gets developed when you work on set about understanding how the camera moves and captures your details. For example, actors learn to modulate their performances by the distance of the camera placement. Typically, closer camera = close-up frame = intimate moment.
If you haven’t already, play with body positioning within the camera frame in self-tapes. Movement tells a story. Moving closer to camera or farther from camera tells an emotional story. Experiment with creative choices to match the mood of the character.
Tai chi difficult people and scenarios. When making films and TV, everyone is racing against the clock (hours in a day, days in a week) and the budget (every penny counts). So you can imagine that brings tensions into the workplace.
Wait til you do another live audition (on Zoom or in-person). You might be affected by their grim expressions, their nonchalant responses, their abrupt “thank you,” or their poker faces. Don’t mind them. Just do the best work you know you can do. And smile. A smile can instantly transform a space.
See? When you’re making a self-tape, you are dealing with mini versions of all these real elements from actual film/TV sets!
May you become aware of how fantastic the era of self-tapes is for actors!
Everything that you are learning and practicing in your self-tapes makes you ready to play hard when you are hired. You will be ready.
I look forward to working on any of these elements that you might feel you are missing. Let’s build your confidence in Part 1, Part 2, or my Masterclass, and get you on track so that you can feel super confident to not only nail your self-tapes, but also head to set!
The more you practice, the more you are ready for the big hire.