Get audition primed and set-ready by understanding how genre impacts your acting choices.
Each scene and each project demand different skill sets from actors. Being a working actor is being a flexible, knowledgeable, and prepared actor who can adapt to different genres.
A self-tape audition is a chance to prove you are ready to go to set.
Whether we like it or not, self-tapes place the demand on the actor to deliver the good work, not the casting director to elicit good work.
In a self-tape, on your own time and in your own setting, you’re the one expected to prove that you’re ready to go to set. Ready to go to set.
If your self-tape is general in any way, then it raises flags of either lack of preparation and focus, lack of care, or simply an undeveloped eye.
You want to play with the big kids, and those kids are dextrous between genres and able to adapt to the various styles. Casting Directors, Directors and Producers need to find out if you are a match for the project. How well do you match the tone of the project? How informed are you in your choices? How detailed are your actions? How committed to a ridiculous (horror, sci-fi, crime, etc.) circumstance can you be?
Everyone wants to move to the next level in their roles, so let’s make sure you’re using all the skills necessary to prove that you are a prepared and independent thinker. This is truly my favorite kind of actor.
There are the 3 main elements that I’m going to work on with you in this Self-Tape Class:
But we’re going to have FUN working on these elements! We’ll use genres as a way to test, bend, and inspire these 3 main qualities in the actor.
And what better way to really test these skills than self-tapes, when you are expected to deliver full-out with all the tools and craft and knowledge that you got!
I look forward to working with you,
P.S. BEWARE: This class is going to open a can of worms for you, and you’re going to just LOVE preparing your roles. You’ll never be the same auditioning actor…I’m 110% positive.
Johnny and I were invited to speak at the SAG Foundation about actors producing their own work (November 11, 2017).
I was invited back to speak at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation about actors processing and handling rejection (February 27, 2020).
Listen as I chat in depth about casting RENT, Jonathan Larson, what inspired her to start her coaching career, filmmaking, and more on the podcast The Cool Kids Table: Ep 7 – Heidi Marshall.
Listen as I talk behind-the-scenes casting tips on the podcast No, I Know: EP#20 RENT Audition Throwback (and new tips!).
Listen as I discuss the iconic film Sixteen Candles on the podcast Still Got It: Episode 90: Sixteen Candles.
ACTING COACH: Heidi’s career has spanned over 20 years and includes time as the lead Casting Director at Telsey+CO for the Broadway musical RENT, as well as for 70+ projects in theater, film, television, commercial, and voiceover. She’s coached countless actors into roles for Film, TV, and Theater. Most recently, she coached and prepped Halle Bailey for her audition and screen test for Disney’s upcoming The Little Mermaid. Heidi’s active filmmaker career informs her director’s eye and influences her aesthetic for working with actors.
For full acting coach bio, click here.
We will always be focusing on skills particular to acting on camera, but you’ll find that the work applies across all mediums from theater, musical theater, to commercials, etc.
In all of my acting classes, we work on these elements:
If you’re a working actor, you can trust that you’ll be challenged.
If you’re a new or returning actor, you can trust that you’ll be inspired.
The STUDIO [ONLINE] CLASSES are uniquely designed.
Online classes are fresh, new classes…different from the in-person studio classes.
[ONLINE] classes include:
Watch recent clips from one of my online classes. They were filmed with the actors’ own home set-ups, coaching, a remote classmate reader, and a remote control of the camera by myself during class.
You’ll be astonished at what you can create in your self-tape!
Thanks Toccarra Cash for letting me share it here!
Thanks Rachel Moses for letting me share it here! (Don’t miss the bonus prop use at the end of the scene!)
Assignments will require study of genres (watching films/TV!) and individual scene selection.
CLASS 1: HIGH CONCEPT
Horror, sci-fi, action
CLASS 2: DRAMA
Streaming channels, primetime networks, indie, Historical Drama, Procedural, etc
CLASS 3: COMEDY
Single cam, multi-cam, and films
CLASS 4: SURPRISE GENRE ASSIGNMENT
Thank you. What you gave blew my mind.
Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and passion with us these past 4 weeks! One night you mentioned one of your other groups and it struck me how you were teaching us with the same care and enthusiasm as if we were your only class, and it made me feel so fortunate to have found you and this class.
When I was researching [a genre], some of the characteristics that came up echoed how friends have described me in the past, but I never would have put two and two together without that assignment. I definitely have a much stronger sense of who I am as an actor now!
I LOVED being back in class! It was one of the best things to come from this virus. I learned so much in the last month!
Thanks for all the insight you gave us the past four weeks, I have a whole new perspective for self taping.
Thank you for such a wonderful four weeks. I really enjoyed taking your class and I’m so thankful for the safe space you’ve provided amidst the chaos. I’ve learned a great deal and I’ll always carry this experience with me, in front of the camera and beyond. I hope to take class with you again in the near future.
Thank you so much for yet another truly wonderful class! Each one of your classes has been so chock full of information, tips, and ideas. Perhaps most importantly though, you have an amazing ability to motivate me to work harder and dig deeper.
The GENRE class took all of this to yet a higher level. I just loved it and feel I am increasingly open to taking chances and risks. You set up an environment that is very safe to experiment in. I am so grateful for all that you give to these classes – huge thanks!
I’m definitely going to apply this going forward and approaching auditioning in a completely different way. It’s changed my whole outlook on the process.
I will absolutely research the genre of pieces I am working on as well as researching filmmakers/writers/show runners to get a sense of their past work. I will also use my understanding of genre to prep work allowing myself to make it fresh and find new moments by applying “the wrong” genre to a piece. That is incredibly freeing and so helpful when prep can get stuck and safe.
This class gave me a lot of tools for my Actor Toolbox. First of all, I’ve better learned HOW to study a genre–what I’m looking for, the hallmarks, the trends, the things that need to be there, and the things that are open to my twist on it. Then, my prep got more specific with this class, particularly after the High Concept class. I started to add the beats from the script (not just the text) into my breakdown, which is not always something I did–so much happens in the space between spoken lines.
A privilege to do work in this crazy time. I’m still assimilating what we covered…probably will for months to come. Opened my eyes and gave me a recharge creatively.
I wanted to reach out and thank you for such an amazing class series. I feel much more confident and prepared to take on the challenge of any self tape. Thank you for your honesty, patience and insight.
I have a better understanding of how to work with the camera and use it to tell a story. I feel more freedom to take risks as an artist because my preparation strategy is solid. Moving forward, I will do more research in prep, take bigger risks in my commitment to a role and continue to find ways to use the camera to help communicate the story.
I think it’s okay to take time to set the tone of your scene and to really get into it. It was nice to be able to take a moment to set the scene for myself.
For me, top takeaways were adding specificity with props. Having the liberty to bring things to your audition. You get to choose rather than wondering if they’ll let me stand here or use that. You have the freedom to do it because you are setting up the space. What do you have to lose?
I always thought that self-taping on a laptop was said to be “eh,” but I can elevate the tape so well with all the little cinematic tricks and the idea of fitting yourself as creatively as you can in that box. The idea of breaking out of that boundary, fighting against the box. There is no right way.
You have to work harder to bring your reader to life because you’re on a screen and not in the room, so you have to prod them in different ways and bring them to life through the screen.
You can be a lot more creative than what I initially thought, and make it more cinematic. You can add props and you can play around with your body or with the camera placement.
This class made me think about the positioning of your body so that you’re not flat. I saw it transform everybody’s scene, including my own, by fixing my positioning. I am excited to start to play with my positioning for future self-tapes. It makes a huge difference. You don’t stop acting until it’s cut. It still lives and breaths, you’re still having moments until the camera is off.
Depth can play so much in the scene. It can play the emotion in the scene as well. That was a spark for me.
Great class, thank you! That was fun.
I love learning about how to use the natural space that’s available and being aware of playing with the sound and varying eyelines.
This is a visual art, so the choices you make about where the lights are, where the frame is, where your eyeline are. Think like a cinematographer. These are tools that will continue to set us up for success.
It comes back to just fucking going for it. I get caught up thinking I “have” to do something because it’s a self-tape or it’s on camera. Just go for it and make the choice. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. It just makes your character more rich and more interesting.
It just extended what I have been learning in your class. It frees us up to be able to use the space.
I had heard of the two thirds rule in photography, so it is interesting to know that it’s something we can play with and apply. It was interesting for me to learn that you have to figure out your microphone and volume. It was cool to see us use the depth of our space.
Top takeaways: Find the environment. Add texture by putting your hand on the walls. Really freeing myself up. Coming from a theater background, I feel like I’m always trying to keep it contained for the camera, but it was nice to use physicality more on camera and have it work.
I’m so used to the framing in the instructions that they send, I didn’t know I could come closer to the camera, I didn’t know I could bring the camera to me to create a feeling. It was really cool to experience that.
Takeaways: think like a filmmaker. What is the aesthetic? Really playing around with that and creating that world for yourself. There are so many ways I can sit in this chair. Playing with that, and with angles…
The canvas feels a lot broader in this scenario. There are more objects, more locations at our disposal. It’s like a whole different artform. Today we got back into eyeline work, and behavior—living, breathing, moving, and existing in a space. The “magic show” started a couple times because you can suspend your disbelief. It’s so captivating.
My top takeaways were to take advantage of physical props, light, and environment when appropriate, and also not limiting myself.
My top takeaway is that we are in control. Sometimes I feel like I need to stay in the literal box, but we have the freedom to play. Why not, if they’re going to watch 600 of these. We have nothing to lose.
I strangely feel more empowered from the work we did in today’s format. It was very empowering to me to have complete control over my frame, what it looks like, what they get to see from me. I get to be the cinematographer. Creating an environment and a connection to the scene partner—it’s clicking for me suddenly that those are the two most important things I need to do in an audition.
I really get to decide how I want this to be framed, and what story I’m telling, and how. It feels weird because it’s in my home, but it’s the same path of making decisions.
The great thing about the self-tape is that you can record yourself a few times and see which take is better, see the differences. And you can send at least two different takes. It gives you the chance to play.
For me it was really helpful when you had me bring the props in. It definitely inspired me. Having things to play with can be so helpful in a scene. My brain usually doesn’t go there. So it definitely made me think about making choices and adding elements that will be fun to play with.
I think a curse and a blessing of the self-tape is that you have the chance to see yourself back and do a couple of takes, to try it different ways and see what you want to improve upon technically or emotionally. That can also lead you to getting too in your head and wanting to do it over and over, so it’s a matter of finding a balance.
For me, I often get caught up in the lines, in what the character needs—all those aspects of doing the character. The takeaways from class are the shaping of the scene, thinking about why the producer or casting director chose this scene specifically, and trying to find the dynamics and arc of the scene.
I think that with the self-tape, you can be more creative than in an in-person audition. Having a self-tape gives you a little more freedom, and I think running towards that a little bit is more fun to do and will make your tape stand out more simply because you’ll be doing something different than someone else.
Full disclosure—please note that we do not guarantee that actors in these workshops will be hired for any project that we might direct or cast. We do guarantee my supportive honesty and my open sharing of knowledge. We teach and coach because we enjoy supporting actors as they develop their process of working within the audition room. We seek to build their knowledge about the business of auditioning.