Why You’re Confused About Self-Tapes

 

ARE YOU CONFUSED ABOUT SELF-TAPING? HERE’S WHY.

 

Let’s keep talking about self-tapes, which are dominating the audition process.

Actors often feel confused about what they should and shouldn’t do in self-tapes, and I don’t blame them. Wanna know why?

 

EVERY CASTING DIRECTOR HAS A DIFFERENT OPINION AND TASTE.

 

Truly. At the end of this blog post, I’m going to show some real, actual examples of self-tape instructions that current casting directors are sending out. I’m not including specific details (like casting office or project name) because my intention here is simply to show you how wildly varied instructions can be. One week, you’ll be asked to do one thing—the next week, you’ll be asked to do the complete opposite.

 

Welcome to the rollercoaster!

 

When auditions were held in-person, the question used to be, “Do I shake the casting director’s hand?” (Answer: Let them take the lead. It depends on their style and their personal relationship with you. Oftentimes, it’s NO, but it’s not because they don’t want to be friendly…it’s simply to protect themselves from germs because they used to see soooo many actors a day!)

Now that auditions are mostly remote, the question is, “How do I execute this self-tape?”

So, what can you do if you’re feeling confused?

First off, remember that the most important thing you have control over is how you prepare the work. Always take the time to do the prep so that your acting work is the focus of every tape you send in. Here are some more tips to bring some ease into your self-tape process.

 

CREATE RELAXATION

 

I always say that the camera loves the moments between the moments. Slow down, actors!

Let the camera pick up those fractions of a second, those glances and flashes and shifts that happen between moments. We want to really see you and connect with your inner life. Create relaxation and take the time to be in the scene. Slow down “the room” (which is now whatever room you’re using!), but keep things fluid.

 

THAT DARN FULL BODY SLATE

 

Yep, now actors have to do their own full body slates. Depending on the size of your space, it can seem tricky! Here are some tips to make it easier.

Do you have to show all the way down to your feet/shoes? Nope! Don’t worry about that. You can frame to just below the knees for a full body slate. What they’re looking for is a “sense” or “feeling” of your whole presence.

Should I film the full body slate vertically or horizontally? Horizontal can work if you can frame to just below your knees, but if not, go ahead and turn the phone camera vertically! Disclaimer: check your instructions and make sure the CD is not explicitly requesting a horizontal slate. Sometimes they prefer for the video orientation not to change for technical reasons on their end.

 

THERE ARE MANY OPINIONS AND PREFERENCES

 

Each casting director is unique, the same way every audience member, every actor, every artist, every human being is unique! There is no one right way, no “one size fits all” approach here.

I understand why actors worry about “getting it right.” You care about putting your best foot forward when an audition opportunity comes along. You know that you may never get any feedback from a self-tape you turn in. It feels like you have one chance to hit a home run, and that you have to figure it out all by yourself.

My advice here is one, to know that you’re not alone. The whole acting community is in this together! Secondly, instead of thinking of right vs. wrong, try to think of one choice vs. another choice. Keep practicing, keep showing up, keep submitting, and soon you’ll work out a rhythm for how to easily and smoothly shift between different sets of self-tape expectations.

 

 

EXAMPLES OF SELF-TAPE INSTRUCTIONS

 

Here we go! Look at how every casting office asks for something slightly different concerning whether to include a slate or not, whether to send one file or multiple files, how many takes to send, how to name your files, how to frame yourself, etc.

Casting directors “break” each other’s rules all the time! Phew, no wonder it can get confusing!

The key is always to read your instructions carefully. Don’t assume you should do the same thing for every self-tape. The game always changes! Stay flexible.

These excerpts are included for educational purposes only.

 

 


 

INSTRUCTIONS:

**Please note that the actors safety and health is paramount to our office. Talent should not feel the need to leave their house to tape audition. **

There is no full script available to anyone at this time.

The framing of the scenes should be done with a close-up of the talents face and shoulders. If using an iPhone to record, please be sure to orient the phone in a horizontal position.

1) All components of this self-tape (i.e. scene/slate) should be sent to casting via separate video files.
2) Please label video files ‘Name – Scene’ (if multiple takes, please write Name – Scene 1-1/Name – Scene 1-2, etc).
3) Please include full standing slate (with name, height) at the end of your scenes. Again, this should be a separate video file.

 


 

SELF TAPE INSTRUCTIONS:
1. It doesn’t need to be fancy, we just need to see you and hear you.
2. For your slate, please do a full body shot (totally fine if it’s messy and we see you walking to and from the camera to turn it on and off).
3. In the slate, please tell us your NAME, HEIGHT and WHERE you are taping from. Also, ONLY IF you are under 18 please also give your age.
4. We prefer one take and promise to send you notes if an adjustment is needed. If you must do a second one please mark it as such and keep it separate.
5. Please send self tapes by XX/XX.
6. Feel free to turn in your tapes earlier then the deadline we will watch as they come in.

 


 

INSTRUCTIONS

– PLEASE UPLOAD EACH TAKE AND SLATE AS SEPARATE FILES
Please compress files before sending. It can be very frustrating to spend an hour downloading one tape.
– We cannot open .wmv files
– Please have clients do a full body slate, stating their name, height, where they are based and age (if they are under 18)
– Please have clients shoot from the chest up so that they are not too far away from the camera.

 


 

Please find the sides for your character. Please film horizontally and ensure you are well lit and that we can hear you well. Make sure it is a medium shot, meaning from the top of your head to just below the chest. Please film against a blank backdrop or wall. If your role requires it, you MUST use a reader. In person is preferred but if restrictions and comfort level mean your reader is on Zoom that’s okay too! We just want to see you organically interact with a reader. Make sure the reader is as far away from the microphone as you are, we do not want the reader’s voice to be more prominent than the actor. DO NOT SLATE!

MAKE SURE NOT TO LOOK INTO THE CAMERA UNLESS IT SPECIFICALLY SAYS THEY ARE FILMING THEMSELVES ON THEIR PHONE.

****PLEASE DO NOT SLATE!!! YOU LOSE POINTS FOR SLATING!****

DEADLINE IS XX/XX, BUT THE SOONER THE BETTER!

 


 

At this time, we would love to invite you to submit a self-tape. At this stage of the casting process, we’re asking talent to answer interview questions rather than memorizing sides as it’s very important for the director to get a sense of talent’s energy and personality. The director likes to work in a documentary inspired way, that incorporates personal mannerisms into the creative process. If talent could put themselves on tape in either an indoor space with natural lighting or outdoors location (if sound allows), that would be preferred (if possible, we would like to avoid a studio set-up). A natural look is preferred (little to no-make up, everyday clothes).

Please find the slate and interview questions below.

NO need to put on a particular accent, please use your regular speaking voice.

Please note, we are not including sides for this project as we are not doing sides-based auditions for this casting, only a video interview and monologue.


 

SELF-TAPE AUDITION INSTRUCTIONS

WHEN UPLOADING: Please label your clips in the below FORMAT. Upload ONE take, per scene only.

**PLEASE POST THE SCENES AS INDIVIDUAL CLIPS (because uploading all clips as 1 file is too large to upload).**

SLATE

SLATE IS MANDATORY. Please slate in your NATURAL accent.
– ONLY SLATE 1 TIME – (You do not need to slate before each scene).

– Slate must include:
· FULL NAME
· HEIGHT
· HOMEBASE
· Full body shot.

TIPS FOR TAPING THE AUDITION

PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOME TO DO THIS AUDITION.

PLEASE TAPE INDOORS AGAINST A PLAIN WALL / BACKGROUND. PLEASE DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE CAMERA.

– FRAME: Please make sure that when taping the actual audition scenes, you are framed tight just above the top of the head to mid chest.
– WALL: Find a quiet room that has very little or no background noise. The wall behind you should ideally be white, gray, blue and plain. Try to position yourself a few feet away from the wall to avoid shadows. (Don’t film in front of a window.)
– LIGHT: Make sure the main light source comes from behind the camera, since you want the viewer to be able to see your face clearly.
– CAMERA: Your camera should ideally sit on a tripod to maintain a steady image. If you don’t have a tripod, make sure you can put the camera on a stable surface or have someone hold it steadily.
– READER: Please have the person reading the other lines in the scene with you stand next to the camera, not in the shot.

*** REMINDER: Please watch your video before uploading. If you cannot see or hear yourself very well on your video, we wont be able to either ***

Additionally, if you do not have a household member who can be your reader, please don’t stress one bit! You can utilize FaceTime with a friend on the other side or really anything that feels good for you – you do not need to have a reader in the room with you. And if you are unable to have someone read with you, that is fine too, simply read only your side of the scene!

 


 

Instructions:
TAKES AND SLATE MUST BE SEPARATE CLIPS!
– Please make sure to label the file names as such (please do not include hyphens):
· SCENE 1 TAKE 1
· SCENE 1 TAKE 2, etc.
– You do not need to include your name in the file name.
Please include multiple takes of each scene.
– Please also include a CLOSE-UP SLATE of: name and height and label the file name as such:
· CITY, HEIGHT

 


 

Instructions: ACCENT NOTE: American Accent.

***SELF-TAPE INSTRUCTIONS:
*In a separate video file, please include a full-body slate including: Name, Location and Vaccine Status
*Frame the reading from the top of your head to mid-bicep
*Each scene should be sent as separate files (including the slate)
*If you’d like to send two takes of a scene, feel free to do so.

 


 

SELF-TAPE AUDITION INSTRUCTIONS:
Please submit ONLY ONE video.

At the beginning of your self-tape slate your name & height and show your full body.

 


 

SLATE:
Please state your full name, and include a full body shot.
State where you are currently located/based.

Because the genre is romance, self tape appearance should reflect as much.
Light, flattering makeup and hair done for self-tape is recommended.

 


 

Keep it simple. Take your time, we need to see your character observe.

If including a slate, please upload as a separate file. Please!

Files should be labeled:

1. [FULL NAME _ Location_XXXX]

2. [SLATE_Name_Location_Height]

 


 

SLATE DETAILS:

*Include a full body slate with name, height and where you are BASED (in a separate clip from the scenes)

 

SELF-TAPE INSTRUCTIONS:

*You should use AMERICAN accents.

*Please no “glam” makeup

*Quality of self-tapes should match the quality of casting tapes as closely as possible. This means: filming HORIZONTALLY and against a SOLID background. You should be framed in a MEDIUM SHOT from the chest up and kept in focus. A high-resolution video is preferable, but please keep the file size below 250mb so we are able to download.

*Please label tapes with your FULL NAME + ROLE

 


 

SEE WHAT I MEAN?

 

Actors, know that you’ll be getting anything and everything thrown your way. There is so much variation. Keep calm and self-tape ON! There is no “one right way” to do things.

You got this!

xHeidi

 

P.S. Looking to put in some serious work towards your self-tapes? Check out Self-Tape: Working the Frame and Self-Tape: Nailing the Genre.

 

Images: Alexandra Shipp in X-Men: Apocalypse // Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Comments

  1. DeAnna Choi says

    My question is, does each casting office have their own prefence for self tape formats so they can organize their files better? Or does this get shown to the actual producers in the way they are asking for it.

    Thanks! DeAnna

    • Michelle Vo says

      Hi DeAnna, passing you this answer from Heidi!:

      There is never any one way that a casting office shows files to producers and directors. Many of them use the online portals of Actors Access or CastIt Talent…but not everyone. They DO make selections and by the time the creative team sees the submissions, it will only be the top selects from the casting director. Therefore, they might be seeing only a few people for each role. But each team has a unique process!

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