The Self-Tape

Oh the self tape… do Actors dread the self-tape as much as Casting Directors do?  I bet they do, but for different reasons.  I can imagine that there is quite a bit of stress that goes into setting up, finding a reader, doing the actual audition and sending off the right takes.  The self-tape is also something that causes Casting Directors a lot of stress and I am here to share my thoughts and opinions on the matter. Take it for what it’s worth… I’m not an expert, and I don’t speak for everyone. I am just talking about my personal feelings on the self-tape- maybe it will help you and offer some insight! 

You would be amazed at the number of people who request to self-tape for auditions. Often times they feel really interested in the project but just cannot make it to the audition, so they request to film their audition elsewhere and send it in for consideration.  Sometimes it’s a “YES you can self-tape”, sometimes it’s a “NO we are not accepting self-tapes” and most often it’s a “yes you can, but I would really prefer you to come in person”.   Why is that?  Because it’s in your best interest.  We want you to come in so that you are uploaded with everyone else, we can give you direction and insight that may come in from the client just a few minutes before the session, we want you to look and sound great and we do not want you to be overlooked (because if we are being honest, self-tapes do not look uniform with the rest of the session and the client tends to look at the session itself first before any self-tapes).

Let’s start at the beginning- when should an actor self tape?  An actor should self-tape when they have been requested directly by the Casting Director or client and cannot make it to the audition in any way.  Very simple :)

What do people look for in a self-tape?   We are looking for your performance mostly.  But with that, a lot of other things come into play.  We want to SEE YOU and not be distracted.  So my Step #1- find a place with a good solid backdrop.  Pictures on the wall in your bedroom, the things you have hanging on your refrigerator, a window with people walking around outside- all of these are distracting.  I just want to be able to focus on you.  So, find a wall space wherever you are that is solid and not distracting.  Take the pictures off the wall, move the furniture out of the way and you’re ready to go.

Step # 2- good lighting and good audio!  I need to be able to SEE and HEAR you clearly.  If you are going to be doing a lot of self-taping, it may be wise to invest in a small light kit and mic to give you a leg up in that department.  If the lighting is too dark and/or I can barely hear you- it’s probably not something I want to show to my client.

Step #3- a decent reader.  Now, your reader does not need to be an academy-award winning actor (the CDs you read with in studio certainly are not… I mean, Aaron Kahl kind of seems like one, but he’s just that good ;)) but your reader should not take over the scene or seem too involved.  Their purpose is to give you something to work with, not to audition themselves.  Cast your reader wisely :)

Step #4- label your file appropriately. My downloads folder is filled with files that are vaguely labeled variations of“” or “” or “”.  That makes finding your file and getting it uploaded pretty difficult on my end.  Casting Directors are constantly downloading headshots, resumes, and videos, so our download folder is the stuff nightmares are made of.  So please, label your self-tapes appropriately!  The label should have your name in it, most importantly.  Personally, I love a good name and role label, i.e. “AaronKahl_BATMAN”… but however you choose to label, make sure it has your full name in it!

Step # 5- How you send us the file.  There are so many different ways to send your self-tape, and different CDs prefer different methods.  At Slate, we are fairly open to Dropbox, WeTransfer, YouSendIt, etc.  Please do not post your videos on YouTube, it is not setup for us to be able to download your audition and we will not be able to submit it.  Clients do not want to see their audition scripts on public display on the internet.  Vimeo is similar to YouTube but we can download from there, so when using a format like Vimeo, please make it password protected. 

I almost forgot a big one… get that tape in on time!!  If you commit to sending a self-tape and we tell you we need it by a certain time, get it in!  We want to make sure it gets included in our client’s link.  After you go through all the work to send in a great self-tape, make sure you get it on time so you don’t miss out and get overlooked!

So that’s my rambling on self-tapes.  Hopefully it will make the self-taping process a little easier to navigate if you are asked to do one. Remember, the self-tape is just one tool in your auditioning toolbox. If used correctly, it can help you have a successful audition even if you can’t be there in person. But if used incorrectly- well, if all you have is a hammer….


The Open Call Party!

What do you do when 1700 people show up for your party?  You welcome them in!  Now that Slate Casting has 3 open calls under our belt, I have begun to think of these open casting calls as parties- really.  It never ceases to amaze me how much fun they can be, how passionate and enthusiastic everyone is, and how incredible the team of people working on it are. 

We just held an open call in Orange, MA and we had no idea what to expect.  All we could do is plan, plan, plan.  We reached out to an amazing group of people:  Molly, Marina, Mike, Eddie, Kim, Ro, and Erica, and armed with snacks, lots of water, pizza and Orange’s very own Orange Tonic, we were ready to open the doors to the largest party we have ever thrown.  Before the first guest even arrived, I looked around at our group and felt so incredibly grateful.  Grateful for their willingness to help, and for their genuine commitment to making the day as successful, stress free, and as fun as possible for the hundreds and hundreds of people who were waiting to be seen.  Oh, and did I say it was hot?  Like, really, really hot.  (We forgot about the heat hours later over the coldest, most awesome blueberry beer I’ve ever had!)

The people of Orange welcomed us with open arms.  People who had never even thought about doing something like this were coming out to try something new and exciting.  I give them so much credit for coming out of their comfort zone and joining us.  It could be a once in a lifetime opportunity and 1700 people were not going to let this pass them by.  Local businesses were so supportive (we heard the market across the street was so busy that they ran out of ice cream!) and the residents of Orange and the surrounding communities could not have been nicer.  As I dripped with sweat (kinda gross, but if you saw me there, you know what I mean- ha ha), I was amazed at how upbeat and happy everyone was even with temps well into the 90’s.  They laughed at Mike’s jokes outside, they laughed at Ashley and Aaron’s jokes inside, and they smiled all the way through.  Even the local police officers got into the fun- posing for a big group photo at the end of the day.

Casting, as you’ve read about in past blogs, can often be stressful and insane, but what open calls remind me of all the time, is that casting is about people.  We have one of the best jobs in the world because we get to meet so many new people who are excited to go on an adventure with us.   An open call is often someone’s first experience with the world of on-camera acting and we want to be sure that each person has a good experience.  As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression, and we hope that everyone who attends their first open call with Slate, will have awesome memories of the experience.  If that happens, we have done our job.  I’m already getting excited for future open calls- nothing scheduled yet, but don’t worry, we’ll let you know when it is because we want to see you at the party!


Kids Casting

My son, three and a half years old, is cautious.  Pretty much from birth we had no reason to worry that he would put something dangerous in his mouth, because nothing went in his mouth unless he knew exactly what it was.  This made getting him to eat a colossal pain in the buns, but at least I was never the least bit concerned about finding pennies, or worse, in his you-know-what. 

My not-quite-two-year-old daughter, on the other hand, is ridiculously and terrifyingly fearless.  Like Amelia Earhart or Alex Honnold (google him) fearless.  Forget her brother, there is nothing that an adult can do that she can’t do herself.  She recently scaled, to my horror, an almost two story high inflatable ladder at a funhouse (she should not have been on that ladder).  She routinely picks fights with wild turkeys that are easily twice her size (our neighborhood has turkeys.  It’s a whole thing – they’re terrible). 

The two of them, as a weird little tag team, have taught my wife and I more in the last couple of years than we ever imagined we didn’t know.  So, while I am by no means yet an expert on children, as my friends with older kids like to remind me, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two, as that awesome actor says sometimes in commercials.

Which brings us to the relevant part of this entry.  At Slate, we do a lot of kids casting.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s something that we pride ourselves on being very good at.

Working with kids requires a completely different toolbox than working with adults.  Sure, adults are all unique.  We have distinct experiences, varying levels of talent and education, diverse viewpoints, etc.  But adults who come in to audition for us, from the most accomplished trained actors to “real people” who have never been on a set before, all at least understand what they are doing, why they are there, and what you are saying when you give them direction.  And they are capable of sitting still for more than .0003 seconds. 

Kids…not so much.  With an adult, you can tell them what you want.  With kids, you have to show them.  Phrases like, “bring it down” or “bring it up” or “use a British accent” or “give me full valley girl” draw only blank stares from a six-year-old.  Instead, you have get on your knees and demonstrate.  If you want them to be sad you have to show them a sad face.  If you want them to be excited, you have to be excited.  You have to jump up and down like a fool, dance with them, sing with them, and play with them.  More than anything, you have to make the audition room FUN. 

If that is not exhausting enough, you also have to take into account what my children have taught me.  No two kids are alike.  At all.   Some kids just need a high five and few seconds of silly music.  Others need a little time to adjust.  If I was auditioning my son, I would let him watch other kids from the back of the room and wait for him to let me know he is ready.  For my daughter, I would just throw her in front of the camera and hope that in her frenzy she did something approximating the action.  They would both do great, but getting them there would require totally different approaches. 

You don’t have to be a parent to be good with kids.  Some people are just naturals.  But you have to be patient, you have to be observant, and you have to be willing to participate on their level.  My little lunatics have helped me immeasurably to understand that. 

Now, if I could only get some sleep…