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“mymovie.mov” or “take1.mov” or “selftape.mov”.  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….

-Ashley