The common practice for decades was for actors to report to a specified location to give their audition — often the casting director’s studio offices. More recently, even before the COVID pandemic, it’s become popular (and now necessary) for casting offices to request you tape your audition on your own and email it to the casting office. Here are 3 tips to conquer self-taping in the digital age:
1) Use Your Smartphone
Given this trend, a number of filming studios have cropped up where you can pay for your audition to be professionally filmed. However, you can save yourself a lot of money and easily do it yourself. You don’t need to invest in a lot of expensive equipment. You can film it on your smartphone. To start, choose a quiet, well-lit place. The sound must be as clean and audible as possible. Natural light is great. You may also use practical fixtures such as a household lamp, overhead light or even studio lamps, if you have purchased some. Position the light source so it does not cast shadows on your face. The face must be well lit and look natural. This is not the time for dramatic theatrical lighting. Wear a solid color that brings out your natural coloring. If your shirt or sweater has a pattern, make sure it is not so busy that it distracts from your acting. Steady the camera in one position. You may use a stool, table or tripod, if desired, or ask a friend or family member to be your camera operator. The angle should be straight on from the chest up. If you need to show hands, make the angle slightly wider but not more than waist high. If your camera operator is someone you trust artistically, his or her opinion may be helpful in giving you an adjustment here or there. A cautionary note, though: You are the actor; no one knows you better than yourself. Listen to your inner knowingness to guide you to your very best performance. Remember when you slate your name to do so in a friendly, open manner. It should be natural and easy, like your performance. Always rehearse your audition as if it were your most important role to date (because it may well be true!), and rehearse your piece as much as humanly possible before filming or performing for a sea of stone-faced people in a studio. Check with the agent or casting office to find out if memorization is required. Remember: the audition is about your acting, not about dramatic camera movement, histrionic staging or even how well you can memorize. Above all, make sure your delivery of the material is as natural as if you were having a real conversation.
2) Create Your Own Personal Teleprompter
Typically for in-person auditions, it’s best to memorize the sides; but when taping, you can have your pages for a calm reference or two. If you find you’re really under the gun, ask a second friend to assist by operating a laptop off camera as your very own personal teleprompter. But even if you haven’t completely memorized the material, you still must know and be thoroughly familiar with the material. It is not good to have your eyes drop too many times down to the page and lose connection with your star-making audience. Most actors loosen up after one or two camera rehearsals so doing several takes is fine. Use what you deem to be the very best version to send to the casting director.
3) Seize the Opportunity
And finally, remember even if you don’t book this role, it’s an incredible opportunity to hone your on-camera auditioning skills. And who knows, even if the director is looking for a different type from yourself, the casting director may be so impressed with your work that they call you in for upcoming projects. This is your chance to get on their radar. One good audition can lead to another. And, sometimes, you book the role, which is soooo exciting!
Have fun filming your auditions. With each one, you will learn how best to find grace and authority within the camera’s all-seeing eye.