More and more often, now that we are in a more digital society, actors get asked to do a self-tape rather than attend a live casting. There are positives and negative aspects to self-tapes; you get to record your audition in the comfort of your own home, with as many tries as you wish, but on the other hand they don’t really show off your full personality. But with them becoming more and more popular, it’s important to master your on-camera audition technique so you can secure your next big gig. To help our members reach self-tape audition success, we have created a Starfish Kids Guide on how to do a self-tape at home:
- Always film landscape as if you film portrait you get two black lines either side of your footage, which looks awful when viewing the footage on a desktop screen. Your camera should also 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. It is also a good technique to position your camera at eye level or slightly above. Do not shoot from under your chin - no one looks good that way.
- Make sure you have sufficient lighting as we want to see you. We understand that it can be difficult filming at night, but make sure you have plenty of lights around to brighten up the room. Make sure the light source comes from behind the camera, since you want the viewer to be able to see your face clearly (don't film in front of a window - this will create a silhouette, not good for shooting).
- Your background should always be a plain wall - white or cream are best. If you don’t have a white or cream wall, then a block colour is the next best choice. Please ensure the wall is not too bright and is not a patterned wall paper as the eye will be drawn to the wallpaper and not you. Try to position yourself a few feet away from the wall to avoid shadows.
- Generally, a head and shoulders shot is required (unless the brief states otherwise) to ensure the camera is close enough to see those facial expressions.
- Make sure we can hear you clearly… Strictly no background noise as we don’t want to hear siblings playing or your dogs barking, plus no hands over the mic when your filming as this will create a muffled sound.
- Always make sure you do an ID to camera before the audition, this involves stating your name, your age and your agent (Starfish Kids). This is where the client will get to know the one of a kind you! Please note - the client doesn't want you to be somebody you think they want, they want you to be you.
- If someone is reading the other lines for you please ensure you have them read their lines off camera, as we want to see the star not the person reading lines for them. However, make sure your reader stands right next to the camera so that your eye line is not directly into camera but just slight off, connecting with your reading partner's eyes.
- It's important to understand who your character is (based on your imagination). Why is he/she saying what he/she says? What is their objective? Try to know what you want from someone, so you have an agenda and you know what you're trying to get. You don't know the backstory, but you'll have a stronger audition if you make a choice about the scene (your own choice: no right or wrong), so you have a feeling/opinion about what you're saying (not just saying the lines for no reason).
- Please ensure you know all of your lines before you record. Also make sure you read the whole script first to get a feel for the scene and your character. The client will want you to be prepared and as off-book as possible, however if you can't memorise the script - don't stress. It's better to hold the script and be in the moment versus the lines being memorised and in your head.
- Look just off camera rather than directly at it (unless the brief tells you otherwise). Don’t look left or right, we want your face straight forward, but your eyes talking to a person as if they were just at the side of the camera.
- It’s important to show your personality especially in the ID to camera as it’s more difficult for the client to get a sense of who you are if they aren’t in the room.
- Keep the pace real and natural. Don't rush the words! Take your time. Concentrate on the meaning (what it means to you) and try to feel a connection to your character and the other character in the scene. The client must believe it! Don't sound too rehearsed. Always remember it shouldn't feel like an audition, it should feel like a real conversation.
- If props help, use them but don’t make the focus on the prop. We want to see how you react with the prop.
- Make sure your clothing is appropriate for the character you are auditioning for as Casting Directors are very visual people. But remember to dress comfortably and show your own style. No all white, all black or large logos - colour or texture is good, but nothing too distracting.
- Your self-tape should be filmed in one take and not lots of little scenes cut together- unless of course there is more than one scene. A good tip is too record a test sample and see how it looks and sounds on your computer first to make final adjustments before taping the scenes. If you can't see or hear yourself well, the client won't be able to either and this will avoid needing to take several takes.
- Don't just say the lines and check out! Try not to put your head down in the page or stare blankly when the other person talks. Even if you don't talk, you respond by listening. Take in what happens around you, listen to the other person and how they react to you. How does it make you feel? What does it to to you? Great actors communication with their eyes and faces. Acting is a mutual connection. Communication is talking and listening (clients like to see this).
- Don’t do just one take, do a few with varying deliveries and pick which one is best!
- Edit the self-tape where necessary.
- Send your self-tape via WeTransfer to the email specified in the casting request. In some case’s the Casting Agent will set up their own server for talent to upload their auditions to, in the case you will need to upload your audition to the server instead of emailing it directly to us.
Put simply, the number one thing that all casting directors want in on-camera auditions is for talent to act natural, to bring their authentic personality to the audition, to be fully prepared, and to most importantly have fun.
Learning to produce good self-tape auditions can make all the difference in putting yourself ahead of the pack; the small details count. By using the best possible practices outlined in this Starfish Kids Guide we know you can nail your next self-tape audition.
Love The Starfish Team