Although most actors have been doing self-tapes for ages already, now, after a whole year of quarantine, self-tapes are the new norm. Here are some technical tips to make Your selftapes stand out!
Before we begin, here’s my no.1 tip that stands for all auditions. Do your text work, the deep work and know your scene intimately. Pull out every tool you’ve got to shape your scene with strong choices. Do the work.
You really need someone to read off-screen with you so that it feels fresh and alive. You’ve got two options to do it live:
Reader is in the same room with you.
Reader is on the phone or online with you.
No matter where your reader is, make sure they don’t sound louder than you on the tape. Do a practice round before you begin, to make sure you don't ruin your great tapes!
HOW MANY TAKES DO I FILM
Well, you might not like this, but… Limit your filming time. Limit your amount of takes. Don’t get used to doing 15 takes on a scene, because you simply won’t have this time on set, so don’t breed that habit now. Spend your time on Prep. Do fewer takes. Limit your filming time to, let’s say, an hour, and remember not to hung up on the perfection; go for the spirit of the scene and character.
If I can’t hear you, I’m not moved by you. Do a test take and play it back to make sure that you’re secure on your sound. Most cameras have a good built-in microphone for audition purposes.
Make sure that you have direct lighting on your face. You want to avoid shadows under your eyes. Wall facing windows make the best backgrounds!
Use a simple, flat surface that is one colour, ideally, cream/white/beige. Go neutral and opt for a muted, soft background wall colour. Let your acting really stand out against the simplest background.
EYE LINES & CAMERA HEIGHT
Eye lines are where your eyes look towards the off-screen characters or activities.
Always send your eye contact off-screen to the scene partner. Do not look directly into the camera, unless you are asked to do this.
A crucial element to getting your eye lines correct is the height of the camera, Ideally, the camera is precisely at the eye level of your reader. Position your scene partner—real or virtual—as close to the camera lens as possible for good eye line. When watching your self-tape, you want it to feel intimate, but not too direct.
Dress suggestive of the part. This is my bottom line: how would your character dress? Especially when you’re at home, use your wardrobe to make it even more specific.
If you’re using a smart phone, place it it horizontally, With all cameras, keep it simple so we can focus on your brilliant, sensitive acting. When positioning yourself, the safest option is to stand in the center of the frame.
A slate is an introduction to the Creative Team. Say your name very clearly so that your name is understood clearly. Give a glimpse of personality too, so yes, give us a smile!
This is where you will hear different opinions, but this is what I do, so here you go.
I suggest to submit 2 takes per scene. This way, you not only let them pick which one to send to the director, but you also show them your range of talent!
But, my fellow lovely actors, don’t forget the main ingredient. Despite all technical tips, to a strong self-tape: Tell the story.
LET’S PRACTICE TOGETHER! Want to hone these self-tape acting and filming skills? Book a 1:1 lesson with one of our experienced team, and get selftape ready!
Danay Bouzala, Drama Director