The Self Tape of doom, the sinking feeling in your stomach pit when everyone’s at work and you need someone to read in for you. You have to call upon your lovely mother who can’t for the life of her keep her voice to a minimum level and on top of that palaver, you have a thousand other technical issues to resolve before any acting can commence.
I usually spend most of my time trying to understand why my camera seems to flip my face so I look odd, why I cant seem to locate a wall that doesn’t contain holes from previous pictures or smears of dirt where my brothers have lurked.
Give us a BREAK acting is hard enough as it is without having to now add director, video editor and all round technical whizz to our CV’s.
I’d like to add, filming a self tape absolutely is not as horrifying as what you assume when you start out, the more you do the better you get and filming becomes much slicker and your mum is potentially a better actor than you.
I wanted to compile some of the basics just in case you are where I once was, ready to throw my phone out the window and re decorate the house.
Do not fear, and read on for self tape essentials….
Unless you already have a great camera for filming, smart phones are the best and easiest way to film your self tape. I spent time propping my phone up on books and other ornaments but when they decide to collapse just as you do your best acting, it’s infuriating. I bought a very cheap tripod online which saves any stress. Always film LANDSCAPE unless otherwise stated but that is very rare. Most smart phones have simple editing software already installed which you can then easily send in an email straight from your phone.
The Perfect Background
Don’t stress, this doesn’t exist! However, a BAD background does, so make sure you strive to always avoid a dark space with no natural light, a coloured or wall papered wall, any walls with marks on. The best out come would be a grey background because colour bounces off the light better than white. You can buy a cheap grey bed sheet online and you’re all good! Anything in your background is going to distract the audience from your work.
A Quiet Space
Loud noise from a busy main road or ticking clocks are two of the best ways to ruin your self tape. Find a quiet space, turn off your phone and try to avoid neighbours. Borrow a friends room if that works out better.
Look your Best
Treat your self tape like you would a normal audition, It’s important you look your best including hair and minimal make up. Avoid busy tops and wear something plain so not to distract your audience. Unless you have been specifically instructed, don’t add in props they are also distracting. The casting director wants to see you and hear you, simple.
Get a Good Reader
Ideally, this would be a fellow thespian because they know the score and exactly how to help. This saves you time having to explain to a parent exactly what needs to be achieved. We don’t all have instant access to actor friends who are around the corner, my poor mum has done endless read ins. If you can, find someone who is the same gender as the character they are reading for but this is not essential. Ensure they don’t over act or over project because this is about YOU not them. Oh, and make sure your reader knows NOT to read stage directions! Lol
Where to Look
When filming a self tape and the camera is shoved in your face, suddenly we can get a bit up tight and forget about the acting and where to channel our focus. Connect to your reader and look just above the camera, face on. Don’t look down the lense unless the script instructs you to do so. Don’t position yourself to one side or sit the camera under your chin for great nostril viewing. Front, face on, in the middle of the screen, correct eyeline, sorted.
Follow the Instructions
Familiarise yourself with the specific requirements from the Casting Director on your email. They may want you to introduce yourself before you begin, they may also want to see a full length body shot at the start of your video. Casting Directors will sometimes prefer different methods in terms of uploading and receiving your video. Vimeo and Drop box are two of the main ones I use. Make sure you have followed their requests exactly, and upload your video in the correct format.
Ensure you save your video with your name in capital letters with your character name and project name so that when casting teams are looking through lots and lots of videos, they can easily determine who is who and what is what.
For example – GEORGIA TUOHEY – Charlotte – In One Ear & Out the Other Self Tape.
Always watch your self tape back before sending it but don’t slave away for hours trying to get the perfect take. There will always be reasons you can find that will stop you from wanting to send off your video.
Follow the steps, don’t over think it and that is all you can do! Happy self-taping and don’t stress.
“I’m a performer, I’m better in the first take” – Frank Sinatra