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Acting Tips: How to Film a Self-Tape Audition?

Self-Tape Audition

If just the phrase “self-tape audition” is enough to make your head dizzy with anxiety, don’t worry! Over the past few years and with the rise of Covid, plenty of casting directors and agents are now requiring actors to submit self-tape auditions rather than in-person meetings. Self-tapes are much easier than they seem, although they need a little preparation and setting up to ensure you look and perform your best.

Whether you’re applying for a TV role, a movie, a theatre production, or a position in a graduate acting program, here are some key industry tips to help you film the perfect self-tape audition and make sure that you nail it every time.

1. Find a clear background to film against

For a self-tape audition, always film against a neutral-coloured wall or with as minimal clutter as possible. A plain wall painted white, grey, or other soft neutral colours are best, although brick or other plain walls also work. If you don’t have a plain wall, you can always use a backdrop or a bedsheet to block background clutter.

The goal is to ensure that the casting directors have full attention on you, and not be distracted by the background, so move as much clutter as possible.

2. Make sure you’re recording in a quiet, well-lit area

When recording a self-tape audition, natural light is your best friend. Try to position yourself with a window or natural light source in front of you and not behind you. If you decide to use lights, try to avoid downlights or lights that throw odd shadows across you and your face. A ring light can be great for every taping session.

Aim to record in a space free from noise or distractions and where your voice carries easily and can be heard clearly through the camera. Noises like cars, dogs barking, or fans can pull focus away from your performance.

3. Dress for success

Choose flattering clothing in a simple colour that helps you stand out against your background. A simple t-shirt and jeans will always outshine any flashy or distracting prints on camera. If you’re filming against a white backdrop, choose fitted black clothing.

While many actors have said in the past that dressing in full character outfits is the best way to get your foot in the door, it’s actually the opposite effect. Costumes or clunky looks distract casting directors and often take away from your performance. Keep it simple, wear something flattering, and don’t be afraid to try different colours to see what flatters you best.

4. Find the right reader to help you out

Students in our graduate acting programs often spend time before or after class helping each other create audition tapes, which is just one of the many benefits of enrolling in some acting courses in Brisbane.

Unless you’re looking to film a monologue, you will need a scene partner or a reader for your next audition tape. If you can’t find someone to help you read, some actors choose to have another actor on the phone on speaker during filming.

Some actors are concerned that their reading partner will somehow outshine them on the tape—don’t worry, this won’t happen! The only way your audition partner could outshine you is if they speak too loudly and casting directors can’t hear you or if they perform the scene in a ridiculous and distracting manner.

The beauty of self-tapes is that you can do a retake as many times as you need and instruct your reading partner as many times as necessary to get the best performance. Watch each take back, paying special attention to the audio, and don’t be shy if you need to request they hit certain beats or change their pacing, it’s all part of the process.

5. Always shoot landscape

Every self-tape should always be shot horizontally rather than vertically. If an audition asks for a full-length shot, this means you need to place your camera far enough away to get your full body in the frame.

6. Place the camera at the right height and angle

Place your camera in a way that you can see yourself from the chest up, also known as a medium or tight close-up. There should be minimal space above your head, but make sure not to cut the top of your head off in the frame. Be mindful of stepping out of the frame during the shot, or the camera losing focus if you move around too much.

Make sure that you never look directly at the camera (except for your slate to camera). If you’re working with a reader, have them stand to the left or the right of the camera to give you a clear eye line. 

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7. Give a clear slate to camera

A slate to camera, sometimes called a slate or “slating”, is the industry term for introducing yourself at the beginning of an audition. Speak directly to the camera, and make sure you can hear your voice clearly.

Depending on the audition, the required information in a slate to camera will change. However, it is traditionally listing your name, height, location, agency/management, availability for the job dates, and sometimes, any competitive or similar roles currently on the market.

8. Send in one single video

Including your slate to camera plus one or two takes, you’ll usually have three or more videos for one audition. This of course depends on the requirement for the audition, as some casting directors prefer one single video while others require separate videos.

Rather than sending in three, try to edit all of the videos together to create one single video file. You can easily edit the videos together on your phone or if you’re using a Mac, iMovie. Windows users can use Windows Movie Maker.

9. Practice, practice, and practice some more

Do you know what the secret is to doing well at auditions? Practising!

Self-tapes are a skill that especially requires a little experience, so don’t be disheartened if your first few auditions aren’t successful. Every self-tape audition helps you get one step closer to your dream role.

If you find that you’re still struggling, you may benefit from some professional training. Be sure to check out any graduate acting programs in your area, or if you’re in Brisbane, acting courses in Brisbane. The best way to get better is to keep on learning, so why not enrol today and start doing what you love?

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