Being a parent of a young actor in the entertainment industry is not for the faint of heart, especially when 90% of auditions are self-tapes. Auditions are a primary part of all actor’s journeys. However, over the course of the last 2 plus years, audition processes have changed. Here are my top five tips for your young actor (or any actor, really) for a successful self-tape.
Tip #1: Location When deciding where to film your self-tape remember: Location! Location!! Location!!! You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to have a great home audition space. Here are a few essentials that you need for successful self-tape. ● A Wall – a neutral, solid color wall in your house that has indirect lighting or a space for some additional lighting. Find a space in your house that does not have books, pictures or any other distracting elements that could steal focus from your performance. In my house, I have a grey sheet that I pin up along one wall in my house, and use that as my backdrop for self-tapes. ● Lighting – Natural light is great as long as it is indirect. The goal with lighting is that we can see you. A good rule of thumb when filming is – can Casting see the color of your eyes? Ring lights are great if you still need some additional lighting in your space. An inexpensive ring light will work just fine, two will be even better as you can position them on each side of your camera which can help to eliminate “ring light eyes.” Again, remember – expensive does not necessarily mean better. Your self-tape space also does not need to takeover an entire room in your house. An easy setup is always a less-stressful self-tape process.
Tip #2: Filming Your Audition I’ve had clients spend a lot of money on a camera to use at home. However, the camera on your cell phone is usually more than enough for your self-tape needs. ● Any reliable device that captures a clear picture and good quality audio will successfully get the job done. iPhone, tablet, digital recorder, etc. Once you have a tripod to mount your camera, you are ready to go. ● Don’t worry about a microphone. Unless your young actor is auditioning or booking voiceover work, there is no need to spend additional money on a separate microphone. I have a nice microphone setup in my home studio for voice over auditions, but have never had to use it for self-tape auditions.
Tip #3: The Actual Audition Lights! Camera! Action! Now that you have everything setup, it’s time for filming. Here are a few things that I have found make for a very successful audition. ● Slating – Generally speaking a slate will consist of name, age (if under 18), height and where you are based (location). Where you’re based is very important due to Covid filming guidelines. Even if you live in Las Vegas and can get to Los Angeles in four hours – you want Casting to know that you are based in Las Vegas. Your slate is given directly to camera. ● Dialogue/The Scene – Unless your young actor has a series regular audition that’s ten pages and they want it by the end of the day, actors should have their lines memorized. When you’re filming from home, Casting knows you’ve had the opportunity for multiple takes. So memorize and work on your scene. ● Sightlines are important. During your scene do not look directly at the camera. Your sightlines should be just to the left or right of the camera. If you’re talking to multiple people in a scene, place one on either side of the camera and make sure you’re never being filmed in profile. If you’re in profile, Casting won’t be able to see your reactions. ● Props/Pantomime – Props can be distracting – pantomime even more so. When in doubt, less is more. Most physical activity in your sides doesn’t need to be done in your self-tape, unless Casting asks for it specifically. For example you don’t need to pantomime eating a sandwich or hugging a person that isn’t there. The only exception I have seen across the board is the use of a cell phone.
Tip #4: Follow Directions The things we have discussed so far are the generally accepted guidelines of a self-tape. However, different casting directors may have additional requirements for self-tape audition submissions. Please make sure to read the entire breakdown before filming. ● Be sure to know your angles – close-up shot, medium shot, wide shot ● Have they asked for two takes? If so make sure they are both strong choices ● Make sure you label your audition correctly. Casting usually included details instructions on how to label and upload your auditions.
Tip #5: Be Prepared Making sure you are ready to film is important. Even more important is being prepared for your audition. In addition to memorizing your sides, make sure you understand what the scene is about and what your character’s truth is within the scene. In most cases, an Acting Coach can be a great first step in your self-tape audition process. An Acting Coach will help you learn how to make strong, truthful choices in your audition and, in some cases, will be able to record your self-tape for you at the time of coaching. I coach many of my clients and we record the takes that can then be directly uploaded for the audition. However you decide to set up and film your auditions, remember this should be fun!
Stephanie Lesh-Farrell has been a professional acting instructor for working actors in LA for the past 15+ years. Her clients can be seen in numerous TV/Film, commercial and theatre. Including The Avengers, Man of Steel, Benjamin Button, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and many TV shows: THe Magicians, Arrow, PEN 15, Teen Wolf, Everything Sucks, Bella and the Bulldogs & Criminal Minds to name a few.
Much of her coaching success comes from her on set knowledge as an actress. Stephanie can be seen in several shows including: Dirty John, Greys Anatomy, Veep, Lucifer, Scandal and The Office.
For more information on coaching and classes please go to her website at https://tigle3.wixsite.com/stephanieleshfarrell/reel or email her at email@example.com.