How to Make the Best Acting Self Tapes
Our industry is ever-changing, and great acting self tapes are now key to an actor’s success! Every day, casting directors are booking actors directly from acting self tapes. And it’s now very common for a self-tape to replace an initial audition. Your acting self tape becomes what used to be called a preread, and from this, you could be invited to a callback. Here at 3-2-1- Acting Studios in Los Angeles, I definitely teach my students about the importance of self tapes!
Self tapes are fantastic opportunities for you to hone your craft and take control of the audition process. Also, the standards for acting self tapes are increasing. It’s so important that your acting self tapes look and sound professional, and that you are presented in the best possible light. Beyond doing your acting homework for the audition, here are some tips regarding how to make the best acting self tapes:
Use a solid colored backdrop.
Based on your complexion and hair color, there are specific colors that will work best for you. If you have a lighter skin tone, avoid white or beige walls (however, if you are in a pinch, a blank, white wall is much better than a cluttered wall). Find a space in your home that has a clean, blank wall — ideally in a room that has natural light. If it’s a white wall, you could consider investing in a backdrop or even hanging up a colored sheet. Here’s one example of a collapsible backdrop.
Invest in lighting if necessary.
If you do not have a lot of natural light in your self tape area, or if you find that you mostly do acting self tapes in the evening hours, invest in some inexpensive lights. You can look into soft box lights and butterfly lights on Amazon. See what you can do with natural light first, though. Natural light always looks best! I’ve known actors to combine natural light with a well-placed lamp to create great lighting.
Your Smartphone is great!
Smartphones now have cameras with the same resolutions as high grade cameras that cinematographers use. By all means, use your smartphone to tape your auditions. Test the acoustics in the room, though. If the room is large, with an echo, and you are filming acting self tapes on your smartphone, you may want to consider purchasing sound equipment.
Make sure that your reader does not overpower the audition.
You do not want your off-camera reader to overpower the audition. Remember that she is standing closer to the camera than you are. Do some test runs, and have her speak at different volumes. The reader is there to serve you and your audition. All focus should be on you, and your voice should be the louder of the two.
Learn how to do basic editing.
You will save yourself time and money by learning how to use iMovie or Movie Maker. This will allow you to do multiple takes while leaving the camera running, and you will experience more freedom and flexibility. For example, you can improvise a “moment before” to help you get into character — and edit this moment out later on. However, please note: casting directors expect a single, continuous take. This means you can’t take, for example, the first half a monologue from one take, and the second half from another. When you finish your session, you’ll want to send your best, continuous take.
Once you master basic editing, you can learn how to zoom in and crop the frame. You can also even create a slate card with your name and your agent’s contact information to include at the end of the audition tape, if necessary.
I am constantly encouraging my acting students here at 3-2-1- Acting Studios in Los Angeles to have fun! Enjoy the creative process of making your acting self tape.