The Art Of Self-Taping For Hollywood Movies

Brian with auditioning actress Ulrika at Spotlight Studios
Brian with auditioning actress Ulrika at Spotlight Studios

Last week I managed to get one of my students an audition for a major Hollywood movie. I can’t tell you which one, as I’m sworn to secrecy, but suffice to say it’s major league.

Each year I take my one-year students from London to LA to experience the Hollywood acting industry. It’s an amazing trip and they get the low-down on how things work stateside.

I bring in some big hitting casting directors to meet the students. They cast major feature films and rub shoulders with the likes of George Clooney and Angelina Jolie.

One of these casting directors emailed me last week and said:

Can you shoot me pictures of your students that are:

1. Ready to handle an acting job

2.  Fit the role of….

As a result, one of the actresses I put forward got an audition.

Now, here is the dilemma:

The casting director is in LA and the actress is in London. So how do you audition? The answer is self-taping. As you are probably aware, there are more and more British actors getting roles in US projects. The film industry is now truly global and technology has made it possible for casting directors to audition actors anywhere in the world thanks to self-taping.

Self-taping involves you taping yourself doing scenes from the film and sending it to the casting director. You usually receive guidelines from the casting director on how to do this.

Here is an example:

SELF – TAPE INSTRUCTIONS & TIPS — IMPORTANT — PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

Wardrobe: Please avoid wearing stripes, complex patterns or all white. They don’t show well on camera.

SLATING FOR CAMERA: show full body:

Note: Please make Slate separate from Scene reading.

1. Your Name – Hold Paper with Name/Large Print

2. Say your Height

3. Say your Age (only if you are under 18 years old) 4. State & City you live in.

4. Represented by:

5. Reading for the role of:________

Please direct eye line to person reading with you standing next to camera.

TAPING SCENE: Please start taping at waist and then move in to close-up.

We want to easily see the face of the actor and also see how they use their body in the scene. Actor can move a round a little bit. Please keep it within a 3ft radius so we don’t lose seeing the face and body.

The final file must be in: .MOV or MP4 format.

It’s an interesting process. Here are some things to keep in mind if you have to produce a self-tape:

 

  • Get the self-tape done professionally. Spotlight (the UK’s actors casting directory) offer an affordable service where they tape your audition reading and put it online. Believe me, on the day you will be glad you had a pro cameraman do this. It’s not as easy as it seems. You want to concentrate on the acting rather than camera shots when you’re performing a scene.
  • When you do this at Spotlight the camera is usually quite a distance from where you are. This also means the person reading with you is at a distance. We are talking maybe 10-12 feet away. You may be thinking ‘so what?’ Well, when you’re doing a take and the person you are reading with is 12 foot away, unconsciously you will want to project more and that isn’t what you want for camera work. Especially if you are doing low-key one-on-one conversations.

    So you need to practice keeping the performance at camera level even if the person you are acting with is 12 feet away.
  • Take someone with you to read with and watch your performance. One of the main benefits of self-taping is you can do retakes and take direction. Make sure if you’re taking someone in with you that they are a professional. You need another actor, director or coach in the room.

 

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