remember me on this computer

Casting directors often say they can receive a huge range in quality when it comes to self-taping. As self-taping becomes more and more the norm, and because the majority of professional actors never had any self-tape advice / practice at drama school, we posed five key questions on self-taping to Casting Director Amy Hubbard (twitter) (IMDb).

Q: Actors all want to deliver a performance that captures the creative teams attention – for all the right reasons… with performances that are under-stated but also charismatic – but what are the most common pitfalls actors make when they self-tape?

Amy: The pitfalls are talking to your reader-in with disdain. Usually the other character is a lover or a friend and yet the actor talks to them with absolute disdain. It is a bizarre but regular pitfall.

Using no reader-in at all is not ideal. If it’s absolutely impossible to get someone to read-in then of course, everyone will understand, but if you can possibly convince your partner, parent, postman to sit down and feed you the lines it really helps. Very often it helps keep things natural, under-stated and real if you get a non-actor to read-in. If you are a very experienced actor with a great body of work behind you, then do whatever works for you – I have seen experienced actors react to their own recorded voice with great results. But you really have to know what you are doing to make scenes work like that. I think I saw Ben Daniels do that once and it was brilliant. You would need to be at his level really.

The most common pitfall, that destroys credibility is when the self-tape-ee makes it all about themselves. It doesn’t matter who is reading-in but for gods sake look like you are listening to what they say, reacting to them, instead of waiting for your next line, or making it a monologue with interruptions.

Q: If a self-tape is filmed on an actors phone / tablet what would your advice be on background, lighting and framing?

Amy: Keep it simple. I get really nosy about people’s homes. Sometimes I get to see their washing drying on the radiator, or some of their ornaments. And that’s not a good thing. The best backgrounds are a nice brick wall, any wall with an interesting texture, or a blank wall. I was going to say avoid white, but really the colour of the background is not going to make the difference between you landing the role, or not. Tidy & professional please. You can’t beat natural daylight and nice framing – like it’s a portrait. But any kind of simple lamp will do. I think an angle-poise lamp on a pile of books is how most people manage. Most smart phones produce exceptional quality.

Q: Is one good take enough or should actors send 2 or 3 variations?

Amy: You will probably get different replies from different casters. Personally, in the early stages of casting, I would like one good take. But if my clients like what they see they will instantly want more, and some variations to prove that you can act! So maybe two takes. But I’m a strong believer in “always leave them wanting more”. If your read piques interest, believe me, you will soon know and will be asked to self-tape again with notes, or tape in the room with caster and/or director & producers, or fly somewhere pronto to screen test. If you have very little time in the days ahead, perhaps because you are shooting every day, THEN do 3-4 takes with variations i.e. if you know you can’t revisit the scenes in the immediate future due to your schedule. Also, if you’re just flinging yourself on tape and aren’t very passionate about the project and you are a busy actor, then pass on the project instead of doing something half-hearted. Let someone else grab the job!

Q: Is a name card handy at the start/end – if so, how long and what format do you like this?

Amy: Yes because there is much opportunity for human error between your taping and ultimate review by creatives. Any format, not important. Keep it simple. Maybe 3 seconds?

Q: Do you prefer being emailed the video file itself or a link to the video?

Amy: DEFINITELY a link to the video. NEVER an email of the video file. ALWAYS downloadable. ALWAYS private, not public. IDEALLY vimeo. But wetransfer and hightail also acceptable. Youtube is not popular with my upload “technician”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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