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SELF-TAPE AUDITIONS: Hi Actors. Been working on a short film and a Pilot recently in which I’ve requested a self-taped audition. After watching hundreds of self-taped auditions, I was debating whether or not to say anything about the “self-tape” audition or not–I’m posting my positive opinion. Maybe I should make this into a video….idk. Also, this is only my opinion and not necessarily the opinion of other casting directors. Individual results may vary. (disclaimer)

For those of you who don’t know me yet, I am extremely particular about who auditions for my projects whether it’s a commercial, industrial, tv, film or voice-over.
When it comes to commercials with copy, if I don’t know an actor yet, I do like to give opportunities to see how well they can act (or not). So, I will ask for a self-tape audition. When it comes to a TV/Film audition, even if I know the actor, I always like to do a pre-screen audition–the self-taped audition because I want to make sure that actor can give a stellar performance before I bring them into the casting studio with me. If they can’t do it up to my standards, they don’t come in to the studio. Once in a while, after watching a self audition, I contact the actor or agent to have him/her come in to the studio with me—SO I CAN give you some direction to get a better performance out of you.

However, there are circumstances where an actor is out of town or since I’m based in New York, I also cast for actors in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, even Toronto & Vancouver–they need to submit a self-tape audition that I would have to send to my client. It just depends if my client is willing to fly someone in.
{Sigh}….where do I start?

Ok, so I always put in my breakdowns, when asking for a self-taped audition, “Please don’t spend any money recording this.” You can read into that statement anyway you like. I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s business. And I’m sure there are actors that feel having the audition professionally filmed will help their chances of getting a callback or even a booking (if a client is booking off a self-taped audition). This industry has changed dramatically. After over 24 years of doing this, the internet has helped casting directors like myself reach out to actors all over the country.
Anyway, back on track…actors will spend anywhere from $35 – $50 to have someone read/film them for 20-30 minutes. Is the quality good? In some cases, the backdrop and camera are good. Sometimes the sound is good too (not always). Sometimes you get a good reader and sometimes you get someone who–well (breathe, Ken…). Fact is, what it comes down to is this: you need to be a great actor. You need to come up with creative ideas of “performing” the copy—not just reading it.

HOWEVER, it does look better when you have a professional looking audition. But most actors can’t afford to spend $35-$50 per audition. I mean, if the average actor has a few of these each week, the costs add up. And there’s NO guarantee of return on your money. For the ones who can’t afford that service, there’s no reason why you can’t do this at home. For the ones that can afford it, great. Keep going to those places that offer this service.
May I make some suggestions? Ok great.

1. Invest in your own home studio. Make room in your apartment/home, clear a space around 9′ x 10′ dedicated for your audition purposes. Buy a light kit and a backdrop. You could buy the standard blue or even a grey or white. (No black. No curtains. No wrinkled sheet hanging behind you (it’s awful).

If you have a HD camera on tripod, great. Invest in a lav mic OR a boom mic. They’re not that expensive.

2. Form a COALITION with a few actor friends. At least 2 Female and 2 Male actors that are GREAT actors and agree as part of your group, to read/film each other. Why 2 of each? In case one is not available during the time you need to do the self-tape.

3. If you don’t have a HD camera and want to use a Smartphone–that’s great too. But please, please turn the phone horizontally so you film a wide shot. Does that make sense? Wide shot looks much better. For sound, check if B&H has any adapter that plugs into the phone so you can use a boom mic.

4. Make sure your filming “space” is not near any open windows in daylight.
There’s more advice, but I think this is good enough for now.

Oh–and probably better not to email the CD after you’ve sent the audition asking for feedback. Either you’re good or you’re not. Not trying to sound harsh. But it’s very clear as I’m watching these self-tape auditions, who has had some excellent training for on-camera and those who unfortunately don’t have a clue. After getting 100’s of submissions, the last thing we want to do is try to remember your audition and give you feedback. Idk, maybe I should find time to coach certain actors on the side.

And Los Angeles: You guys freakin’ rock! I’m really impressed with your auditions. (NY you guys rock too…)
Peace out my friends.

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