I’m seeing a lot of actors complaining about self-taping. The same question keeps coming up: “If you’re in the same location as the casting director, why aren’t they calling you into their office for a preread instead of requesting a self-tape?”
The answer? There are a number of reasons why.
A preread is an audition for the CD to see if you’re right for the role. If we don’t know you or if we have never seen you play a role like this, we need to audition you beforehand. In my office, no one comes in for the director or producer unless I know their work or have auditioned them before.
If an actor is in the same location as me, I always want to have them come into my office so I can work with them for the preread. I like interacting with the actor and reading with them to see if they are just reading lines and waiting for cues or if they are really connecting with me. That said, there are only so many hours in the day.
The expectations of our filmmakers are very high. They expect results in a lightning-fast timeline. Meanwhile, we are in direct competition for actors with all of the other projects that are casting, so we have to scramble to get the actor we want into our office and get a test deal underway before the other projects do. Self-tape auditions are a way to see a vast number of actors while simultaneously having producer sessions and callbacks.
I’m often asked if we actually watch these self-taped auditions. I can only speak for my office, but the answer is definitely yes. I have a very experienced staff, and among the three of us, we watch every single audition that is sent to us. If you are going to take the time to prepare an audition, we have great respect for the work you’ve put into it, and we will watch it.
Do we watch the whole thing? Here’s the hard truth: unless your audition is great, no. We simply do not have the time to watch an entire audition that isn’t in the right zone of what we’re looking for. Again, there are too many time constraints. This is another reason why you must knock it out of the park from the moment you come onscreen. If we aren’t immediately grabbed by your performance, we will click on to the next audition. This is also true of all the filmmakers and executives who watch your audition.
You must learn to become comfortable with self-taping your auditions, as this has become the norm. We do not expect a high-quality audition done in a studio. You can easily rig a good space in your house, and I encourage you to take the time to learn how to do it well. Find a partner to help you out—you should not be doing this yourself. Check out my article “How to Self-Tape Your Audition Like a Rock Star” on my site for all the details. The most important things are good lighting, sound, and a good reader, and to make sure your camera is on a tripod and not hand-held.
Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s film audition listings!