More than ever, actors are reading for roles remotely. Not just via self-tape, but live with the creative team staring at you through your computer screen. So hide the weird doll collection in your mom’s basement behind your flex backdrop and buckle up because it’s going be this way for a little while and I want you to master the art of online auditioning. Through doing five months of online TV and film classes over Zoom at my studio, I’ve seen how effective an actor can be over a computer screen as long as they’re paying attention to the details, have the right equipment, and understand the proper etiquette for executing a great audition.
Do you know where your eye line should be when reading with someone over Zoom? Do you know how to adjust your sound and exposure manually through the Zoom setting so you can be seen and heard clearly? Do you have a laptop with a good HD camera? How do you do a standing scene without balancing your laptop on some old acting books? Your lighting, framing, internet speed, backdrop, Zoom etiquette, and on-camera acting matter more than ever. Popping over a computer screen is different than popping in a self-tape. Do you know the ways to jump off the screen and do you have the right equipment?
Here’s everything you need to know about mastering your next Zoom audition.
1. Use your laptop.
Always, always do Zoom auditions on a laptop and not on a smartphone. Make sure you have the latest Zoom update, as it allows for maximum flexibility for you. You can adjust your exposure, cut out background noise, and also “touch up your appearance” (my favorite). You can even do a split screen and have your sides on the computer at the same time.
2. Invest in a tripod laptop stand.
This will allow you to raise and lower your computer so that you can do both standing and sitting scenes. They go for around $50 on Amazon.
3. Pay attention to sound.
Wear some kind of earbud with a microphone when reading as it avoids your dialogue cutting out in Zoom when overlapping with your lines in a scene. Without earbuds, you’ll miss cues, not hear lines, and it’ll make for a very frustrating read. Also, by having the earbud mic close to your mouth, it mimics using a lavalier microphone and picks up much more subtlety in your voice. I like Apple Airpods, as they’re less distracting than huge over-ear headphones.
4. Upgrade your internet.
Now more than ever your internet needs to be strong and consistent. Create your Zoom set up in the area with the best wireless to avoid it being glitchy.
5. Make sure your laptop camera is 1080p.
If you have an older computer, your camera won’t be as crisp at 720p. To fix this, use your smartphone as a web camera by downloading EpocCam ($7.99). It’s a total game-changer, gives crisp, clear video, works seamlessly with Zoom, and will really make you pop.
6. Know your eye line.
You want to recreate the feeling of being in an in-person audition. The best way to do this is to look just left or right of the camera. You can either put a piece of tape on the corner of your laptop, or even better, minimize your Zoom window and put your reader on the top corner of your screen. I think it’s always better to look someone in the eye for an audition rather than looking at a piece of tape.
7. Invest in decent lighting and a solid backdrop.
No virtual backdrops of you on a beach. These can be the same ones you use as your self-tape setup. Invest in two softboxes, a gray or blue backdrop, a hair light, and a backdrop light of some kind (Google “four-point lighting”) if you want to really seem professional. In a perfect world, you’re using your Zoom setup and your self-tape setup as one area and just swapping out the tripod with your laptop with your phone or camera tripod set up (these are two different kinds of tripods).
8. Own it.
The casting director is now coming into your world, your safe space, and you’re inviting them to see your art. You’re on your home turf. I always used to say to actors before they went into the room for their auditions, “act like you are in your living room.” Now you are there. Literally. I’ve noticed nerves dissolve as actors use the environment effectively around them. Most of us are at a desk, which allows us to lean forward, put our elbows up, creating more intimacy with the camera, drop our voice way down, and focus on maximum subtlety. I’ve noticed actors using things on their desks (a pen, a notebook, a bottle of water) as essential parts of their scenes. They’re able to create their environment in a much more vivid way. I’ve seen actors tape their sides to their ring light (whatever works, right?). They can lean back in their comfortable chair and put their feet up, allowing them to create more of a physicality around their characters.
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