Exactly What Casting Directors Want to See on Your Self-Tape

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Q: How would you describe the ideal self-tape? Are there any nonnegotiables? 

An ideal self-tape offers an opportunity for me to get to know an actor, even if I haven’t seen them physically in the room. Especially now, [with] so much of our self-taping occurring virtually, I don’t necessarily have the opportunity to really dive in and get to know the scope of the actor’s work. An ideal self-tape gives me a glimpse of the depth of what an actor can do, even within the confines of the material that we send them. 

I want a self-tape that looks like the actor who is going to show up on set; sounds like the actor who is going to show up on set; and gives us a little sense of who this actor is, how they’re going to work, and how they’re going to fit into the greater scheme of our creative team and full cast. Though sometimes it provides just a little bit of material, I have to learn a lot from that initial self-tape. So for me, an ideal self-tape is the beginning of the story—the beginning of the conversation with the actor in this role—and it gives me a full sense of what I’ll be getting if we hire the actor. 

I don’t have a nonnegotiable element. Perhaps, in the broadest sense, I want you to use the material I sent; I want it to be appropriate for what we’re working on. That’s really it. Even when we get it, and if you have an issue and need an extra day, ask—we may be flexible. Or I might say the team is going to review everything on Friday morning and make an offer Friday afternoon, so, no, you can’t have the weekend. But at least you can ask, and we can give you that information. 

We really don’t have nonnegotiables. We’re here to elevate the actor, amplify those voices, and be supportive. I know it’s cheesy and every casting director says this, but we really are there to champion them.

This story originally appeared in the Sept. 23 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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