A Casting Director’s No. 1 Tip for a Perfect Self-Tape

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Q: What are your top tips for a great self-tape? What does a CD want to see? 

There are some standard things that make a clean and accessible self-tape. If you can’t get to all these points, that’s OK—what matters is that you do the self-tape. But there are some basic parameters that make for an enjoyable video that catches a casting director’s eye and makes them want to watch it all the way through.

You need a camera. An iPhone is fine, as the quality is high enough to give us the footage we need. Make sure the camera is on something stable; prop it up on some books or a tripod. Don’t put the camera or laptop on your lap. 

I want your body to be free to move. I want you to be engaged fully—not just in your voice, not just in your face. Acting is not just about your face; it’s everywhere. Having a stable camera allows you to move your entire body. 

I like lights that are facing you. Overhead lights are OK, but you can get a $6 ring light on Amazon and prop it over your phone or computer camera, facing head-on. It offers a little more brightness and gets rid of the shadows. Don’t film with windows behind you, because that backlights your body, and details can get lost.

In terms of sound, the internal microphone in your phone or computer is generally enough. A handheld mic is dangerous because you can lose your ability to act fully. For musical theater, I don’t love when an actor has headphones and we only hear you singing a cappella, sans the accompanying track. 

For your backdrop, a neutral wall or a blue screen is lovely; but does it matter? No. Can you do it in front of your shower curtain? Sure. A bookshelf? OK. Your kitchen? Sure. None of that matters. Ideally, a solid wall would be great, but if it’s not, it’s not a big deal. It’ll help elevate the shot a bit. None of this is a dealbreaker, but if you have access to these items, you’ll be better equipped to create a quality self-tape so that we can focus on you and your performance.

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 14 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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