Wondering how to get cast in 2021? The team at Backstage has got you covered with The Actor’s Toolkit, a new series that provides expert advice on how to navigate career growth both online and in person, spruce up your Backstage profile, and gives you the inside scoop on how to prepare for the biggest trends in the business today.
On the second episode of The Actor’s Toolkit, resident casting specialist and Casting Director Christine McKenna-Tirella and Backstage Editor-in-Chief Briana Rodriguez discuss down two types of self-tape audition for remote work that are on the rise in 2021: voiceover and User-Generated Content (UGC). Both require that you invest in some equipment and adequate space, and each type of audition has specific criteria that an actor should familiarize themselves with before submitting.
So what is the deal with both voiceover and the newer commercial work venture of UGC? We answered your questions live. Here’s the recap!
Many actors are already working in this space, and Backstage even provides a separate profile for voiceover work. Traditionally, voiceover work is used in radio, animation, and video games. Mckenna-Tirella says that this type of work is becoming increasingly popular during the pandemic, because it is easily recorded and the talent can often work from home—provided they have the right equipment and setup.
For voiceover auditions, many projects will ask for a “pre-screen” to be submitted with the application; this will often be a small amount of text that the actor is asked to perform and send along. This allows for the casting director to hear an actor perform something in line with the project, before the traditional audition. Mckenna-Tirella says it’s important to follow the project’s directions for recording––including instructions for slating––and always label your submissions before sending!
When it comes to equipment and setups, McKenna-Tirella defers to Backstage Expert and Backstage’s podcast In the Envelope producer Jamie Muffet: “As a voiceover artist, the room in which you record is the most important factor to consider,” Muffet says. “It is more critical than your mic, your interface, expensive preamps, your computer, and software. If your sound is compromised before it even gets to your microphone, no amount of expensive equipment is going to be able to make up for poor acoustics.” As Mckenna-Tirella puts it, it’s much more important to keep sound out of the recording environment than to prevent sound from escaping.
Backstage has plenty of advice when it comes to equipment, so do your research before committing to a microphone, pre-amp, and other equipment. It’s important to budget out the entire process, including training, and spend wisely to ensure you’re set up for success. Software is an important component, and McKenna-Tirella recommends Audacity, which works great and will cost you nothing. Again, there are plenty of options, so do the research and find what program will best suit your needs.
Odds are you’ve seen User Generated Content, even if you didn’t know it by name. Oftentimes presented as “testimonials,” this type of content is filmed by an actor using their own equipment and setup, and then used primarily for internet videos and digital ads. Mckenna-Tirella says it’s important to note exactly what the project calls for before submitting; for example, if the project is looking for diabetics to promote a specific medication, don’t submit unless you fit the bill.
These types of commercials are becoming increasingly popular because, like voiceover work, they can be produced from the comfort of the talent’s own home. McKenna-Tirella advises to pay close attention to the casting notice when it comes to UGC as these types of projects can range anywhere from scripted material to fully improvised work. And because of the low-cost and quick turnaround of this content, expect to see more of these types of projects throughout 2021 and beyond!
For UGC, you’ll not only need a microphone (McKenna-Tirella advises against anything hand-held; it’ll get in the way of your performance, so invest in a stand as well), but a camera and lighting equipment, too. Your phone will provide better video than most laptops, but be sure to shoot horizontally in front of a neutral background that won’t distract from your work. A ring light will provide good, even lighting in most situations.
And no matter the project, Mckenna-Tirella reminds actors to do their best possible work—a self-tape is meant to replicate the in-person audition experience, she says, and it’s most important to prepare the work and submit the material on time!
Tips and tricks for Backstage Members
Along with the self-tape advice, Mckenna-Tirella took time to talk with several Backstage members about their profiles, and offered some expert advice about how to market themselves and take advantage of everything Backstage has to offer. Here’s some of her best tips and tricks to help you get cast in 2021!
- Invest in your Backstage profile completion score; Mckenna-Tirella says that a score of 10 is 14x more likely to get you an audition than an incomplete profile
- Change your profile visibility public, this way your profile to be seen by creators that are searching for specific talent, and allows them to reach out directly to you even if you haven’t submitted to the project
- Social media followers are important, especially for UGC; if you have a big following, be sure to highlight this in your profile.
- Label all videos! It’s important that your media is easily identifiable and showcases the talents you bring to the table.
- Be careful not to overload your profile with skills, especially for voiceover artists; if it’s mentioned on your profile, there should be some media or reel that demonstrates that skill or accent.
- In a pinch, the iPhone headphones have a pretty decent microphone; but be sure to invest in good equipment, and experiment with recording.
- For auditions that require a reader, get creative; enlist an actor friend, or ask a non-actor buddy to read with you off-camera. McKenna-Tirella says there are also apps, such as “Cold Read App,” that will feed the lines to you if you’re in a pinch.
- Explore making your own work on TikTok and YouTube; McKenna-Tirella says that a big following is great, but the apps prioritize good content, so put it out there and success will follow.
Check out the Actors Toolkit workbook for all this information and more. As actors during this unprecedented time, it is more important than ever to support and share with another, which is why Backstage is committed to keeping you informed and connected to the industry, even while remote.
Stay tuned for the next episode of the Actor’s Toolkit, and join us live for a chance to get your questions answered by our experts!