8 Steps to a Perfect Self-Tape Audition

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As the artistic director of an acting studio for young performers, I receive many self-taped submissions for our by-audition programs such as agent showcases, cabarets, productions, and year-round advanced courses. With a parent’s help, a young performer’s submission can be made to look as good as any seasoned stage and screen pro—and you won’t need a professional’s help!

Steer clear of these pitfalls and you’ll be on your way to submitting a quality, homemade self-tape that can confidently be sent to a casting office.

Pitfall #1: Straight-Up Slip-Up
Believe it or not, you can make, edit, and submit a self-tape right from your smart phone or tablet. However, make sure the audition is recorded in the same orientation it will be watched on a computer monitor: horizontally (from side to side), not vertically (straight up and down).

Pitfall #2: Guillotine Screen
Never put actors on tape when they are framed with their head chopped off. Improper framing is a sure way to sabotage a self-tape. A performer must be framed to a head and shoulders shot.

Pitfall #3: Too Wide, Not Wise
If the self-tape is shot too wide, the details of an actor’s face and his or her expressions cannot be seen. A casting director won’t be able to evaluate a performer’s skill if she appears to be miles away from the camera!

Pitfall #4: Shake Take
Invest in a simple tripod that will steady your recording device. You don’t want to introduce any unpleasant camera shake (or dizziness, for that matter) when the self-tape is played back in a casting office.

Pitfall #5: The Blackout Bow Out
Never film in a dark room with poor lighting. A dark self-tape is certainly a deal breaker. Window light is all you need and if you can’t find a well-lit room to film in, gather up some lamps from other rooms in your home and place them as close to the actor as possible without moving them into the frame.

Pitfall #6: Drowned Sound
Similar to the lighting pitfall, don’t film in a loud area where there are distracting sounds; traffic noise, ringing phones, and children playing are all to be avoided. Sound quality is equally important to image quality.

Pitfall #6: Silver Screen Dream
Don’t upstage an actor with a reader who is too loud. There’s nothing worse than a reader who thinks his performance will land him a starring role in a film or on Broadway. The actor should always be louder than the reader. It may take readers some practice to make sure they don’t steal focus, but it will be well worth the effort.

Pitfall #7: Distraction Detraction
Don’t film in front of a wall with any distractions. Clear a wall of paintings, clocks, and all clutter that will steal the focus from the actor. Once you have eliminated the distractions, it’s time to record.

Pitfall #8: Instruction Malfunction.
Never forget to read and follow the submission instructions very carefully. If you’re taking the time to research a character, memorize lines, and make bold acting choices, then don’t blow an audition by blowing off the directions. Most self-tape submissions come with very specific directions.

Keep in mind that since you’re making a self-tape you can do as many takes as needed, and you’ll be on your way to submitting a self-tape like a seasoned stage and screen pro! Break a leg!

Test out your self-tape skills by checking out our film audition listings! And for more great advice, watch the video below:

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Jessica R. Grosman
Jessica R. Grosman is the founder and artistic director of A Class Act NY, Manhattan’s award-winning acting studio for kids and teens. She has successfully coached students who have booked roles in feature films, Broadway productions, and on primetime TV series.
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