How to Know What a Casting Director Wants From a Self-Tape Audition

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Q: How can an actor make a CD’s job easier when it comes to self-tapes?

When we’re limited to a self-tape, there isn’t as much information to go off of because we aren’t live in a room with you. We can’t talk to you, and we can’t take you in, head-to-toe. We have to make our judgment purely based on what we’re getting on-camera—so I want to have as much information as possible, including physical information. I want to be able to get a sense of the full package, because when we’re hiring you, we’re hiring all of you. 

Adjust your framing to be from the waist or chest up to give us an idea of your proportions and size. Even if, in your character choice, you say, “My character would wear this hoodie because they like to be modest,” strip some of that away for the tape. Choose a costume for your character that still allows us to get the information we need. 

When the frame is tight, all I have is your face. But I want to know what you look like and how you live in your body. Sometimes, our technical concerns start to bleed into the creative ones. When we’re only living and playing in a tiny world, we get so zoomed in that we don’t learn much about you, your abilities, or your range. Recognize that, with a self-tape, a casting director’s information is limited, so give them a little gift: Let them know what you can do as an actor, even within the parameters of the scene you’ve been given. I don’t get to say hello or chitchat with you.

You might be handed a flat scene by a casting director, but even then you can make choices—how you set up your self-tape, what you wear—that give us a three-dimensional picture of who you are as a performer, not just a tight, condensed version.

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 28 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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