I think it would be fair to say that all actors have faced difficulties when it comes to self-taping. Whether that be technical difficulties, personal challenges, or plain old doubt, it is something that many of us share in common.
When I first started self-taping back in the day, I was faced with so many questions that I didn't know how to answer. "Is casting watching my tape?", "Why does my lighting look like that?", "What kind of read do they want?", "How many takes should I be doing?", "Do they think I'm good?", and the list goes on. Does this sound familiar?
If it does, don't stress. Those questions are completely valid and so many of us think the same way. The biggest thing is, don't let those questions and doubts control you. Keep them in the back seat of the car, but don't let them drive.
After years of practicing, searching, and applying, I've come to discover three key points that have helped me overcome my own self-tape hurdles and bumps. Hopefully they will help ease your own endless questioning.
1. Simple is better
The main focus of every one of your self-tapes is you. Knowing this, you have an important piece of information that can help you build the perfect tape.
If you're worried about what props to use, whether your background is interesting enough, or if you should go out and rent a costume for your audition, the answer is: if it's not YOU then you don't need it.
Keep props to a bare minimum. My rule is: if the prop is small enough that I can keep it off frame, then I'll use it. If the prop will help me focus and ground me in my scene, then I'll use it. Anything else? It's best to forget it. The prop isn't the focus after all, it's YOU.
Keep your background bare. Always. Casting Directors are human and they work long hours, which means they get tired. Their attention can easily drift if there's an interesting object in your background or a painting hanging on the wall. Keep it simple.
Same goes for your clothes. Dress to give the impression of your character. Avoid too much jewelry, loud patterns, and distracting costumes. If you are auditioning for the role of a doctor, lawyer, or secretary, then look polished and professional. If your character is artistic and free-spirited, add a bit of colour.
Just keep it simple. Keep it YOU.
2. There is no "perfect take"
That's right, I said it! THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO DO A SCENE! So, you can stop worrying about that.
If you find yourself doing take after take, thinking "I'll get it perfect next time", you are holding yourself back from making new discoveries. As you try to "perfect" a scene, you inevitably fall into a pattern of saying your lines, and your performance becomes robotic.
Instead, make every take a blank slate. Don't try to replicate your previous take. Listen to your scene partner and hear their world as if for the very first time. The audience loves to see a character making discoveries, falling on their face, getting back up again, shooting their shot, failing. The messiness makes it human.
As a result of this, you'll find yourself needing to do fewer takes.
3. Self-Taping gives you an advantage
Some might disagree with this point, and that's okay. Personally I find that taping from home gives me a massive advantage in my performance.
Have you ever walked into an audition room filled with the casting director, director, producers, writers, and immediately felt those nerves fill your stomach and your mind to the point where you can't even remember your own name? Yeah, so have I.
It can be really difficult to manage those feelings and give an honest and grounded performance. Especially when you only have one shot at it.
That's why I love self-tapes so much! I get to take my time to breathe and centre myself before shooting. I'm in a familiar environment that I know and feel comfortable in. I can play and try different things, and if they don't turn out good, those takes just don't get sent! It's the best!!
Try to take advantage of that. Use your space and time to your advantage. No one is sitting there watching you, so have fun. See it as an opportunity to play. You've got this.
If these tips resonated with you in any way, and you want to take things into your own hands and ACT, Tony is bringing back the 5-Day Self-Tape Challenge on January 25th.
This is a $22 5-Day intensive that is JAM-PACKED with tips like these and more! Tony goes in depth on equipment and tech, scene analysis, mindset, industry standards, and he brings with it his own experience! (and there's a lot of it).
The information is all HERE
And yes, I'll be there too! ;)
Keep it simple,
Valerie Lalonde is a Canadian actor and filmmaker born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. Her recent credits include Paranormal Witness (SyFy), American Descent (Prime Video), and Broken Waters (Feature). Her first short 'Calling' is set to premier online in 2021. She now resides in Toronto, Ontario, where she works with Tony Babcock at IYA studios, and continues to pursue her love of the craft of acting and filmmaking.
Follow her on Instagram HERE
Tony Babcock started IYA Studio for Actors over ten years ago with a mission: to bridge the gap between improv, acting, and life in order to help actors reach their full potential and enjoy the journey.