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So this isn’t a newsflash to anyone, but we now live in a self tape audition world. In all honesty self tapes have been around for at least two decades….at least that’s how long I’ve been doing them. But they’ve gone from something that was occasional to being the standard and the norm. In truth, everything I’ve booked since 2017 has been strictly by self tape – long before Covid! We were well on our way to self tape becoming the standard before 2020 happens, but now I’m auditioning in my living room almost every day of the week.
Because self tapes have become so ubiquitous, the standards have been rising at lightning speed. Actors are now expected to have backdrops and lights just as much as we were expected to have headshots a few years ago. We’re also expected to have near flawless Zoom set ups for virtual auditions, callbacks, and now extremely popular online casting director workshops.
These are the big things, and I’ve dealt with them separately in other posts. But there are some things, seemingly small things, that can drive casting directors crazy, or make them happy to have you audition, and they are often overlooked.
Here are six easy things that actors should never neglect and really make casting directors lives easier, and therefore makes them happy!
1. Confirm your audition ASAP.
This is a feature that is primarily used on Casting Networks and most often for a commercial auditions, but it’s important and worth mentioning at the top of the list as I find this is one of casting’s pet peeves. It helps them a lot if you can confirm your audition ASAP! Maybe you have a day to do it, or a few days, but they want to know how many self tapes they can expect. If you’ve submitted yourself to the project, it shows professionalism. If your agent has submitted you, it puts their mind at ease knowing that you got the audition notice.
Casting Networks has a feature under “Notification Settings” that allows you to receive text messages when you have an audition. As soon as you get the text, confirm or decline. If for whatever reason you decide not to audition canceling right away allows your agent to pitch someone else or the casting director to put someone else in that spot. It’s a win-win for everybody, and ensures that you will be called to audition again.
2. Nail your slate.
This is something that is especially important for commercial auditions, we’re casting directors often have very specific instructions. Lately I’ve been noticing they’re asking actors to slate what city they’re located in, height, availability and vaccination status. (Yes, the last one is a biggie!) Follow the instructions to a T! If they’re asking for profiles, give it to them. Asking for a full length shot, give it to them. If they want you to tell a cute story, show your hands, or anything else specific absolutely do it. But the big DON’T…. don’t add anything extra in that they haven’t requested! Whatever they are asking for is usually very specific to the clients request, and they are trying to keep all of the auditions uniform, just as they would as if it was in the office. If you’re being allowed to audition from home instead of driving across town and finding parking, have the courtesy to give them exactly what they ask for.
Note on full body shots: This can be a tricky one, since most of us who are auditioning don’t have the luxury of living in mansions with great big empty rooms or we can take a full length shot with nothing in the way. It often means setting up complicated lighting rearranging furniture and other inconveniences. Personally, I have about half a dozen outfits that I routinely audition in, and I have filmed a full length body shot in each one of them that I can pull up when I need to. This is a huge time saver if you were doing multiple auditions every week.
3. Have a live / virtual reader.
This is especially important for film and television auditions, were you really need to interact with another person. Please, don’t try recording the other lines and then just fitting yours in between. It sounds cheesy and it’s going to make your acting stiff and time constricted.
Even if you live with someone, family members aren’t always the best readers, but FaceTime and Zoom make it super easy to get a friend or another actor to read with you. There is a Facebook group where actors trade off time reading for each other so that is always one option, and totally free. My personal favorite is WeAudition.com . I have used it for several years now because I can find a reader 24/7 whenever I need one! Personally, I love connecting with other actors on there, I don’t mind spending a few dollars to have someone on my timetable, and I’m not trying to coerce friends or align with their schedule to get my audition done in time. I am also on we audition as a reader almost every day, whenever I can anyway. And I have made far more money on there reading for other actors than I have spent for my own auditions. If you want to try out WeAudition.com use the code MAG25 for a 25% discount.
4. Make sure your file size is large enough to be clear, but small enough to easily upload.
Yes, this is a Goldilocks moment where the middle one is just right! Files that are too small or too compressed don’t do you any favors because they’re fuzzy and difficult for casting to really see you and what you’re doing. But files that are too large or a pain to upload and download, and often times the casting sites today have a limit on file size. Generally, even for a long audition the upper limit is around 250 MB. Try and keep your file size within a reasonable range.
5. Submit your self tape as early as you can.
This is one of that casting directors love and that makes actors crazy! Many casting directors will watch auditions as they come in and I’m really grateful if you get your self tape in early. But the reality for the actor is that we need time to prepare, we have jobs and we have a life, and it’s not always possible to get the audition done early.
In the last year, I’ve been getting auditions on Casting Frontier that are often requested within a few hours! More and more, I’ve had to start turning these down because I simply can’t drop what I’m doing run home and try to audition right now. For most film and television auditions you’re at least going to be given overnight, but absolutely do not procrastinate on this! A casting directors nightmare is not having enough audition tapes to show the director / producer / client.
A huge part of the casting directors job is to present a fair number of suitable actors for each role. When you submit your self tape early, the casting director can breathe a small sigh of relief knowing that everything is on track.
Note: Never try to rush to get your audition in early if it means doing a crappy audition! One that is beautifully well acted and on time is better than submitting mediocre work. If for some reason after you’ve confirmed you really can’t get the audition done or decided this work just isn’t right for you absolutely let the casting Director know. Not turning in an audition at all once you’ve already confirmed is really the worst thing you can do!
6. Shoot your audition horizontal / landscape mode only
This last tip is a little bit more on the technical side, and I have covered it in other blog posts, but because it is so important, so prevalent and appears in every single audition notice I get it’s worth mentioning again. Never ever ever shoot your audition in portrait mode! This is the one thing that will make casting directors absolutely crazy, and probably ask you to shoot your audition again. If you are using your phone to shoot auditions always shoot horizontally, or in landscape mode. This is how our TVs are shaped and this is how screens and cinemas are shaped, and this is how the client wants to see you.
Yes, there’s absolutely a lot to think about with self tape auditions. But it’s like anything else the more you do, the better you get at it. As one casting director commented recently, “Actors should never neglect the easy stuff when a self tape has been requested.” Be on top of the technical stuff but make sure you take care of the easy professional stuff too!
Did this help you with preparing for your auditions? Did you get a new tip or have one to share? I’d love to hear from you and you never know who you might help. Be sure to drop a note in the comments below.
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* Please Note: I am not an agent, manager, or casting director. I do not procure work for actors. All information, workshops and coaching are for educational purposes only and are not a guarantee or promise of employment. Thank you for being here!