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* This post was originally published in April 2020. It has been rewritten and updates to reflect current industry trends.
For the moment, self-tape / self-submitted auditions are the new normal. While they may seem new, they have actually been around for years, hence the term ‘tape’…. I mean when was the last time that you actually recorded anything on tape? And some of you reading this may never have! But 2020 and Covid pushed us all into our own homes and behind computer screens, and that isn’t going to change fast. Self-tapes are probably going to be the norm for quite some time to come.
Although they are not new, what is new is just how prevalent and widely used they are. In New York and LA self-tapes have often been used as pre-screens when they are casting a wide net for a role, or sometimes when a casting director has never met and actor before and just wants to see what they can do before investing the time in having you come into the room. In smaller markets such as Atlanta, I hear from actors there that first round auditions have been 100% self-tapes for several years now – you only ever get into the room for a callback.
Personally, I have booked a LOT from self tapes – everything from hand modeling jobs to hosting on HGTV, and most recently a major role in a feature film shot for Lifetime Television here in the U.S..
But if you’re new to the business, self tapes can be a little confusing…
- What exactly is a self-tape?
- What should be in a self tape audition?
- How do you introduce yourself in a self tape audition?
- Do you need a reader for a self tape? And …
- Can I see an example of a self tape?
Let’s dive in below and start answering these questions so you can create the perfect self tape audition and hopefully book the job!
What is a self tape audition?
A self-tape audition is one that is requested by a casting director, and is then submitted to them electronically, rather than being done in person.
The actor is responsible for recording the audition, either with their own equipment or going into a self-tape studio and paying to have it recorded. The recorded audition is then sent in remotely to the casting director. This is often done through your agent or an online casting service using their server to upload the video for casting directors to view.
The casting director provides the actor with sides (scenes / script pages ), instructions, and a deadline. Then it is up to the actor to prepare and record it and return it to them on time.
What should be in a self tape audition?
Your self tape / self recorded audition should be exactly what the casting director asked for and nothing more. Be sure to read the instructions carefully as there will often be specifics on details they want you to record such as name, height, weight, location etc. And sometimes they specifically say to include none of these at all!
How do I self-tape?
Today, self-tapes are so common that you had better get good at them. I highly recommend that you have a system in place so you can pull off a self-tape on a moments notice. At the bare minimum you’re going to need a tripod – even a table top one for your smart phone, decent lighting, a backdrop or bare wall to shoot against, and of course a reader. And keep in mind that the reader can often be the trickiest part! If you have trouble finding a reader, I highly recommend WeAudition but there are a few other ways to find one. I go into more detail about reader in this article: 3 Essentials to Prepare for An Audition in 2021
Need to do a self-tape? Watch this advice from a casting associate
How do you introduce yourself in a self tape audition?
Your introduction is also called a “slate”. Actors slates are really about giving the casting director your basic information, such as name, agency, phone number etc., as well as any details they may have asked you for. Be clear. Be professional. But also be yourself. And a little bit friendly doesn’t hurt either, no one wants to work with someone who is grumpy.
The slate is really important because it’s usually the casting director’s first contact with and first impression so make it count! It’s a great idea to practice recording yourself dong a few of these and then playing them back until you come up with something you are really happy with.
Do you need a reader for a self tape?
Yes! You absolutely need a reader! I would highly encourage you not to use friends and family unless they are trained actors.
I go into quite a bit more details about readers in this article: 3 Essentials to Prepare for An Audition in 2021
What are the benefits and the pitfalls of self tape auditions?
One of the coolest things about self-taping is that it gives the actor the ability to work on an audition until it is exactly the way you want it to be. You can do as many takes as you like and then just submit the one or two that you really feel are your strongest work. At the same time the downside is that it’s easy to obsess over it. Absolutely do as many takes as you feel you need, but at some point, ask yourself if it’s really getting better or if this is the best you can do at this particular time.
Another huge benefit is that self tape auditions allow you to be considered for jobs just about anywhere in the world that they will see you. Self-tapes also alleviate the nerves that often accompany in-person auditions when you’re standing in front of a group of strangers. You also don’t have to deal with commuting, the expense of driving and parking and maybe taking time off work.
The big downside is that you don’t get to be in that room and have the one to one in person connection. It’s more difficult for casting to get to know you though 2 minute clips here and there, and you also don’t get to ask questions or get any redirects on the scene.
Technology has revolutionized the casting process in the last few years. There are more projects and therefore more opportunities than ever, but the easy access also means that casting directors are also bombarded with submissions and auditions, so all of your hard work might never be seen. Overall though, self-tapes have opened up access like we’ve never seen in the industry before. Taking the time to master this crucial skill can mean the difference between eventually getting in the room and booking the part, or not.
Auditioning in 2021 is a whole new ballgame! Read this for 3 things all actors must know
Can I see an example of a self tape?
As I mentioned at the top of the article, I routinely book jobs, and great jobs!…. from self tape auditions. I keep a few of mine on Youtube mostly for casting directors and my agents, but you can watch them here to see exactly what I’m talking about.
Self tape auditions are going to play a crucial part in your acting career, so it will definitely pay to invest some time and money into equipment and training and getting really good at them.
Recently I was on a group Zoom call with veteran casting director Jennifer Euston who was behind the hit series “Glow” and “Orange is the New Black” and she mentioned that Orange was cast ENTIRELY from self tapes because people were working on different coasts!
I hope this really helps you! As always, if you have questions or feedback head to the comments section below. I answer every one!
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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!