5 Step Guide to Self-Taping During Coronavirus Lockdown
Updated: Jul 3
In the time of coronavirus lockdown, self-isolation and social distancing are requiring actors to get out their own cameras and self-tape. For actors experienced with in-person auditions, it can be a challenge to get back into recording your own audition.
This is especially the case with natural concerns for actors about the impact of coronavirus on health, jobs and the acting industry. But lockdown is the perfect time to brush up on self-taping skills!
With that in mind, we have prepared our five-step guide for recording your self-tape from home during coronavirus lockdown.
1. Keep the filming simple
Don't worry about becoming the next Kubrick overnight. Filming your self-tape with a professional camera will naturally create a more professional looking film, but it isn't essential. When self-taping during coronavirus, you'll want to use the equipment you have in your home. Simply ensure the quality of any camera you are using is clear, and not grainy or blurry, and your video will instantly be more professional.
Test the quality of your audio, as well. The casting director will need to not only see your performance but hear it. If the audio is crackly, it might be difficult to make out your lines.
If you need to use a phone camera, use an app that takes good quality film. You should also ensure there is no outside interference in the recording.
Most casting directors will not want to hear empty space between your lines, so record with a reader, checking their lines can be heard clearly.
Don't be tempted to use filters or overlays. Directors and casting managers want to see you. Camera effects can make it harder for them to tell if you're right for the part.
Use a tripod or a makeshift stand to keep the camera steady while you record. Always record your self-tape in landscape mode for a professional and clear picture.
Make sure you follow any requirements provided, or you could risk your self-tape immediately going on the rejection pile. Instructions may provide specific requirements for formatting the video, including file size, type and preferred file-sharing method.
They will also inform you about how to title your video and specify what camera angles will be required. Close up and full body shots are the most commonly requested framings. Depending on the role, you may also be asked to record body profiles and ¾ shots. Instructions will likely be specific, so abiding by them closely is a must.
2. Choose your filming environment carefully
Ensure the area you are sitting in is well lit, and the lighting is relatively natural.
Try not to rely on natural lighting, though, as this can fluctuate with weather changes. If sunlight goes in or it begins to rain, and there is not enough lighting, it will be difficult to assess your features for the role.
If you're interested in a more professional effect, softboxes are an inexpensive option for adjusting your lighting to make it more dynamic.
Choose a simple background. Clutter and mess in the background of a self-tape can be distracting. Stand or sit in front of a clean, pale background, preferably white, cream or grey. Ensure family members are aware that you are filming, and don't film in front of a window.
The casting director's focus should be on you and how well you are performing. A cluttered background will not only be perceived as unprofessional, but it also takes the attention from your skills.
3. Wear the appropriate clothing
Your initial appearance in the self-tape will have a big impact on how you are perceived. Show that you understand the ins and outs of a character, and you will stand out from other auditions. If you can, wear an outfit that will plausibly fit with the role you are playing.
Depending on the role, you may find you don't have that perfect viking hat or nun costume to hand! Keep the outfit as simple as possible, returning the focus to you and your performance.
4. Practice your performance beforehand
This is standard, but vital advice for actors, even outside of self-taping. Ensure that you have memorised your lines. It will take you out of character if you are constantly having to recall lines. Do several takes of each scene. Even if you feel happy with the material from the first take, your performance may seem different when you replay it, so it's better to have several options.
Make sure you really enter into the role of your character. You could do some 'warming up' exercises beforehand. Interview yourself in the role of your character. What do you 'know' about them? How would they respond to difficult questions? Try acting out everyday tasks, like preparing a coffee, whilst in character.
Some casting directors will require you to do a slate, whilst some will not. If a slate is required, your instructions will specify exactly what you need to say. Details you may be required to give might include your name, agency, and height.
A slate will act as the opening of your self-tape, and if you can introduce yourself confidently, you will immediately increase your chances of success. Keep natural, and practice as you would your other lines.
5. Watch the video several times
It can be tempting after all the hard work that goes into a self-tape to hit that send button without reviewing the material first. But it doesn't matter how much you've perfected that performance, there will always be better takes than others.
It is also important not to overdo your takes - give yourself a rest every now and again to refresh yourself. You will find after a rest you are able to return to the material with a more balanced approach.
Watch your takes several times. You may find a recording you initially didn't like shows off your talents, or you may find one scene needs re-working. Having the confidence to watch yourself and analyse your own performance is key to developing as an actress or actor.
When in doubt, keep it natural, and follow any guidelines provided. You'll have a fantastic self-tape in no time, in spite of coronavirus lockdown. Check out our other blog posts here.