It is apparent that auditions are now ALL IN when it comes to self-tapes and this definitely has both its share of pros and cons.
You’re an actor!
You pick out your wardrobe, style your hair or mess it up, try your best at applying the right make-up, set up your backdrop, set up your lights, set up your camera, schedule a reader, set up another device that is probably not useable as your eye-line, yet this is where your reader’s voice emanates from, test your lighting, move your camera for a full-body shot, doubt what the hell you are doing and you haven’t even begun to perform, record or edit. Sharing the feeling of being a little anxious and tired already from reading what goes into the making of a self-tape audition?
Yes, it’s a lot. There is a lot of trial and error. There is a lot of practice. There is a lot of time learning what works best for your space and for you individually as an actor. There is your hard earned money spent on tripods, light kits and backdrops. Here are some strategies and reminders that can help you keep your focus on acting, on performance, on your intention while you try to keep all of the other technical and logistical pieces aligned with producing a stellar and competitive self-tape.
Be prepared to meet opportunities as they come, don’t begin to prepare only when the opportunity presents itself. Do not wait until you get an audition to gather all of the equipment you need. Do not wait to practice with your set-up until you have an audition. Research and budget for any tripods, camera/phone mounts, lighting kits and backdrops you may need for your individual space. Figure out where you will be most comfortable setting up and recording. Test your lighting. Test your sound. Time yourself setting up so you know how long it takes before you are ready to record. Know this so you can budget your time efficiently when you receive a self-tape audition. When you are prepared and have taken the time to learn how to efficiently use your self-tape set-up, you are freeing up some mental space to focus more on performance instead of using it to think about how the hell you are going to make this look the best it can. You have put in the work ahead of time, so you already know how to knock it out of the park when you need to.
Don’t make excuses. Have you heard someone say, “But I don’t know how to do this”? Most of us didn’t have a clue either until the pandemic shuttered the doors of casting offices and made in-person auditions something you now have to jog your memory to find. You are living in an era where resources and knowledge are at your fingertips and a plethora of information is delivered to you in seconds. Yes, you have to take the time to read through the lot of it, decide what’s the shit to be sieved and what are the gems you believe will work best for you. You are in an industry of many. There are A LOT of actors out there vying for a limited amount of work. To be competitive you have to put in the time to elevate your self-tape submissions. You will be “down in the ring” with actors who are doing the work, putting in the time, practicing consistently and know how to effectively use their set-up to create a professional and competitive self-tapes. Be honest with yourself and level up your consistent practice if you need to.
Know your technique(s) for getting off-book and know how long it takes you to learn a 5 line co-star, a 2 page scene, a 9 page guest-star audition, etc. All of this is about efficiency and learning how to set yourself up to deliver the performance that you can walk away from thinking, “That felt good all the way down into my bones.” and you can’t help but to bust out your happy dance when you play it back to view. If you are searching for lines in your head, you aren’t being fully present. You aren’t fully in the moment. You aren’t fully listening. As actors we know that being fully present, fully in the moment and fully listening are the keystones of great performances. You can set yourself up to deliver your best by putting in the prep and learning what techniques are ideal for your unique instrument.
Discover ways to stitch yourself seamlessly to your character. Do you have a clear and specific objective? Are you using the most effective substitution? Are you carving out the beats in the right places? The list goes on and on and the possibilities for breathing life into a role are limitless. The techniques are also aplenty. Often it is a combination of techniques that will allow you to slip into a role so that it fits you like a custom tailored dress or suit. Your techniques for your prep will evolve over time to be specific and unique to you as an actor. By paying attention to what feels solid, by getting feedback from your instructors, from your trusted community of actors, and by collecting data on your auditions, your call-backs and your bookings, you will learn what works best for you. Note that you are always evolving(hopefully) as a human and as an actor. Your techniques will evolve, too. The balance and the space that you are giving yourself by putting in the prep, so that when an audition comes in you feel empowered with the knowledge of how to approach and prepare the sides, how much time you need and how to use your set-up, will result in putting your best work on tape.
The power of the “F*ck it” take. We know that if we are thinking of what our line should be, if we should have worn the green top or if the bags under our eyes are ghastly, we aren’t fully present. If we are worrying that the dog will bark in the middle of the take, that we just might be truly terrible at acting and delusional to be pursuing this career or that casting will never call us in again after they watch this tape, we aren’t in the moment. If we are hearing all the loud thoughts that anxiousness, fear and imposter-syndrome have set loose on us, which they very often love to do, we are not truly listening. When you have put in the prep, done the work, have your reader staring back at you and still feel “off”, this is the time(or anytime really) when we as actors, can gift ourselves the freedom to unleash the power of the “F*ck it take.” The f*ck it take wants you to trust your prep. The f*ck it take believes in you. The f*ck it take can shake everything loose. The f*ck it take can take you to places in the scene that you didn’t see before and now can’t imagine it without. The f*ck it take can bring you home to your creativity. This isn’t “f*ck it” meaning “I don’t care”. This is “f*ck it” meaning let’s TRUST and see what happens. Maybe your word is “Towanda!” the same as what Kathy Bates yells in Fried Green Tomatoes(Yes, I love that film). Whatever it is, say it loud and proud.
I hope you do your art and feel incredibly empowered as you create your next self-tape!
I also hope you do your art today.