A self-tape is an audition that the actor films on their own and delivers electronically to their agent to be sent on to the casting director upon approval. Your agent will provide you with the sides, instructions and a deadline. It is then up to you to film, edit, and return it to them on time.
These days, self-tapes are not only used for casting talent, but may even be utilised as the actual footage in a production. That is why capturing quality video is so important. It will give you an advantage over your competition.
When receiving a casting call for a self-tape from your agent, it is really important that you read the brief for the audition and follow the instructions to prepare and capture all the shots required.
These could include requests to capture for a specific format, like landscape, portrait or square. Getting a close-up of hands and or a wide shot of the action. Or acting out a scene around the house. Some of the scenes that are likely to be requested in your home setting could include: Working from your home office, Cooking and Meal Preparation, Exercising or Watching Movies on the coach.
The best backdrop for a Self-Tape
Traditionally, your introduction, which will be referred to as the slate going forward, and the audition, are captured against a single plain background.
We recommend a solid monotone like a mid-grey or blue backdrop to avoid blending in.
This can be a professional backdrop, or simply a sheet or piece of fabric taped to the wall. When all else fails, a plain wall will also do.
Should the brief require you to shoot in a setting, prepare the space you will shoot in. Remove clutter or unwanted items from the scene. Or ad items that support the narrative.
Styling your character
Plain clothing in solid colours are recommend. Stand out by choosing a colour that doesn’t blend with your skin tone or background.
You should stay away from stripes, crazy patterns and branding on clothing.
Make sure your garments are neat by ironing or steaming them first.
And remove fur and fluff from your clothing using a lint brush or even duct tape. Lastly, don’t wear jewellery that can shuffle and make a noise.
For women, hair and make-up should be natural and fresh unless otherwise directed. Men should trim facial hair and style their hair, while keeping skin fresh with a spot of powder if required. Kids hair should be clean and styled, and skin kept free of products.
Gear you need to capture a Self-Tape
It is extremely important that you are well lit. You can achieve this using either Natural or Artificial Light, or a combination of both. But keep in mind, Soft light is the most flattering. Ambient sources of soft light include window light or a lamp with a lamp shade. Artificial sources of soft light include a ring light on the camera or continuous video lights, preferably with a soft box or other form of diffusion.
Shoot your video with a DSLR camera, phone or tablet. A DSLR camera will provide the best quality footage, however, some briefs request phone video specifically to keep continuity between the quality of the clips they receive. In that case Samsung, iPhone or Huawei are preferred. Alternatively use the best camera phone or digital camera you have available.
Record in MP4 format where possible. The higher the quality, the better, so if you know how to change the video settings, shoot in 1080p HD at 30 or 60fps or in 4k at 30fps.
Make sure your camera is balanced and steady. Stabilise your shot using a tripod, phone tripod or even a stack of boxes. Make sure the camera is at eye level by adjusting the height. And angle the camera for the best view of the scene. Do a test to make sure your face is well lit and in focus.
Consider the ambient noise around your house. Select a quiet space. Close windows and switch off noisy electronics. Should your audition have lines, capture sound with a microphone if possible. Alternatively, remember to speak loud and clear.
Start your slate by introducing yourself i.e. Name, age and agency. Turn left, right and face the front to show off your facial profiles. Show your hands to the camera, front and back. And finish off with a nice big smile showing teeth.
Capture the slate at mid-length, and do a full body shot if possible by stepping back or having someone pan across your body.
If your self-tape requires you to do anything specific, we suggest that you follow the instructions given to you as closely as possible.
If you need to act out a scene on location, we encourage you to follow the same steps mentioned before in the scene you will be auditioning in.
Where possible, record the slate and performance in a single session to avoid having to edit clips together. Feel free to capture more than one take.
After the first performance you can watch it back and make adjustments if need be. Don’t overthink it. Capture 2-3 additional takes and then select the best one. And remember to watch your eye line. Do not look straight into the camera during the performance, unless otherwise directed in the brief.
If you have lines, keep 3 seconds of footage on either side of the dialogue for editing purposes.
And most importantly. Be authentic. Keep it real and fresh.
If you have an assistant, they can operate the camera, beginning and ending the capture, zooming in and out for a full body shot and so on. If you are alone, mark your spot, begin the capture, and move into the space to start your performance. But do not despair, you can trim the ends off the video in the next step!
Edit your footage using the simple software on your phone or a more advanced program. You can trim the video to cut away any unnecessary footage at the beginning and the end of the clip. Rename the file to NAME_SURNAME_AGENT_PHONENUMBER
You can shoot stills using the same set-up as for the slate. While it is best practice to capture video footage in landscape format, consider portrait format for your selfies.
Should you not have an assistant, there are various ways of triggering your shots. If shooting with a DSLR, you can use a remote or the built-in intervalometer to trigger the camera. Alternatively, if you are shooting with your mobile device, you can set it to trigger upon speaking a word loudly. You can say “cheese” for a smiling shot, or “spoon” for a pout!
Electronic Delivery of your Self-Tape
Before sending your files of to your agent, review your content one last time.
Sending the video via a program like WhatsApp is not ideal because the format compresses the video to a lower quality. And sending the video via eMail could clog up your agents account and frustrate them, and no-one wants that!
It is best practise to upload your footage to a server to deliver it via a cloud service like WeTransfer, Dropbox or Google Drive. If you have a slate, performance and stills as separate files, you can place them in a folder under the same filename format.
And remember to never load your self-tape audition to a public platform like YouTube or Vimeo, as the audition likely contains confidential information.
Click, send, sit back, and wait to hear from your agent.
The Virtual Photoshoot is the latest photography trend to come out of the COVID-19 worldwide lockdown. Using video chat apps like Skype, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, etc. the photoshoot is conducted from the safety of both the photographer and the subject’s homes respectively. It is an opportunity to connect photographers with models across the globe who would never otherwise have shot together, and we have decided it’s time to join in the fun. The tips for creating a self-tape can also be followed when preparing for a video chat photoshoot. Prior to your session, you will explore backdrops, styling, lighting, angles and more with your photographer to conceptualize your shoot and prepare. On the day, the photographer will direct you and capture your visage through the lens of your laptop or mobile device. Sound like fun? Get in touch!