Self tapes are the new black. Honestly I think I’ve seen more info, chats, encouragements, challenges, and general posts about Self Tapes in the past 6 months than I have in my whole damn life. Sure, the Stay at Home stuff is making everyone crawl up the walls to try and feel creative and inspired, thus more self tapes, but I think it is more than that.
I think actors are trying to hone their skills and make the at-home auditions sparkle. You know when you see a self tape and you are just wow’d? Like man, that actors nailed it? Of course some actors just hit certain moments in a way, they have the cadence that draws you in, or maybe they understand the character in a way that your own past experiences may not have seen. That’s the magic right?
Well in addition to all the things we talk about on the regular (lighting, sound, your reader, etc) I want to talk about something I am seeing a LOT of. You have heard it said a hundred ways, but god damn…that moment before. We all know this in and out, but do we commit to adding it to a self tape? Nothing is as jarring as fading in on a person sitting still and then all of a sudden hitting a line like, “oh hey!”. Ouch.
But what makes the self tape magic practice for this is that you can do it up REAL good in that moment. Restaurant? Great, eat or drink something small. Car? Look out the preverbal windows. Morning? Finish getting dressed, like a tie or a jacket pull on. Mid-conversation? Talk to your reader! I often add lines in before my scene starts and just fade-in past them for the cut of the tape. Starting your tape from you already as the character leaves nothing to chance, and also makes it SO MUCH more fun.
Scott Takeda reached out to me recently and gave me some awesome advice (from someone who has booked a TON on self tapes, honestly look at his credits) and also sent me a really good quote from CD Nike Imoru he carried with him from taking a workshop years ago:
Nike once said “I can forgive an actor for a bad take, but I can NOT forgive them for a bad first frame.” She was specifically talking about how video files will usually have a frame grab from the video – often the first frame. She had seen tons of self-tapes (much more prevalent in the NW than in LA), and she was tired of clicking on videos where the actor had dead eyes in the still grab. The solution all boils down to the “moment before.” It’s been my experience that a lot of actors don’t have one, and much of that can be forgiven when an actor is auditioning in the room because of the ambiance of the room distracts the decision makers from seeing there’s no life at the beginning of the scene. However, having no moment-before in a taped audition is fatal, leading to a bad first-frame.
I LOVE this. We all KNOW to do it, but are we thinking about it in this particular way? I really love when it boils down to something like a screen grab, because sometimes taking it into a literal sense gets me out of my actor “this has to be ART!!!” brain.
Speaking of this: I am also super excited to start working with Put Me on Self-Tape, who specialize in self tapes and have online classes you can join now to learn even more before your next audition…we all know nothing sucks quite as much as a 12 hour turn around when you’re underprepared to do a tape! Check them out here (I will be in the Slaytember class!) and will also have some promo codes for you! 😉