The playing field keeps leveling. Gone are the days when only a select geographically-fortunate few would have the possibility of being seen for a big TV pilot. Self-taping is the new normal so you have to know how to shoot self-tapes that capture your extraordinary work at a moment’s notice and with no drama.
Yes, casting said they needed the tape by the end of the day. But you still have to take the time to do the work of the scene. Take a breath, slow down and allow time for your work. And make sure to add time to watch the tape, and adjust if you need. Without obsessing. If you can get some feedback on which clips work best, go for it. Taping a scene takes time before, during and after. Don’t take a week to do it. But there are no extra points for finishing quickly. Honor your work by taking the time.
2. Be heard. Be seen.
You don’t need a fancy camera, a lighting package and expensive mics. Plenty of technically mediocre tapes get actors hired. But if there is a reason we can’t see you properly or hear you clearly we have to do extra work to see and hear your talent. And chances are we’ll move on to another tape. HD quality doesn’t matter, but if you’re in shadow and we can’t hear you over the traffic outside, you need to change your setup.
3. It’s in the eyes.
Make sure your eyeline is focused near the camera. We need to see your eyes. Have your scene partner position herself tight to camera and talk to them. If the scene demands that you look down or away for some reason, be mindful of not letting us lose your eyes. Always put your eyeline closer to camera.
4. Shot size: Medium.
Unless directed otherwise, record/shoot chest up or closer. Try different sizes for different scenes but know that your tape may be watched on someone’s phone (maybe even while they’re driving on the 405 to a casting session). So shoot close enough so that we see the subtlety. This is your close-up.
5. Be The President of the A/V club.
It may not be in your wheelhouse. You may not fancy yourself an audio/video or computer expert. But knowing the basics of shooting, uploading, and distributing video is almost an essential part of being an actor these days. A little bit of research on youtube (everything you need to know is on youtube) will save you time and money and take the drama out of shooting self-tapes.
Self-tapes are no longer the future. They are the right here and right now, and you have to have at least a basic understanding of how to shoot and distribute an amazing self-tape.
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