By: Jess Canty
The consensus - among many agents, other managers and casting directors that I have spoken to over the past few months - is that some form of self-taping IS here to stay.
This is likely going to be the case moving forward for pre-reads, as casting can simply see many more people than they ever could holding these pre-read sessions in person.
It is also likely that many co-star roles will continue to book from self-tapes alone.
Casting will likely save the in person sessions for Callbacks and Producer/Exec sessions.
If you were not yet a Cinterra client as of last summer - or simply need a refresher - please don't forget about our "Self-Taping 101 Town Hall" Zoom Seminar where our good friend Cinematographer Dan Rink so kindly gave us his wisdom on lighting / microphones and framing along with a number of other helpful tips.
That video is available on Vimeo below, and if you would like to review his handy PDF guide can be found here.
But now what?
Welcome to Self-Taping Graduate School.
Now that we have all been living in this self-tape only land for over a year, I thought we should move beyond the basics and talk about some of the tips and tricks I have picked up along the way after watching hundreds of your tapes and spending hours talking to my colleagues and some very accomplished actors about how to set yourself apart.
Casting's Instructions -
In general you ALWAYS want to do your best to follow casting's instructions for your tapes. Some would like takes as separate files. Some would like all takes in one file. Some want a tail slate etc...
Their instructions are not arbitrary. Make it easy for them to package you up with the other tapes they want their producers and directors to see. This is your first chance to show that, along with being a great actor, you are also detail-oriented, can follow instructions, and care about their needs.
ALL of these qualities are needed on set!
THAT BEING SAID...
There are times we have found that casting does not give specific instructions. Or perhaps their instructions can still be bent a bit to better show you off as a performer AND smart actor.
This is where it is time to get creative.
Class 401 - Slating
ALWAYS follow all instructions for the slate.
However, now when they are asking for a "full body shot" we STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you to take the time to do the side-by-side slate shot. It just looks slick - there's no way around it. And it saves casting's time.
They can get the info they need from you to add to their notes while you are showing them your full body shot. If you need a refresher about how to accomplish this you can find our post about Side-By-Side slating here.
You Don't Need A Fancy Title Card!
One thing that I have heard a number of times from my casting friends on Clubhouse is to not waste any time at the top of your audition tapes by flashing your name / other info on a title card. They have repeatedly said that it is over-kill and actually some even say it is annoying because it takes longer to get to the actual tape. So no more title cards unless casting specifically asks for one.
Class 450 - Co-Star / One Liner / One Page Roles
For these roles where you have perhaps just a reaction shot, or only a couple of lines, we STRONGLY encourage you to submit up to 3 takes.
Show casting your range - especially when auditioning for comedy. Of course these have to be three distinctly different takes on your line or scene - but if you've genuinely got them - do it!
In this instance we recommend putting all of these takes back-to-back in ONE FILE so that casting is encouraged to watch all of your takes. This way you aren't creating any work for them having to click play on extra clips.
And by encouraged, we mean, they are sort of stuck watching all of your takes :)
Class 475 - One to Two Page Scenes / Up to Two Scenes
When you have audition material that is a full-page scene - or two scenes that are about a page or two each, we feel like it is usually strongest to submit two takes on the character.
Again you want to use this opportunity for casting to see your range and if you only have a page to do that - or two simple one-page scenes to do that - you simply may not have enough time in just one take. In this case, we are now encouraging clients to label these takes with the INTENTION behind each take.
So... instead of labeling your tapes:
We have been doing this instead:
Why? Because subconsciously we think that "TK2" always feels like it is just a bit worse than TK1 - right? Like you can't help but believe that TK1 is somehow better because it is first. But when you have two genuinely different takes on a character - why not let casting decide WHAT kind of character they want to see.
The trick with this trick, however, is to make sure to use words that are "college-level" (thesaurus.com here you come). This ensures someone does not have a clear opinion of how that word should be portrayed on screen.
I avoid simple words like "sad" or "happy" or "angry." Everyone has their own opinion of what anger looks like. And the last thing you want to do is set yourself up for having casting say "well, they said that take was angry, but that didn't feel angry to me."
So instead, label with "irascible" or "sullen." These words don't necessarily have as clear a picture in our minds - but they are synonyms of anger.
Get creative with it! Analyze the scenes! Perhaps the first scene is meant to show the tough side of the character and the second scene is meant to show their vulnerable side. In that case you could submit four tapes - two takes of each scene - and label them thusly:
OR you could decide simply that the character themselves is either someone that is sensitive or rigid. In this case you would do both Scene 1 and 2 as a rigid person, and then as a sensitive person (obviously these are extremes but just as an example).
So you could put your SC1 and SC2 into ONE file but give two takes like this:
Class 499 - THREE PAGES / THREE SCENES
When we get into guest-star / recurring land typically you will be sent up to three scenes or a couple of very long scenes that are 2-4 pages or more. In this case it is best to show the "SIDES" of the character within the work of these scenes themselves.
There is no need to do the above of showing your "intention" as the character should have their own arc in the material you are given.
This arc could be within each scene OR over the course of the three scenes given. And this is your job - to discover how to show off your range over the course of these large scenes. Tell us the STORY of the character as a fully realized human over the course of the material you are working with.
In a pre-read situation, we think that it is usually the strongest choice to submit only one take per scene - unless casting is asking for more.
Again, it is unlikely you are going to have two distinctly different reads on three 3-page scenes and that is A LOT of tape to keep track of / upload. And it would be a lot for casting to watch.
Save those nuances for the callback. Show them you can nail the character perfectly once.
There is a confidence in only submitting one take per scene when you have this much material - and we think it is typically best to signal this confidence.
Class 501 - TURNS
Of all the hours I have spent on Clubhouse - one of the most informative 10 minutes was when I was in a room with someone who has been a senior staff writer on a number of shows and had recently jumped up to showrunner.
He spoke about "graduating" to the job on one of his shows to writing the sides for actor auditions. Of course they wouldn't leave this task to just anyone! Also it was a reminder they are not always just pulling sides from the existing episode - that someone is in charge of preparing them specifically for auditioning purposes.
Now this is of course different for every show - but it was very interesting nonetheless.
One thing he spoke about, was that each scene that is given as sides (and again he was talking at the large co-star / guest star and above level) will have at least TWO TURNS. And this is what they are looking for from actors - their ability to recognize and accomplish those turns in the scenes.
And it makes sense - two turns means the scene will then have ... you guessed it! A beginning. A middle. An end. Just like an entire script.
How quickly you turn - without "transitioning" and how well you allow us into the characters though