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BWW Blog: Self Tapes Galore!

A guide to mastering the art of digital auditioning!

BWW Blog: Self Tapes Galore!
Pictured is Darius Frasier
CMU Senior Acting BFA'21

The world is absolutely crazy right now and amidst the chaos we haven't been able to walk into a theatre and enjoy a show. However, theatre is still alive and running! It's all about working with what you've got and theatre makers have certainly done so. A lot of auditions and shows are being taped digitally which is creating a whole new way of doing theatre.

Being a senior in college a lot of our classes for acting this year are about film which kinda worked out pretty well. As well as getting prepared for classes, auditioning for film right now is heavily based on self tapes! The art of self taping is a skill that, especially right now, is a very valuable skill to have!

Self taping is a really great tool and provides a lot of pros despite it not being the in-person auditions we are all used to. Randy Kovitz, a Carnegie Mellon Professor for Acting for the Camera as well as working with Nancy Mosser Casting, says "I actually love self taping, it puts you in control." Being able to have more than one shot at singing that song and delivering that monologue is gold! You can also gain so much from watching back your audition from the casting directors eyes. Ultimately you get to decide what the people on the other end see which can be really helpful and relieve a lot of nerves to get it right that one time! It also allows space for more choices to be made with the same material, showing variety and your ability to take risks within the framework.

But before you master the art of self taping, you need all the equipment for your 'Self Tape Kit'!

Building your self tape kit

The first thing you'll need is a camera! Now, you don't have to spend thousands of dollars on a camera (but if you want to, go for it!). iPhone cameras work very well for self tapes! You want to make sure the quality is as high as you can get it in your settings (4K-60). A nice camcorder also works very well. You'll also want to invest in a tripod to hold up either your camera or your phone. You can find these anywhere! Amazon has a bunch for really cheap prices so you don't have to break the bank.

Lighting

For lighting, I would say as an actor, it's definitely worth it to invest in a ring light. As the industry moves to being more digitally friendly, you'll always have a need for a ring light (also for some amazing pictures). I would suggest having 2 lights or even 3, to frame all sides of your person. There are so many different types of lights out there to choose from. To go along with lighting, if you want to get super fancy, you can get a reflector which will help bounce light on your face wherever it's needed to get a super clean shot!

Backdrop/Clothing

For self taping, having a nice sleek background is really key to getting a clean shot. Keeping the focus is on YOU and not whatever is happening behind you. You can get a collapsible background, a plain wall or you can even steam a bed sheet! You also want to make sure that your background and clothing are contrasting! You don't want to blend into the wall behind you. Maybe develop a color scheme between the backdrop and your clothing that is really going to make you pop!

I asked my Self Tape Master of a teacher for some of his best tips for self taping. "Bring yourself to the performance," Kovitz says "Use the whole frame, move around a bit and play with physicality. Don't lock eyes with your reader, when you talk to someone in real life you look around and think and avoid, play to a person not the camera!" Randy has taught me a lot about the tech side of self taping which is so vital to know how to produce the best tape you can. Always make sure to lock the autofocus and auto exposure on your phone, it's a big game changer. A lot of people don't remember to do this little step and it makes a world of a difference to keep the shot clean and sleek.

Self Tapes are now such a big part of the theatre community and you have all the tools to conquer it! Make the best of what the world is providing right now and continue to create! Use what you're experiencing right now and make some art. Until we can get back in that theatre the digital world is moving forward so hop on the train!

Happy self taping!


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