Be in the know.
Self-taping is a focal point for the industry at the moment and also for the Actors Centre. From our Alan Bates Award to our workshops, self-taping is taking centre stage! So we asked one of our brilliant tutors, Daniel Dresner, to impart some of his infinite wisdom on the subject matter. Here is what he had to say.
Self-Taping and Me
The internet revolutionised the casting process and self-taping is propelling it further.
The advantages for the casting director and production company include saving money on hiring rooms, equipment, readers and sushi lunches. But there are also considerable benefits for actors.
Self-taping is an opportunity to be seen by more people for more projects in more locations across the world.
It can be done from the comfort of your own home and re-recorded over and over till you are satisfied with the outcome. However, an objective eye is helpful otherwise you will be re-recording till kingdom come!
There are differences between what individual casting directors/directors/production companies are looking for and between how to self-tape for America as opposed to the UK. For example, in the States some casting directors don’t want actors to read in with you.
It’s not a sign of weakness to ask how they want it done.
The mention of self-taping can start your saboteurs twittering inside your head if you allow them to – I don’t know how to use a camera, I can’t stand watching myself, I will never get someone to read in with me in time etc. etc.
However, it is not something to be dreaded and, as with most things in life, the more you practice and enjoy it the better the end result will be.
Learn your lines and rehearse, read any instructions you have been sent and ask someone to read in with you. Don’t rent a costume but dress appropriately and use props only when essential. They want to see your performance!
If you have a decent mobile phone you can make a self-tape. After all it’s not as if you have never taken a selfie of yourself! The camera should be at eye level, the format should ideally be MP4 but AVCHD will suffice and you should film in landscape not portrait.
Of course the quality improves if you have a better camera and external mic but for all intents and purposes equipment you already own will suffice. A quiet well lit room is also a necessity and don’t sit with the window behind you. A clean solid background can be achieved by tacking a bed sheet or curtain on your wall. I have a setup which uses an off-white sheet on an old curtain rail attached to 3 of the walls of my office which I can pull back when not in use. The sheet cost £15 from the market, I bought some crocodile clips for £1 each and a tripod for £15.
Transfers to agents and casting directors can be done through file sharing services like dropbox, vimeo or WeTransfer, which are free. However, they can take an eternity if you record in HD so it’s worth experimenting with different quality outputs or download HandBrake (free!) to convert to MP4. This is actually very simple even for technophobes!
Don’t forget to label the clip with your name, character name, project title and scene if requested.
And here’s an extra handy little tip. If you can’t find anyone to read in with you, get a friend up on your phone on skype or facetime and put it next to the camera.
There is a huge amount of advice out there on how to do it but I have included a couple of links to get you started.
- This in-depth article by the esteemed casting director Roz Hubbard is very clear and to the point.
- This is from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in the US and is an hour and a half long!
Oh, and don’t overthink it!!
In the meantime please feel free to join in the conversation on my facebook page where you will find more articles and information.
See you out there.
Daniel Dresner - Actor, Coach and Tutor at the Actors Centre