In this new age of self-isolation and social distancing, we were pleasantly surprised today to see that some projects were still posting auditions on Backstage and Playbill. Of course, given all the health precautions, 100% of the postings now request video submissions — self-tape.
Prior to our current world order, most performers had already created at least one self-tape audition, but for some this digital landscape is totally new territory.
So since we all have plenty of time on our hands to learn new things, we thought we’d share some tips on how to create a strong self-tape video submission. Even if you’re not auditioning now, it’s a great time to practice creating a great video submission so you’ll be ready when audition season gets back into full swing.
It’s fine to shoot your video submission on your smartphone. Just be sure to set it down on something stable — don’t have someone hold it. You should be able to see 3/4 of your body in the frame (waist up) and you should shoot the video horizontally to be sure it plays correctly (and no one has to look at your audition sideways). Make sure you have room to move. You don’t want to accidentally move out of the frame while you perform. You can give yourself an “x” on the floor so you know the ideal place to stand and review the video afterwards to make sure your arms stayed in the frame.
Chose a space with a neutral background (not too many knick-knacks). You want the casting professionals to be looking at you — not your 5th grade science trophy. Bookshelves or paintings on the wall are fine. There are even apps allow you to blur your background so it’s less prominent. Avoid mirrors or windows so you don’t get too much glare.
Your face needs to be well lit so the casting professionals can see your expressions. If you have a space with some great natural light (like a window), that’s ideal. Natural light is usually quite flattering. Your next option is to move some lamps around. This may mean getting a little creative. You may find using two different light sources works well — one from a little above, and one in front. I’ve used a desk lamp and a floor lamp together to good effect. Just make sure you don’t have any shadows on your face. Also, shoot during the day, if possible.
I know we’re all limited with our room options right now, but try to find the quietest space you can that is not echo-y. You want to make sure you can be understood with the least amount of background noise. If you’re using an accompaniment track, make sure to do a test video so you can properly balance the playback with your singing.
Neutral, solid colors work best on screen. Bright colors and small patterns are fine, but avoid stripes. If you wear glasses, make sure they are not catching the light and your eyes are visible. If your glasses are reflecting, consider not wearing them for the audition or re-adjust your lighting.
Make sure you slate for your self-tape. Your audition video may get separated from your email and you want to make sure the people watching know who you are. Your slate should just be a short introduction at the top of your audition stating your name and the material you are performing. Like this: “Hi, my name is Laura Josepher and I’ll be performing ‘Back to Before’ from Ragtime.” If your self-tape has several different pieces of material, you should slate before each one but they can all be one included in a single video submission unless other requested.Use Your Space
Our colleague Sheri Sanders makes the great suggestion of treating a self-tape as if the viewer is watching an animal in its natural habitat. What does that actually mean? It means don’t “stand on the X!” Self-tape videos can be more dynamic than what we usually present in an audition room. Don’t go as far as choreographing movement, but use your space. This holds especially true if you’re shooting a self-tape with a pop/rock song. Get creative and use your space to your advantage!A Note to Those Accompanying Themselves
It’s totally fine to self-tape at the piano or with a guitar. Just make sure you’re not using the instrument as a barrier between you and the viewer. Check your posture if you’re at the piano or with a guitar, making sure not to slouch so you can access a good breath.
When you’ve done several takes and chosen the best version of your self-tape, make sure you edit your video. You can use iMovie or a similar application to edit (there are lots of great tutorials online). Be sure to trim the video so we don’t see you hitting play at the top, or see you walking back to the phone to turn it off at the end. If you can figure out how to add graphics, add your name, your audition material, and the project you’re auditioning for (double check spellings so you don’t make any errors). Finally, be sure to rename your file with your name and the date (e.g., LauraJosepher032520.mov) so your submission doesn’t get lost in the casting director’s hard drive as 101327a.jpg.
* * *Dust off that audition material, take a shower, dress up, and get taping! Find us on on social media (see top right of this blog) and let us know how it goes or if you have any questions.
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The updated edition of our book, “Mastering College Musical Theatre Auditions: Sound Advice for the Student, Teacher, and Parent” is now available on Amazon.