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Actors have been putting themselves on tape for years, but I still see many issues as I look through my self-tape submissions. Let’s take a look at some of the more common errors.

Backdrop

I get that you may have to shoot your tape at home. No problem. I have seen hundreds of self-tapes shot at home by actors that looked professional, and worked to get their talent across. Just don’t stand in front of your fridge or microwave or television. You want the backdrop neutral. A bookcase is busy and distracting. I want boring from your backdrop so my 100% focus is on the work. Try to keep pets outside or in the other room before you start taping.

Clothing

Think about your wardrobe before taping. While a three-piece suit, or a fancy dress or pantsuit may not be necessary, think about wearing something better than sweats. What would you have worn if you had this audition in person? That’s a great place to start.

The Side of Your Head

Self-tapes should be performed with you facing the camera. If you want to look at the reader, fine. Just make sure they are standing next to the camera so we can see your face, and you are looking almost right at us.

Mistakes

In the room, actors don’t call the shots. You don’t automatically get a do-over. You are 100% in control of your self-tape. If you fumble a line, do it again. You are watching your tape before sending it to make sure you got the lines right, right? I’m not talking about one little word. But if you flub a line, do it again and fix it.

Windows

This one should be obvious. Avoid shooting in front of windows unless they are closed and the shades are down. So many things can pop up in the backyard. And the sun can make lighting your scene extra difficult. Normal room lighting is usually fine, but make sure the sun doesn’t blind you or us.

Memorization

Memorization at the cost of the writing! Your tape should have a smooth flow. This means being very familiar with the dialogue. It does not require memorization.

Shadows

Your own shadow! Normal room lighting should work, but sometimes you need a little backlighting if your shadow is going to be distracting.

Background Movement

Any moving objects. Don’t shoot in front of that cuckoo clock! But really, you don’t want anything that moves, or might move in the shot with you. Imagine recording that perfect take, only to realize you have to do it over because of something in the background.

Indecision

Just like in my office, I need you to make a bold choice and live with it. A self-tape isn’t a showcase. It’s an opportunity to work. So, show me what you’d do on the set. Make a choice and wait for any necessary adjustment. It’s that simple.

Also, what I hear is just as important as what I see. You do not need a professional sound system. You shouldn’t have to spend any extra money on the sound quality of your tape. Just use a quality camera or phone and make sure there is no background noise. Listen to any tape carefully before sending it off to casting. Keep the page still and wear clothing that will not make noise as you move.

It is always a good idea for you to arrange for a strong reader. We all have friends that are actors. If you get an audition, it’s still just as important as before. You wouldn’t want a bad reader if you came to my office. Please accumulate some people who can read with a little something, so the scene isn’t brought down by your Uncle Lou’s terrible read.

When we ask you to self-tape, we understand that it is often a challenge. Your tape does not have to be perfect. But focus on the work, try to avoid any obvious mistakes, and you will be putting your best foot forward every time!


Written by Mark Sikes

Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 25 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for Tobe Hooper and Luke Greenfield and many others. In the past few years Mark has also produced four feature films.

Based in Los Angeles, Mark has cast films for many markets including the United Kingdom, Peru, the Philippines and Russia. Domestically, he has cast films that shot all over the country in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

He currently teaches three weekly on-camera, audition technique classes in West Los Angeles.  Follow Mark on Twitter @castnguy.