In this week’s episode of The Curve, Burgandi and Govind interview casting veteran James Levine about self-taping for auditions. Self-tapes are rapidly growing in popularity within the casting industry and have, in fact, revolutionized the way actors audition. Thanks to modern technology, performers can now submit themselves for theatrical and commercial roles through the use of smart devices instead of having to trek across town to audition at a casting facility in front of a session director.

And increasingly, casting directors are asking that first calls of single characters be self-taped. Not only does this allow a casting director’s clients to save money, but self-tapes enable casting directors to provide larger quantities of actors to be considered for a role.

When he receives submissions, Levine says he sifts through the tapes before passing them along to his clients—that is to say, he deletes tapes that don’t meet specific standards. In this interview, Levine talks about some of the reasons he rejects tapes, in hopes of helping actors to create more competitive self-tapes.

The basics of self-taping

It’s important actors make sure they can be seen and heard with clarity by the viewer. To achieve this, performers need to gain a handle on lighting, sound, backgrounds, wardrobes, and more. Click here for a list of self-taping fundamentals that keep your self-tapes in the running.

Timing is everything

If casting requires self-tapes be submitted as soon as possible, make sure to get yours out right away. “Often people will overthink things and get too stressed about making this a perfect thing, when what we need is now—we need it now,” Levine says. Submitting it days past the due date is a pretty sure way your tape won’t make it to the client. And if casting asks for a tape in two weeks, Levine suggests to get the tape in sooner than two weeks; don’t wait.

Overproduction

While attempting to perfect their self-tapes, some performers take things a little too far. Levine gives the example of actors who shoot the scene and put a score to it. Instead of increasing the quality of the audition, Levine insists the overly produced tape ends up distracting from the actual performance. He recommends actors put their energy into their performances rather than any number of technical embellishments.

Exceptions to the rules

Limiting distractions is essential when it comes to self-taping in order to showcase the actor and his or her abilities. So, a basic rule is to have a solid-colored background whether it be a painted wall or a backdrop. This keeps the viewers’ eyes comfortably focussed on the performer. However, actors also need to be flexible. Let’s say you’ve got everything all set up: your lights, camera, backdrop, and a room with no sound distractions. And then, casting surprises you by asking for an outdoor performance. Levine says, “Sometimes, your environment is something they’re interested in also. So, whatever the nature of this particular commercial, they may want to see where you live, or tell you to shoot it in your backyard or with your family, or a lot of things we couldn’t create in [the audition room].” In fact, he says sometimes they’re searching not just for talent, but for a location as well.

Your actor’s slate might be more important than you think

Sometimes the client is really only interested in viewing an actor’s slate. “If there isn’t any dialogue, I have clients who just want to see what you look like today—that you’re alive and friendly,” Levine says. And make sure to exactly follow the slating instructions for the role. The actors who neglect to comply with the instructions end up calling into question if they can follow directions on set.

Make sure your Casting Frontier profile is complete

Filling in all fields of your Casting Frontier profile assures you will only be offered roles for which you’re suited. CF Cast empowers you to submit your self-tapes from a mobile device anywhere and any time.

Casting Frontier is thrilled to introduce our new YouTube series The Curve hosted by Burgandi Phoenix and Govind Kumar. Tune in next week for episode five and expect to learn more tips and insights from agents, managers, casting directors, writers, and producers in our industry-insider series.

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