Get Noticed: How to Make a Self-Tape Audition that Lands You The Role

When you really love acting, it can be the most rewarding (and fun) job in the world. But behind the scenes, we know it can also be frustrating at times and even grueling. You spend week after week rehearsing and auditioning, competing with dozens of other actors who are trying to land the same role. But when you do finally get that call saying you’ve been selected, the joy is overwhelming.

For many roles, the first step in the casting process is the self-taped audition. You have just minutes to prove yourself as a viable candidate – a tough job. Many talented actors fall through the cracks, because they don’t get this part right.

Since we offer video production services in DC to a plethora of clients in corporate, government, and non-profit organizations, we’ve screened a lot of self-taped auditions over the years while casting for our multiple, simultaneously-running projects. 

In this blog, we’ll provide you with insights into the way our team and other casting professionals operate and think – plus, we offer some tips on how you can make your self-taped audition stand out and get you noticed. 

1. Make It Easy to Screen Your Application

We filmmakers are busy people, and often have to screen dozens of actors to find the right fit for a single role. Often our first interaction with you is via email – so it’s key that you make a good first impression. So, here is a checklist of easy wins when you’re getting ready to submit your application.

Ensure your subject line makes sense. Include the project name, your name, and the character name for which you are reading.
Provide your full contact information in the body of the email. Include your full name, your email address, and your phone number. Make it easy for us to contact you!
Follow application instructions clearly. Make sure your headshot, resume and your audition link follow all the specifications requested. If you are asked for availability or sizes, provide them.

2. Follow Directions to a T

We can’t emphasize this point enough. When you respond to a request for a self-taped audition, make sure you follow the directions carefully. For example, if you’re asked for an unlisted YouTube link, make sure you don’t send a password protected link (this creates friction) or a WeTransfer or Google Drive link. 

Often, the production team and clients are in different places, so ensuring that all project stakeholders can easily view your audition without unnecessary roadblocks is critical.

3. Do Your Homework

Practice makes perfect. Study the character you’re playing thoroughly and imbibe the nuances of their personality, background, and other important details. 

If you don’t understand the meaning of or pronunciation of a word, take a few minutes to look it up. For example, if you have a side that includes the word “Voila!”, you don’t want to be the person that doesn’t recognize or understand the word and say “Viola!” instead. Thoroughly rehearse, do your homework, and be prepared. You’ll be glad you did. 

4. Clarify Your Questions

If you have questions about the project or sides, it’s okay to send a short, concise email asking for clarification after making sure that the information has not been provided in the original request. Keep in mind that filmmakers are busy people, so try not to send multiple emails if you can help it.

5. Presentation, Lighting & Sound

When recording an audition, ensure you are placing  yourself in a well lit (but not overly bright) and quiet space. Simple, clean backgrounds are best to ensure the focus is on you. 

Position the camera – whether it’s a computer camera or a smartphone – to show your best angle – facing the lens of course. Also, realize that smartphone cameras often have wide-angle lenses, and if you are too close to the camera, you might be giving yourself an unflattering look. A shot that’s waist or chest up is usually good to capture both your face and enough of your body to allow you to move and gesture a little bit. 

6. Audition Tape Strategies

If the sides include other characters, you may ask someone to read with you. If you do, that’s fine. No one pays much attention to the other voice, but in order to set yourself up to succeed, have your reader also practice. Even if they’re not professionals, provide them with the support they need to do a good job. 

Actors feed off of each other’s energies, so having a good partner in the role play will only help you get into character better.

7. Be Natural

If you choose to read on your own, don’t over-do it. Leave short gaps and pauses while the other unseen or unheard actors are ‘speaking’, give a gesture or two, but don’t sit and read those other unheard voices in your head. The idea is to provide a good experience to the casting professionals and long pauses and fidgeting will stand in the way of that.

8. Reading and Props

We understand it’s difficult to attempt to memorize every side that passes in front of you, but some familiarization with the content and using tricks to hide the fact you’re reading will help. Instead of standing and holding and reading from a piece of paper, imagine you’re in a real setting, and act with your whole body, including your eyes (this can’t be done if you’re holding a paper). Using props, if appropriate, is acceptable, but an over-reliance on them can mar your chances, so be mindful of that.

9. Don’t Oversell Yourself

This is a big one. Put your efforts into giving the best read you can, and avoid any irrelevant content in your video that isn’t asked for. 

Give us your name, the character’s name, and give us your best interpretation. Overselling yourself and telling us why you think you’re perfect for the role is an unhelpful distraction. We have a lot of self-taped auditions to go through, and are always short on time, so the only way you can communicate your interest and suitability for the role is to deliver a fantastic audition. 

10. Other Tips for Your Audition Tape

Give us one read. Unless you’re planning on giving us two completely different takes on the character or we’ve asked for it; one read is all we want and all we need. 

Dressing appropriately for the part shows you understand who the character is. If you’re reading for a professional part, wearing your Grateful Dead tie-dye might not help your chances. 

Finally, recognize that there is always some flexibility in auditions in terms of character, ethnicity, gender, or age – but be judicious in submitting for things you are not suited for.

Work with Rock Creek Productions

Rock Creek isn’t a casting company, but organizations often approach us to find talent for the videos we produce for them. In return, we request and encounter hundreds of auditions every year. If you’re an actor looking to work with us, we hope these dos and don’ts help your chances to be seen, make a favorable impression, and ultimately land that role you’re looking for! Break a leg!

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