Stop Sabotaging Your Self Tapes!

I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with self tapes. 

On the one hand, I miss walking onto a studio lot, or bumping into a friend I haven’t seen in a while. And I definitely miss the opportunity to have a face to face with a casting director!

On the other side of that coin, I love that I don’t have to drive through LA traffic, only to sit awkwardly in a waiting room full of other actors (that can put you in your head no matter how confident you are), until someone comes to get me. And, best of all, I never have to worry about screwing up! If I drop a line or completely space out, who cares? My friend who’s reading with me will laugh and we’ll just start again. 

There’s no pressure in a self tape. 

And… that’s the problem. 

You see, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately in the actors that I’ve been putting on tape. They’re not coming in prepared. They haven’t done the work. They show up assuming that we can just keep going until we get it “right”. 

Because in self tape land, there’s no pressure to be ready to tape. We can figure it out on its feet. Maybe it’ll take us a dozen takes or so, but eventually, we’ll nail it. So, who cares? 

Well, I do. Because that unprepared approach is a great way to sabotage your audition, and keep you from getting your best work in front of casting. 

As anyone who’s worked with me can tell you, I am a big fan of preparation. Of making specific, interesting choices that make the scene come alive in a way that can showcase each individual actor as they bring themselves fully to the role. 

I want to fully investigate point of view, load up a ton of specific unstated experiences, and remember to test drive my physical life. Because in front of the camera, I want to be able to relax. To connect to the reader, actively listen, and be free to respond moment to moment. 

Without that prep, I am suddenly trying to figure everything out while simultaneously taping the final product! At best, that’s going to take me forever. And, at worst, it’s going to keep me from ever doing the kind of work that I’m capable of. 

Because figuring it out as you go suddenly makes the audition experience about trying to get through the scene without messing up. About getting a usable take. And the longer the process goes on, the more likely it is that you’ll reach the point where the only thing that matters is getting it done. “Good enough” should not be how we feel at the end of an audition. 

Not only that, but if you are regularly filming a dozen takes for each scene, it’s going to be harder and harder to find a willing reader. Only a truly great friend would devote two hours of their life to helping you film a two page scene!

My advice? Put the pressure back on yourself. Prep every self tape as if it was an in person audition. Make sure you’d be ready to walk into a casting office before you even turn on the camera. Take the time to sit in story, create strong points of view, and fully investigate your unstated experiences. 

Then, when you’re ready, grab a friend and try to get it done in two or three takes. Max.  

Your reader will thank you. Your phone storage will thank you. And, more importantly, casting will thank you. Because I guarantee you just sent in a better tape.

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