So, two weeks ago, we talked about being Room Ready, and last week, we talked about Getting Into the Room. To round this series out, today we’re gonna get into that “other” way IN: Self-Taping.

Now, not every casting director offers the option of a self-taped submission. Further, not everyone who offers the option of a self-taped submission has the same philosophy on how it all should go down. But there are a few misconceptions about self-taping out there that I would love to dispel.

First and foremost, if you are certain that being asked to self-tape (especially if other actors are being invited in for prereads simultaneously) is an insult, I’d like to ask you to consider a different point of view.

I’ve been working in casting since February of 2003 and my area of specialty is low-budget indies. That now also means webseries, but it started out with a $25K SAG feature film as my first full casting project, and goes all the way up to Machinima’s Bite Me, which was a nonunion webseries season one, then acquired by Lionsgate and distributed to television, now union, with a $2.5M budget, which is huge for a “little webseries” that started out indie.

Most projects I’ve cast live in the $1M range. So, I work with a LOT of actors at the beginning of their game. I work with a lot of nonunion or union-eligible actors and I work with a lot of un-repped or starter-repped actors, as well as working with agents and managers of top-tier actors whose names you’d recognize. Obviously, many of the latter actors are “offer only” or “meeting only” status, but still… that’s my cred for this topic, for context.

In one of my first articles about self-taped auditions, I told y’all about this very smart Philadelphia-based actor who grabbed the sides from Showfax for an indie film I was casting, self-taped, put up the footage on YouTube, and emailed me a link. I thought that was a very clever way for him to be seen for the role (perhaps for us to consider as a local hire on a smaller role; I was not doing local casting, which is typical for another CD to cover), and I wrote about how I saw the footage, the director saw the footage, even two of the producers saw the footage.

To be fair, it was due to the novelty factor that it got so much attention back then, I’d say (the first call for self-taped auditions I put out for a young actor to play Ernest Borgnine’s grandson received 35 self-taped submissions), but also, we were all like, “Hey! Free audition!” since we didn’t have to rent space, bring together equipment, hire day crew, copy sides, and bring together sessions… but could still consider him for the role.

For us — in 2006 — it was like a shortcut to callbacks. A “pre-preread.” By the time he did get invited into the room on the project (if he did), it would be because he was absolutely a candidate, vs. the status of many pre-reading actors, who are called in off headshots that look nothing like them or from pitches or favors that get ’em a slot that really doesn’t help them on THIS project.

Ever since this savvy actor sent through a link to his audition at YouTube (a site I actually thought was *his* website, as it was the first time I visited the site, and it was only a few months old, at the time), I’ve offered up the option for actors to self-tape and submit themselves on almost every project I’ve cast. No matter what budget level, union status, location for casting… whatever! I offer it up whenever the production team will okay it.

Which means any time *I* offer it up, producers, the director, SOMEONE on the team above *me* is watching the footage. We wouldn’t have asked for it, otherwise. Do I have the same finger on the pulse of the casting community that I did 1999 to 2003, when I interviewed hundreds of CDs for my “Casting Qs” column in Backstage? Of course not. Do I still keep up with what dozens of CD friends are doing when it comes to self-taped footage (or other issues, frankly)? Of course.

There’s a terrifying theory that sometimes agents will tell their clients they should self-tape for something on which they’re never gonna send the footage to casting, because it makes the actor feel as though his or her agent is out there hustling. Yikes. I really hope that’s not true.

I’d like to think that if the actor has a great relationship with the agent, being asked to shoot something, being told “we love it” by the agent, and proving that you WILL jump through that hoop when asked is nothing but good news. Y’all know I believe actors should take a “book the room” POV, because if you’re in this for a minute, you will have a TON of auditions, and building a fanbase out of people who work in casting (whether you book that specific project — or ever had a CHANCE on that specific project — or not is irrelevant, with this POV) is never a bad idea.

So, you’re asked to self-tape. Great! Not busy, otherwise? Cool. Self-tape. Do it well. Make it great. Read all of these phenomenal tips on how to make it great (that last one’s a PDF). When you’re given the opportunity to guarantee that you’re showing buyers your best take (and not doing your best take in the car on the way home from the audition, after having gotten a parking ticket for how far behind they were running, and playing waiting room games with all the other actors who want to screw with your head), DO IT.

Unless you are results-oriented and ONLY want to self-tape *if* there’s an immediate opportunity, it’s worth doing. Because the REAL opportunity could be that you’re learning how to get comfortable with self-taping (which is only happening more and more, these days), you’re developing your audition skills more frequently than you may be getting called in lately (HUGE bonus), you are showing your agent (who is actively involved in your career… something that many actors would kill for) that you’re ON it, and, yes, maybe this is a real opportunity for which you have as much a shot as anyone who went IN the room that day. Yay, you!

The truth is, not all *session* auditions are watched by the decision-makers! Yup. Often, there’s a very small list of selects that go to the upper-level folks, and that’s true WHEREVER the auditions originate.

Consider taking the “just do it” attitude about self-taping, rather than trying to figure out what it all means, whether the agent couldn’t get you in or the casting director is actually looking at self-tapes or whether they’ve exhausted all repped talent from sessions and are now opening the search wider or whatever. None of that really matters. An attitude of, “Yay! Another chance to self-tape!” should become your mantra, since self-taped opportunities aren’t going away. 😉

Here’s a paradigm shift: Instead of believing that being asked to self-tape is an insult, think about whether all the others were being called in because they *need* direction and you can NAIL IT without any direction. What if it’s a PRIVILEGE to not have to schlep across town, sit in a crowded waiting room, deal with all the drama, and all that? You can’t KNOW the why (unless you can ask personally, due to an inside track directly to one of the decision makers on EVERY project, and if you have that, what the HECK are you worried about, right?!?) so why worry about what the why *might* have been?

Building the muscle that says, “Ooh! A chance to tape! Great! Let’s make it amazing!” will serve you very, very well. 🙂

What are YOUR best tips for self-taping? Do you love it? Have you gotten great at it? Have you had results? Do share! 🙂 Thankee!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001702.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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