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What Auditions Look Like During Lockdown

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

Every once in a while, I poll my followers on Twitter to see what they’d like me to talk about in this column. Overwhelmingly, the most popular topic this week was what things will look like when we go back to work. As I don’t have a crystal ball, I can only speculate based on my experience in the industry (and the knowledge we have today about COVID-19)—but here goes!

I’ve researched shooting protocols from all over the world to see how they are handling filming in the pandemic. All the protocols suggest that auditions take place virtually. This means that actors will be submitting self-taped auditions upon request. We’ve been using self-taped auditions for years, but using this method 100% of the time is all-new territory.

If you haven’t already sorted out how to self-tape at home, now is definitely the time.

I’ve written a step-by-step guide for reference that you can find on my website entitled “How to Self-Tape Your Audition Like a Rockstar.” We do not expect professional quality self-tapes. You do not have to go to a studio and pay for this service. Make sure to check your sound and lighting ahead of time so that we can see and hear you clearly. Another often overlooked element of the self-tape is to have a good reader reading off camera and positioned right next to your tripod.

Personally, if possible,  I’ll always choose to be in the room with the actor so that I can get a real-life take on their essence. I really like and depend on the interaction we have being face-to-face. In addition, I want to be able to give direction and insight into the role to see if the actor can integrate my direction into their take and make the proper adjustments. That becomes difficult, but not impossible, over Skype, Zoom, or other video platforms.

I’ve been doing auditions on Skype for the last several years. Now I’m using the We Audition site and Zoom to virtually audition actors. I can invite my director into the “room”, and she can give direction in real time, and we can record and save the audition. We can also put two or more actors together while they are in separate locations so they can read together – almost like a virtual chemistry read.

I’ve heard several commercial casting offices are having in-person auditions lately. I am extremely opposed to this. At press time, Florida is clocking record-high virus infections, California is backtracking its timeline for opening, and cases nationwide are on the rise. Having live auditions now preys on actors’ financial vulnerability, as they’ve been out of work for months. Many are willing to risk their health and possibly their lives to come on an audition, and that’s just plain dangerous and wrong. We do not have a handle on the virus yet. Why put yourself, your staff, and actors in danger?

Most if not all of my TV and film casting director colleagues say they will continue hosting virtual auditions until there’s a safe and effective vaccine. SAG-AFTRA is also currently suggesting that all auditions remain virtual for now. In short: I highly recommend that you stay put and create auditions from the safety of your home.

Make sure to check out my online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.

SELF-TAPING YOUR AUDITION USING YOUR iPHONE

By Marci Liroff
Having just worked on a feature film where we were asking for actors to send in their self-taped auditions from around the world, I realized that actors are becoming more empowered and self-sufficient by learning how to tape their auditions. But do yourself a favor and make sure you do it well – taping your audition on your laptop should be a last resort. Make sure to show yourself at your best. Lighting, sound, good quality video and a talented reader will help make your audition as great as it should be.
Some are still stymied by the process and our guest bloggers Tara Tomicevic and Leslie-Ann Huff are here to explain an easy and very inexpensive “work around” using your iPhone. Yes, your iPhone!
When we started noticing how often self-taped auditions are requested (a friend booked a pilot through a self-tape this year!), we figured there had to be a way to get it done that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. We discovered that there is!
Taking matters into our own hands, we started meeting twice a week, practicing and playing around with equipment. Since we weren’t working on an actual audition (yet), this gave us some room to try things, both technically and with our acting. Then, when it came time to send one in, we knew what we were doing.
The following tips are meant to add to Marci’s blog entry How To Self-Tape Your Audition Like A Rockstar, which already covers all the important basics. Hopefully these tips will help to make it even easier.
JUST USE YOUR PHONE:
The camera on the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5 records considerably high-quality video. No fancy, expensive cameras necessary.
YOUR TRIPOD CAN WORK:
Just as Marci pointed out, the tripod is very important to a professional audition tape. To hold up your iPhone on a tripod, you can purchase an inexpensive iPhone mount, like the one we used: Studio Neat Glif Tripod Mount. If you don’t have one, these little guys are a great option to explore. Here’s another one I just found that looks sturdy and is inexpensive. (this is Marci!)
SOUND IS CRUCIAL:
A directional mic can be hooked into the iPhone via the headphones hole. Theonewe purchased was about $40. This kind of mic cut out the white noise and clearly picked up the actors voice. The difference was very clear: good sound helps pick up all the nuances of an actors performance and gives the tape a more professional feel. A side note on sound: the reader’s voice should not be louder than the actor’s. This tends to happen as the reader stands next to the camera. A directional mic and a mindful reader can help with that. If you still experience some background noise, it can be eliminated in five seconds on iMovie or similar basic programs (YouTube tutorials rock!)
UPDATE: A few of my readers commented that the mic that was suggested (above) is no longer available. I reached out to Tara and asked for any new recommendations. Here’s her response:

The Belkin one we originally suggested is only one we have used repeatedly. I just found some through non-Amazon retailers and eBay (which of course I have no personal experience with and cannot officially recommend):
A friend of mine has a great one called the Tascam iM2 mic for iPhone (http://tascam.com/product/im2/). It is about $80 but if you look around online you can often find them reduced to $30-$40.
Leslie-Anne also added that she recently bought an iPhone 5 and the quality of the sound is comparable to using the directional mic for the iPhone 4 (what we were doing before). Hope this helps!
LIGHTING:
We are lucky that one of our apartments has a spot lit by two windows, which provides great natural light. Find the spots in your home that face windows. Use blinds and curtains to increase or decrease the amount of direct light. Try using the different lamps in your home. Experiment. Much to our surprise, we noticed that a fluorescent kitchen light actually enhanced the look of the natural light. Be resourceful and use your judgement. If you have a dark place or have to shoot at night, Marci’s lighting suggestions in her original post are spot on.
TRANSFERRING FOOTAGE:
To get your video (regardless of its length) from your phone to your computer, connect the two via a USB cable. If you’re on a Mac, open the app Preview. Then click File, Import from iPhone, and all your iPhone files will be listed. Select your video and click Import.
IF YOU NEED TO EDIT:
We recommend stopping after each take so that you can select the take you want and send that one only without having to edit at all. But if you need to edit we learned iMovie quickly and on our own (again, YouTube tutorials!)
COST COMPARISON:
We paid about $60 (in addition to the price of our phones) to get this system working. We’ve seen companies around town charge $25-$100+ per self-tape. So invest in yourself and a couple self-tapes in you’ll be happy you did (and feel extra savvy too)!
Here’s a video sample:
If anyone has any questions, feel free to reach out. We are both on Twitter: @TaraTomicevic and @Leslie_AnneHuff.
Tara Tomicevic is an actress, writer, and producer. She is Croatian born, Italian raised, and Berkeley branded.
Leslie-Anne Huff is an actress, Los Angeles native, and lover of pugs. Credits and more info can be found on her website: http://leslie-annehuff.com
I’d love to hear about any hot tips you’ve discovered while self-taping your auditions. It’s always good to share with the community.

Glad you’re here!

Marci

How To Self-Tape Your Audition Like A Rockstar

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By Marci Liroff

As many projects are asking for you to self-tape your audition as a form of pre-screening, many of you have asked how to self-tape your auditions. For some, the mere idea of this can be daunting. I urge you to get comfortable with doing this. It’s not as hard as it may seem. If you think about it, you’re actually the actor, director, and producer of your own audition! You are finally in control of your audition!

Here are some instructions that you should follow.

Pay attention to ALL of the instructions that the CD or website gives you. If they tell you to do it a specific way, DO IT THAT WAY!

Know the material. Be as off-book as possible so that you can interact with your scene partner (who’s off-camera). Try to find a good reader – it’ll really help your audition. It’s ok to hold your sides, but we don’t want to see you literally reading off the page.

Check out my article “Self-Taping Using your iPhone” if you’re going to use your phone.

TECHNICAL STUFF

TRIPOD:
This is important! Make your audition as professional as possible by attaching your camera to a tripod. Nobody wants to watch an audition on a hand-held camera. If you don’t have access to a tripod (or can’t borrow one!), prop your camera on a table on top of some books so that it matches your eyeline (never shoot under your chin – that look isn’t good on anyone!)

Here’s a tripod adapter for your iPhone

LIGHTING:
The best thing is to use natural light. Make sure you’re not shooting TOWARDS a window or the light, but that the natural light is actually lighting YOU! If you don’t have natural light, then get some appropriate lighting. You can actually use lamps if you don’t have real lights. You can even use those wonderful large globe Chinese Lanterns (w/the white shades) – those throw a lot of nice soft light.
Go onto YouTube and search for “3 point lighting“.

You’ll get A LOT of videos how to do this. This will make your video look very professionally done and you can even do it on the cheap if you’re going to be doing this at home a lot. Go to Home Depot and get some “work lights”, and you can fashion a stand for them.
One of my Twitter followers just sent me a link to Cowboy Studio which has inexpensive lighting packages.

Make sure you “white balance” your camera before you start shooting. Many cameras these days have an auto-white balance. If yours doesn’t, check the instructions and figure out how to do it. In many cases, you can just hold up a white piece of paper about 5 inches in front of the lens and that’ll do the trick.

THE BASICS:

1. Find a quiet and well lit room.

2. Have the actor stand in front of a blank white, blue or grey painted wall. You can always use a plain sheet (no prints please).

3. Have someone other than the actor (the “reader) reading the supporting lines off camera. Do not attempt to do a scene by yourself unless it’s a monologue. Even then, have a friend operate your camera. Have your “reader” stand RIGHT NEXT TO the camera – almost hugging the tripod. EYE LINE! This is very important. So often the actor is reading to a partner that is SO far away from the camera, all we see is his profile. Make sure the actor looks at the reader during the scene and not directly at the camera.

4. You want to frame CHEST UP – not too much head room. Make sure we can see your face. You should stand about 3-5 ft. from the camera. Some projects ask for a full body shot as well to include before or after you do your scene.

5. Camera should be at eye level or just slightly above, NEVER underneath your chin.

6. Record a test sample first and see how it looks and sounds on the computer first to make final adjustments before taping the scenes.

7. When you are ready to record the scene, make sure the actor adds a verbal “slate” first by saying their name, the city they are from and role they are reading for. I also like to know how tall you are. Make sure that your slate is a SEPARATE take from your audition scenes. Don’t just roll from your slate right into the scene – that’s an amateur move. Some CDs request a slate on a piece of paper w/the pertinent info. Just make sure we can READ IT! Edit your slate and your audition together into one video file.

9. Record the scenes 2 or 3 times(or as many times as you need), pausing between takes so that you can pick the best one once youʼve had a chance to review them. Only include your best take.

10. Make sure your audition is labeled with all your contact info clearly on the clip – you can do this before and after – it never hurts to be sure. This is very important. We need to be able to reach you if we want to call you back or give you re-direction.

You can also self-tape from your webcam on your computer (a video camera is better, so ONLY do this if you have no other options). If you’re going to do it this way, I suggest you raise your laptop up a bit so that it’s not shooting “up” at you with an unflattering angle. You can also practice your upcoming auditions with your webcam and play them back so you can see what’s working and what’s not!

There you have it! Have I forgotten anything? Please let me know what works for you in the comments section.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

 

Glad you’re here – Marci