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HOW TO LEARN TO LOVE SELF-TAPING

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By Marci Liroff

Self-taping your auditions—it’s all the rage. We ask you to self-tape your auditions for several reasons. Sometimes we can’t audition you live due to simple logistics: I’m in Los Angeles and you’re in Sydney, Australia. Or it’s an open call situation and we want to discover someone new and audition the masses (like the new “Star Wars” movie). I’ve also noticed several casting directors using the self-tape as their pre-read. Instead of having the actor come into their office to pre-read for them, they’re asking for self-tapes only. For me, if I’m in the same town as you are, I’d rather have you come into my office so that I can work with you.

Apparently the whole notion of not only having to act in a scene, but direct, be the grip, gaffer, and editor is a daunting task for some. I want to urge you to get comfortable with this because it has become a necessary part of the audition process these days. We’ve all heard how Eddie Redmayne self-taped his audition for “Les Misérables” on his iPhone. There are literally hundreds of these stories out there.

Several of my coaching clients and actors I’m auditioning have expressed a paralyzing fear of making these self-tapes. This surprises me because I thought being in control of the situation would be freeing—unlike in the audition room, where so many elements are out of your control. You can do as many takes as you like until it’s something you’re happy with submitting. Here are a few ways to keep self-taping from being overly stressful.

Identify what’s scaring you.
Is it the technical aspects of actually making a good-quality audition? OK, that’s easy to fix. You can spend some time learning how to do it by practicing with your camera, lighting, and a scene partner during downtime, when there isn’t the urgency of a deadline for an audition. I blogged about the technical aspects of self-taping a while ago, and it’s still one of my most-read blog posts.

Know thyself.
If you simply aren’t good at technical issues and have no interest in learning, how about taking that aspect out of the equation? It’s easy to find a friend or a service that can tape you professionally so that all you have to think about is being the actor.

You’re lost/a perfectionist/too many choices.
Next to getting thrown by the tech issues, the actors I’ve talked to say they tend to shut down when faced by the void that exists when you don’t have a casting director or director in the room to guide you through the scene. Yes, this can be daunting, but remember that it’s a level playing field because everyone is dealing with the same issue and we understand that. On the other hand, this frees you up to make your own choices and put your personal and singular stamp on the role. We want to see what you bring to the role, and nothing better shows us your instincts than the choices you make from these tapes.

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.

Please share your comments on self-taping and how you overcome any problems you’ve experienced!

Glad you’re here – Marci

 

HOW TO BECOME A MASTER SLATER

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By Marci Liroff

I’m seeing an epidemic of extremely uncomfortable actors in casting offices across the globe. Actors who are seemingly adept at tackling Shakespeare to Mamet have one major problem—slating. One would think, “My gosh, how hard could it be? You just say your name, height, representation, and whatever other info is asked of you.” Yet, time and time again I see actors tripped up by this simple task. Grown men brought to their knees by merely having to say their name to the camera.

Let me help you be a pro. Instead of standing there and feeling like you’re naked and the skin on your face is being peeled back, try slating as your character. As an actor, it’ll give you something more to grab on to.

I’ve talked to several actors about this phenomenon and they tell me that standing there just being themselves is sometimes too intimate for them to handle. They feel vulnerable and miss the security of being able to slip into another’s skin to play a character. They feel silly and awkward and it shows.

If you’re self-taping, follow the directions exactly. For my office, we ask for a full body shot, so make sure your camera is far enough away from the actor to be able to pan down from their head to their feet in one shot. If they ask for a profile make sure to do that as well. Then come back up to the actor’s face in a medium close-up (chest up) and look right at the camera and state your name, height, present location (i.e. I want to know if I’ll need to fly you out from Kansas if that’s your location), if you can be considered a local hire, and your representation. Many casting offices ask for your age but, truth be told, that’s actually illegal. If you’re under 18 and a minor you should state that. Likewise if you’re under 18 but can work as “legal 18” we need to know that.

Keep the audition scenes separate from your slate.

Make sure to keep your slate as a separate scene and not roll right from your slate into the scene—that signals an amateur.

Nowadays, many casting offices already have your profile page set up online ahead of time so you don’t have to slate. Nonetheless, it’s a good skill to develop so that you’re comfortable with it.

Australian actor Lucy Fry, whom I cast in the upcoming film “Vampire Academy,” is probably one of the best “slaters” I’ve ever seen. She seems self-assured, confident, and truly connects with the camera. She shared her process with me. “It’s the only chance you ever get to look directly at the lens, so I try to channel the energy of the character with warmth and confidence so the people watching it can see the way the character sits in me through the eyes. I try to let myself be seen without pushing a fake smile or worrying about what anyone thinks. I am nervous, so I take a breath before I speak and wait a microsecond to feel ready to speak so I am not rushing into it. I guess I treat it like a scene. I try to fill it with the same energy that I would any action as the character because focusing on energy, the breath, and the character makes it feel easier.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can take 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.

Please share your comments on slating and how you overcome feeling awkward!

Glad you’re here – Marci

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

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