5 Do’s and Don’t’s
You just got a phone call from your agent or a favorite casting director (who knows you don’t have an agent to submit you for this) who wants to include you in a casting for a major role on a new pilot or film…Yay! That’s great news until you think for a moment and realize they requested a self- taped audition….ASAP!
No worries- you’re secure in your talent and ability to ace this.
But, this is where things get crazy.
What should you wear?
Do you memorize or hold the script?
Have a reader or another actor perform opposite you?
Use a smartphone, rent a studio or hire a video service and spend the bucks to get great lighting and a higher level camera?
Shoot in a long shot, medium or close-up? Or all 3?
Go all out with a dramatic read or keep it subtle- the camera technique your new acting teacher advised you on?
A thousand questions swirl around your brain and suddenly you’re in anguish. You need to make major decisions and there’s little time to do this- they want to see your video tomorrow! What do you do? Don’t sweat it…follow these simple DO’S and DON’T’S.
1. Memorize the script. Although it is standard procedure to hold a script when auditioning in person (you can always drop it after a few lines) it’s paramount that you give a performance not a “read” on video. The downside of a videotape is that it’s locked in place- no changes- so the first impression stays with whomever is viewing it. And you don’t know who that might be- its floating around out there forever. So be prepared and know the material so well you can give a winning performance.
2. Ask the best actor you know to play opposite you- you don’t want them on screen but you want someone you can really “play” with /respond to even if they’re just reading lines. Keep your focus on them and look directly into the the lens…the more they see your face in the strongest position the better. ¾ angles and profiles are weaker and don’t sell you.
3. You can opt for a smartphone- do a “selfie”- but just have a tripod or stable position for the small camera. If you or hire a service that shoots videos definitely ask the camera person to frame the shot as a medium close up- no one needs to see your shoes or your wrinkled jeans. You want to duplicate the angles and shots that a real prime time show would use. If you look like you belong on the show they’ll be more disposed to get you on the show.
4. Stay within the frame of the shot to create the character- it’s OK to move your head and use your hands and body (slightly so you aren’t out of the frame)- but you need to size the performance for the media – no running around the space-off camera. But don’t stand stiffly…be natural.
5. Suggest or dress the part- a lawyer wears a suit, an undercover cop, a leather jacket, a Washington socialite, a sexy cocktail dress. For ladies, wear TV make-up (no red or dark brown lipstick, heavy eyeliner- keep it natural), and definitely style your hair. Wear a striking solid color- choose a dress, blouse, sweater. It’s more memorable to be in sapphire blue, fuschia pink, yellow or emerald green as opposed to dull gray, beige or black. Definitely avoid plaid, polka dots, patterns or stripes which can make the camera go out of focus- very distracting! Guys can wear dark suits or jackets but add color in the shirt, tie or sweater. A video audition says you look the part, are photogenic and are a fantastic actor while looking attractive. It’s not just about your talent.
1. Hold the script and “read”- you will eventually look down or away, losing focus while you check a line. They’ll assume that you’re a beginner and/or aren’t prepared.
2. Misconstrue what a well-intentioned acting teacher might have told you- to “tone it down” lower your volume for the microphone and stand still, the classic mistake actors make thinking that that is TV “technique”. Don’t be afraid to move or use your body while staying within the frame of the shot. Casting Directors, Producers, writers and directors all want to be excited and inspired by your creative choices and energy.
3. Wear your most comfortable old jeans and sloppy sneakers. ( Unless you are absolutely sure that’s what the character would wear or that the camera person will NOT include that view in the frame).
4. Forget to powder- even guys. A shiny nose or forehead might project nervousness or “flop sweat” not just that you have oily skin.
5. Don’t announce your name, agent, your height, weight or dress size and then start “acting”- very unbelievable. Try to be “in character” when the camera starts rolling- not caught in a static, stunned or stiff position. If you must announce your name, take a moment to shift gears and get into character before starting the scene.