Sometimes during audition process casting directors ask the parents to submit self-taped auditions of their children.
What is a self-taped audition?
A self-taped audition is an audition that you film and edit on your own and then submit electronically.
Most of the times you will be specifically asked to do this, and the casting director will send you the sides, instructions and set the deadline. This is a common practice these days, and mastering this skill will give your child a competitive edge. If you have not filmed audition before, don’t worry because you actually need very little to get a great result.
• All you need is a plain wall. If you don’t have one at your home, you can hang up an ironed sheet as a background. There should be no patterns, no bold prints in the background.
• The same goes for your child’s outfit — they should wear solid colors, and there should be no stripes, logos, or texts.
• Don’t tape your child’s audition with your bathroom, kitchen, living room or garden in the background. This is very distracting and looks amateurish. Even if it is a kitchen scene—don’t shoot it in the kitchen!
• DSLR camera will give you a great result, but you can record a high-quality video using the HD camera in your smartphone.
• The camera should be set at the level of your child’s eyes. To get a steady shot, you will need a tripod.
• Horizontal framing will work best for the audition tape. Aim for a medium close-up frame (head and shoulders in the frame).
• Make sure there is no background noise. Do a little test take and watch it back immediately to see if everything looks and sounds good. Your child’s voice should be loud and clear, and more distinct than the reader’s.
• If you can, invest in an external microphone or borrow one.
• If your room is very echoey, you can put some sheets or blankets on other walls—it will break the sound waves.
• Ring lights or studio lights are great to have, but daylight works just fine. If you don’t have a big window or if you film at night, set up a desk lamp on a stack of books. Just make sure the light is balanced, and there are no shadows.
• Make sure your child is not backlit — the light objects should be in the front of them, not in the back.
Your child should not look straight at the camera, unless:
• They are asked to do the slate/introduce themselves.
• They are auditioning for a commercial.
• The script directly tells they should be looking at the camera.
If your child is doing a monologue, you can sit or stand next to the camera outside the shot, so that your child could look at you while they are talking.
If they are doing a dialogue, read with them or have someone help with that. The reader should sit on either side of the camera outside the shot. A common mistake in taped auditions is that the reader’s voice is louder than the actor’s voice. This is because the reader is sitting closer to the camera. The reader should be quiet and soft, they shouldn’t take the focus of the scene.
FILE SIZE AND FORMAT
• Before you start filming, find out what file formats are supported.
• Mp4 is the most common format; you might need to convert other formats. There is free software available where you can export the files in the required format.
• Follow the instructions for upload and name the file accordingly.
• Watch the size of the file. You should be able to attach it to an email.
It is great if your child has memorized the lines, but it is ok if they have the script with them. The main thing is to demonstrate that your child understands where the scene is going and what is happening to their character.
The focus should be on your child’s facial expression and body language. The agent, casting director, writer, or whoever will be watching your tape, only needs to see how your child fits the role, so keep it simple. Any visual distractions will lessen the impact of your child’s performance.
Don’t get hung up on details—nobody ever lost a part because their shirt was red instead of blue, or their hair was parted on the wrong side. It’s all about the personality and how your child comes across on camera.
If you have all these details sorted, you will be able to create a convincing tape that will get your child a callback. Most importantly, have fun with the process, because it is a great practice and learning experience for your little actor!