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Times have changed in the Theatrical audition world: over half of the auditions actor go on are self-taped. This means that either your agent sends you a request to self-tape or you go into the casting office and they send your takes on to the producers. The days of walking into a room filled with producers and writers and directors are few and far between.

I personally love it when I have the chance to audition in a room full of people. It feels alive and I always feel like I do my best work.

So today’s question is: how do you act your best when you’re taping from home, and it’s just you and your reader?

I know everyone hears the obvious tips from their agent or casting:

  • Know your lines.

  • Use good lighting.

  • Make sure the reader is not too loud.

  • Focus towards the camera but not into camera.

  • Stand in front of a plain background.

  • Etc...

But to me, the most important thing to do in a self-tape is to truly immerse yourself in the scene. To create a vivid world in which you can honestly act and react.

I will give you an example of two self-tapes that won the job to illustrate my point.

One of the self-tapes I filmed, was for a television show, and the actor was playing a  Beverly Hills country club gal. It was a luncheon setting, so I had her sit in a chair with a table that held her drink. A pretty scarf slung over her shoulders, which gave her an air of sophistication.

The table was not visible in the taping, as I always frame from the chest up, but it made it more real for the actor. She used a champagne flute, which she used only for 1 moment in the scene.

At the top of the scene, I had her laugh lightly in response to jokes said by her fellow luncheon goers before she began her line.  All of this gave the illusion of the actual setting, which created a sense of reality for the actor. It was a great take and she booked the job straight off of it.

The other actor had an action scene in which he was being attacked and killed.

Scenes like that can be so challenging to self-tape and almost impossible to do unless you go all out.

I had the actor use a butter knife as the bayonet he was holding against a hostage’s throat. Then, he was supposed to be charged by an incoming soldier, so he pivoted to indicate surprise. He delivered his lines back and forth with me, the reader, and then reacted to being shot. I had him grab his stomach and fall out of frame.

This audition took several takes, but we mastered it and it looked as real as possible in a studio setting. More importantly, the actor was fully engaged in the scene.  He booked the role and shot the production the next day.

Most props and actions used in auditions like these are never seen on camera, but they allow the actors to become more involved in the scene.

Those are my suggestions for a filming a successful self-tape at home. Try it and see how your next one goes.

Judy Kain owns Keep It Real Acting Studios. In addition to teaching commercial and business courses, Judy has successfully coached and filmed self-tapes for years.