Self-Tapes: How to Make Them Stand Out!

Let’s face it. The days of only auditioning in a casting director’s office are over. The LA and NYC

market use self-tapes for pre-reads on a regular basis and for the southeast market, it’s the first

goto way to audition an actor.

So how do you make your self-tape stand out in the middle of a thousand others?

We watch self-tapes nearly every single day of the year. Sometimes we wince at the attempt to

make one that is effective and other times we applaud the actor that created a masterpiece.

But there are a few “must dos” in order to keep us watching!

1. You must know your lines! That means, you’re not reading them off the sides. That

means you’ve done your prep work, made choices, created a character and are ready to

perform as if you’re on set.

Should you hold your sides? There are two streams of thought regarding holding or not

holding sides. There are casting directors that believe that if you are completely off

book, that you are at “performance” level and can’t do any better once you get to set.

They prefer to see you holding the sides and glancing at them once in awhile, so they

believe you have more to give.

Then there are the casting directors who believe that a self-tape audition should be

memorized so that you can be free when you tape.

Who’s right? Neither...and both. It’s good to know what casting prefers before going in.

Sometimes that’s possible, and other times it’s not. So, what do you do? Do what is

going to give you the best possible performance...and just flow with it and don’t let it

jam you up.

2. Spend the same amount of time preparing your scene for a self-tape as you would for

an in-person audition. Some actors get lazy. They figure they can trash any take they

want, and only use the best. The problem with that theory, is it sets you up for failure.

Shooting for the best one of a bunch of takes creates a low hurdle in your subconscious

mind which then allows you to do less than your best. Remember, what you do on a

self-tape should be better than what you could do in the room. It’s harder to get cast

this way, so do your homework and knock ‘em dead!

3. Ready to tape? Take 10 minutes and do something physical: yoga, Tai Chi, run, dance,

exercise or just take a walk. Don’t break a sweat, but physically, you will be warmed up

and your vulnerability will be more accessible.

4. Let someone else worry about the technical aspects of the taping. You have to

concentrate on your audition. If you’re worried about filming, lighting, where to film, if

you can be heard, you will be in your head and that is the nemesis of a great self-tape


5. Make sure you follow the guidelines given to you by the casting director, get out of your

head and have fun! Even if it’s a serious, dramatic scene, enjoy yourself. Become like a

small child playing “pretend” and allow yourself to relish in the fact that you have a

chance at a role in a project.

Unfortunately, many actors, after years of auditioning, feeling rejected and overlooked, lose

that excitement they had in the beginning of their career. To some, asking for a self-tape,

exacerbates that feeling. Sadly, this reads into your audition and it doesn’t matter if you are in

the room or doing a self-tape.

It can be difficult, but forget your past journey. An actor must look at each day as a new

adventure with infinite possibilities and self-taping is a vehicle, within your control, that can

help you achieve all of your acting goals. Don’t minimize it. Go for it. You just might be

surprised at the result.