You have been asked to submit a taped audition for a role in a film. Perhaps it’s a short film. Perhaps it’s a feature. Maybe it’s a paid gig. Maybe not. Regardless of the particulars, you’re going to want to create a process for how you will get that audition taped and get it to the decision makers.
In most markets, someone has the equipment, expertise, and studio space to record you professionally. It could cost you anywhere from $25 to well over $100. It’s always an advantage to rely on these people for quality taped auditions, but you may decide to go it alone if funds are low or there’s no one in your local area who can do it.
Now the ways you execute the steps I am about to share may change. The change may involve people, place, or thing. The people who help. The place where you record. The thing you record with. The order of the steps may be different for you, depending on your needs, but the process overall should not change. In some cases, you will be working on multiple steps at the same time, beginning one then moving onto the next before that previous one is finished.
- Read the instructions received carefully. Casting will usually include important details, such as file size, file format, way to title your file, etc. In some cases, casting may reject your submission if you miss following one or more of these important details.
- Create a timeline for the audition. Looking at the deadline for the submission, you want to consider when each phase can be accomplished. The timeline can be altered along the way, as long as you complete each step in a suitable way. If it’s Tuesday and the audition is due on Friday, you want to consider how you’re going to complete each step within that time frame.
- Read the sides. Get a sense of what is involved in the scene(s). Is it only your character speaking or do you need a reader to handle the other character(s)? What is your character wearing? Where are they from? What’s their job? What’s the setting? What do they want in the scene(s)?
- Learn your sides. Never rely on reading them in a self-taped audition. Memorization is a must. If memorizing is a challenge for you, write the lines down by hand. You can also use an audio recorder app and play them over and over. Some actors will even record everyone else’s lines and pause during their own lines so the playback gives them time to say their line during that pause.
- Choose your wardrobe. If the role is a police officer, you don’t need a uniform. In fact, think about suggesting character with wardrobe choices rather than putting on a costume. Solid colors work best. Avoid jewelry, such as a bold necklace or sparkling earrings, as it can be distracting.
- Decide who will record the audition. Will you do it or will you turn to someone else for help? That someone else could be a fellow actor, a filmmaker friend, or someone who regularly shoots wedding videos. Ask yourself, which choice serves me best right now?
- Schedule the audition taping. If you chose someone else to help, set a time. If you need a reader, make sure the reader is available during that taping time. In many cases, the person taping you can be the reader as well. If you want to tape yourself, you still should establish a time in which you can do it.
- Select a camera. It could be your phone, a camcorder, an iPad, or whatever you have that will get the job done cleanly. This step is tied directly to the previous 2 steps. When you’re deciding who will tape your audition, use camera options as a factor.
- Select your reader. Instead of going with whoever is available, consider which of your fellow actors could do the job best and who make you feel comfortable. The purpose of the reader is to deliver lines of the other characters in a low voice so they don’t overpower your audition. They can also provide an eyeline for you to maintain and give you a human connection that will enhance the authenticity of your performance.
- Set up your audition space. You don’t need a big studio. You do need sufficient room for a close-up and a wide shot. You want a plain background, such as a solid color wall. You need lighting. Whether it’s a studio kit or regular household lighting, make sure you’re evenly lit and not casting distracting shadows on the wall behind you. If you have props to use, find a place to set them down for easy access. Give yourself the advantage of making this artificial space feel as genuine as the actual setting in the scene.
- Do a test take. This is a critical step for newcomers. Get a sense of how you look on camera. Take note of any distracting habits you have, such as excessive blinking. Let this step take as long as it needs to in order for you to fix or eliminate any of these habits.
- Record your audition. This step involves much more than pressing the record button. This step in the culmination of all the effort you have put into the process so far. Your entire performance is being judged by even small choices you make. Keep framing chest up to top of head for close-ups. Limit movement in those takes. If the directions ask for a looser framing, use one. But don’t forget even in a medium shot your face and eyes are still telling the story.
- Record a slate. For standard slates, you want to mention your name, your agent, and the role you read for. But again, pay attention to the casting instructions as they may include slate info. Be personable here. Avoid slating in character.
- Select the takes you want to use. After the audition, and perhaps in another location where you can relax and get some distance from the audition space, look at the takes and find the ones that you feel are strongest.
- Edit the audition. If it’s only one scene, the only thing you need to do is edit it and the slate together. If the casting info doesn’t say where to put the slate, put it at the end so your performance is seen first. Make each edit a direct cut to the next clip. Avoid fading to black or doing any other transitions. Save the audition file as instructed. If no instructions are given, save it as PROJECT_Name_Role.
- Submit your audition. Again, looking at the casting info, see who needs to receive the audition file. In some cases, it may be more than one person. If it’s a large file, use Hightail as a means of delivery.
- Move on to what’s next. I have to include this step because many actors linger over submissions, wondering if they will get the role. Forget that role. Use your energy to prepare for what’s next.