The Green Room: What’s your opinion of self-tapes?
Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Peter They’re here to stay, so better get used to it.
Beryl I hate self-tapes.
John It’s a huge advantage to be able to spend as much time as you like getting it as ‘right’ as you can. Instead of going into a casting room and messing the audition up.
Albert I’m more than happy to spend half an hour in front of my iPhone rather than take a three-hour return train journey to Elstree to see an assistant who just does the same.
John That said, the pressure of the audition room often produces a better performance.
Albert And I do think it’s a shame that other factors in the interview, such as conversation and seeing who the actor is as a person, are lost in a self-tape.
Beryl I want to know whether I’m interested in working with them, so I need to meet them.
Albert Given that most TV directors find it hard to distinguish between who can and can’t act, the conversational exchange would seem to me to be one of the most important bits of the interview.
Keith Yeah, it’s not my favourite thing to do. However, it’s great when you can’t make an audition and they let you send something in. But I prefer to be seen in person.
Albert Where it is really useful is that some drama schools are now looking at original first-round auditions on self-tapes to save people train fares on a first assessment.
Jon Yes, it’s brilliant for drama schools.
Keith That is a great idea. Especially if it will take the cost down of the initial audition.
Peter Recalls can be killers for young, hard-up actors.
Vivian I don’t mind self-tapes as a way to be seen and like the convenience of not having to be in London. But I hate the amount of time it takes uploading it. Plying a friend with biscuits to get her to read opposite you. The worry – ‘maybe I could do another?’ And I think casting directors have become so lazy. Just bring me in to meet the director.
Beryl I see the convenience, but you can’t beat face to face for me.
Peter It gives opportunities to people out of London, to those with caring responsibilities and those who struggle to pay fares. But you get no feedback. Face to face is always better.
Albert Who gets feedback? Heaven forfend that we start getting that. You didn’t get the job. That’s the best sort of feedback.
John I’ve heard them described as a ‘pre-audition’. Often if you are good you will be brought in to meet.
Beryl I saw a thing on social media where an actor was looking to hire a space, get professional lights, spend shitloads of money – all because her feedback from self-tapes was negative about “the production values”!
Peter People with sophisticated computer skills will always produce a better result.
Jon I’m kind of militant about production values, in a way that probably does me harm: if you give me a few hours to get it done, you’re getting me next to a white wall, filmed on my phone.
John I spent a fair amount of cash on a decent camera, lights and sound set-up and, honestly, it has made the difference.
Vivian A weird thing I’ve experienced once and heard from other actors is having to improvise in a self-tape. Awful! I had to pretend I was talking to the camera. I cringe still.
Peter I’ve had to do a self-tape in a hotel room with no one to read in. Not good.
Keith So have I.
Peter Some Equity branches have set up buddy groups to help with reading in.
Vivian That’s a great idea.
Beryl The thing is, casting directors are the biggest sham in our industry, no?
Albert Oh now, calm down. They make some brilliant choices and put interesting people in front of directors who otherwise wouldn’t know where to start looking.
John They’re surely a necessity? Who has time to find a bunch of actors to audition and have the knowledge?
Beryl I know, I just think they’ve got lazier. They don’t even have to flick through the pages of Spotlight now.
Jon It does feel as if the advent of self-tapes has made face-to-face casting a lot less flexible these days. ‘If you can’t make this date at this time, you ain’t getting seen at all.’
Albert That’s how job interviews work in the real world, Jon.
Jon Yes, but you can usually take time off for a job interview. You can’t miss a show. So you end up with a system that punishes people for being in work, which wouldn’t happen with a ‘real-world’ interview.
Albert If they want to see you, they’ll make time.
Jon They’ll make time if they know who you are. A lot of actors aren’t in that position.
John In fairness, loads of casting directors have given advice on self-tapes as well.
Peter Equity also has a short video on the basics of self-tape – landscape not portrait, that kind of thing.
Albert I bet that’s helpful. There are various phone apps, too.
John They’re fine if you don’t have any other option, but I wouldn’t tape on an iPhone.
Beryl Why should you have to have top-spec tech to do this? That’s really annoying.
Vivian Crikey, I do all mine on iPhones. I don’t know how to do it otherwise.
John It doesn’t have to be too expensive – a comparatively cheap DSLR, a box light and a tripod can make a big difference.
Keith With self-tapes, the lighting is the main issue. You can get decent-quality videos on an iPhone or a recent android. But lighting is hard to get right, especially if you have to do it in a hotel room.
Albert You can get a set of lights and stuff for less than £40 on Amazon. If you do more than two a month it’s well worth it, as it does make it look much be