Greetings from Pandemica. In a time when it feels like the whole world has stopped, it can be difficult to contemplate working on your career at all. Given the fact that so much of our industry is shut down or in a holding pattern, that is completely understandable. Many of us are just concentrating on survival, and if you’re in that boat, please know that is absolutely fine. You are not being a “bad actor,” wasting an opportunity or letting down your art. You have to take care of yourself first.
However, if you have the ability and opportunity to send in some self taped auditions right now, you may be struggling without your normal access to resources. How does one send in a self tape when you can’t hit up a studio, when you may not have a live-in reader, and when your equipment is lacking? Here are some things you can do to boost your self tapes in “quarantimes.”
- Be Forgiving. Know that your self tape may just not look like it normally would in terms of quality. Don’t let it hold you back. Remember agents and CDs are all living through the same pandemic we are, and most of them understand we may be working on limited resources. Be flexible and forgiving in your standards.
- Plan Your Lighting. Lighting is tough to fake and it is one of the things that makes a big difference in the quality of your self tape. If you don’t have proper lighting instruments, they are worth the investment. If you can’t have them shipped to you, try to maximize natural daylight. Tape your auditions when the natural light is good–possibly set up your camera or phone against a window so the light will be hitting you. If you’re shuffling lamps, try to avoid deep shadows, harsh overhead light, or light shining up from below, which can be unflattering and distracting.
- How to Fudge a Tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, get ready to MacGyver things a bit. Stacks of books and furniture can help support a camera (be very careful), but if you’re working with your phone you might need to put some extra thought in. In the past, I’ve had success clipping binder clips to the bottom horizontal edge of my phone to create a flat surface (I recommend padding it with sticky notes or fabric to avoid scratching your phone). However, if you just can’t get the angle right, I am not above straight-up taping my phone to a lamp at the correct height.
- Readers. If you’re in lockdown alone this can be tough. You basically have two options. Zoom or video chat with someone via a laptop or other device, who can read sides as you tape, or tape yourself saying the other lines ahead of time. The latter is difficult to time and may require more editing than you want, but it’s a back-pocket option for the desperate.
- Editing. Editing without the proper equipment can be a huge hassle. If you’re taping on your phone, most iPhones can handle iMovie, so you can edit directly on your device. Otherwise, see if you can bribe a friend to do it and send them your materials.
Self-taping during quarantine doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Reach out to actors in your community and see how they’re handling it. Swapping tips, tricks and skills can be enormously helpful. Remember: be flexible, be forgiving, get creative. We can do this together.