the joys of self-taping
Updated: Apr 13, 2022
Last week, I had to self-tape. I had signed up for a casting director workshop and had been given sides when I signed up. I had about three weeks to do said self tape and I ended up taping about 5 hours before the deadline. Why? I don’t know. I think it was nerves, maybe some version of imposter syndrome, the impossible lethargy of 2020. There is a dread and an excitement to self-taping. The dread can be the fear of putting yourself out there, or the inevitable hamster-wheel feel of it all. The excitement though is finding the creation, the collaboration, the character (yes I am proud of that alliteration – thank you). There are five stages I noticed in myself, and I thought I would write them down in case anyone found them useful.
1) Learning the script the day before
I am quite good at learning scripts. But there is something to sleeping on it for a night that just changes my relationship with the words. There is another reason I do this though. It’s a smaller step to take. Sometimes, self-taping can feel like a monumental task to me. I forget about the joy of creating in amongst the stress about setting up, or awkward acting into my iphone. So I break it down into small steps. I can learn a script today. I can do that. Open the document, and just breathe.
2) The set up
I’ve slept and the words are there, in my head. So now I have to actually do the thing. I am productive early in the morning but my deadline also happened to be at noon so on this particular day, up I got and – tea in hand – I started setting up. I would highly recommend a stand and a back drop. It looks more professional but it also takes you out of your immediate surroundings. It feels less like you are doing a home movie in your living room. Also ring lights. Ring lights are amazing.
3) Get a friend
Get yourself a good scene partner. Even if it is a monologue. Another actor is good but my recently unlocked secret is to befriend a director. This self-tape that I did, I did with a director friend of mine. We have worked together a lot so she is someone I am comfortable with (even though doing the scene for the first time is always hard; I always feel embarrassed). Moreover, she had such great ideas for the scene itself. I loved being directed. It wasn’t just me getting in my own head about my performance. It was fun. We laughed, she made some amazing suggestions, I felt like I was performing. I think that was the fundamental difference. I really felt like I was creating. And in this day and age – I’ll take what I can get.
4) Watch the tape back
Aaaah the step I never take. It’s horrible. But I would. This is my tip to you. Do as I say not as I do. Watch your tape back. It’s what I think to myself everytime I’ve taken my set up down and I am watching all the takes. I should’ve watched these back. Just to make sure.
5) When it works, it works. When it doesn’t, it still works because you did a thing.
So in this particular casting workshop, I got some good feedback. And it felt so nice. Especially considering how insecure and procrastinate-y (that’s a word) I had been feeling about the self-tape, about acting, about my general creativity levels. However, sometimes you don’t get any feedback at all. Sometimes you self-tape just to practice. And that in itself is a win. You did it. You created something. Give yourself the credit.