Self Taping – The master of this art could be the super talented Georgina Haig who is making waves in LA, how; by nailing self taping. She has booked huge Hollywood TV shows like Once Upon A Time, Fringe, OutPost (Lead in a US Pilot), Reckless and many more via self taping. In addition to her 40 plus episodes of US television, Georgina is a staple in Australia appearing on shows such as Moody Christmas, INXS Story, Underbelly, The Sapphires and too many more to mention. The lovely Georgina has taken time out of her schedule to offer her advice to our SAC peeps on the skill of SELF TAPING.
The island looked like something out of Jurassic park- granite boulders nestled between tall dark pines and soft sweeping gum tress. The view from our honeymoon hideaway over looked a tiny beach, which sparkled all day, beckoning with its cocoon of lapping water. Josh and I had our freshest seafood ready to BBQ, and were excited about heading out to sea for our scuba diving trip that next morning. This is all so bloody gorgeous I thought. I’ll just quickly check my e-mail cause I’m a terrible person…An audition. “Um, Josh!? Can we just real quick real quick get this down after seafood BBQ but before scuba diving?”
Even though as actors we often find ourselves powerless and at the mercy of an alarming array of elements out of our control “when it comes to casting, there are still some things we can control.” If you can find passion, power and joy in these moments, in this part of the process, I think the overall ride can be a happier, more fulfilling one. I think that’s why I’ve always loved making self-tape auditions; I love getting to send something off that I feel good about, no matter what the outcome is. And it’s a small creative process, a little art form in itself that I really get into.
Apart from when you’re on your honeymoon. Maybe I shouldn’t have done a self-tape on our honeymoon. But I also booked one of the most important jobs I’ve done from that tape. And if you are going to be a dick and self-tape on your honeymoon you might as well do a good one. We’ll get to that bit soon, but first, my love affair with self-tapes.
Of all the things that have made the biggest difference in my career, I’d say the “ability to send off good self-tapes has been one of the most advantageous.” It’s not a skill we were really taught in drama school. No one will teach you how to do good self-tapes. And for us, it’s like being able to write an awesome resume. It’s so so important.
And there are many advantages to getting your DIY on instead of relying on paying others to self tape for you. As well as being cheaper, it saves you time cause you don’t have to travel to someone else, or find a studio in a city or town where there might not be those facilities. “It really is freeing to be able to do this anywhere. ANYWHERE.” For example, slightly hangover in Florence, in a tiny hotel room in NY or, ehem, on a remote island mid honey-moon (I’m soooooo sorry Josh) But jobs, proper jobs came about from all those examples. It also might be a necessity if you’re on a gig already and someone needs a tape, again, there’s no time to get away and find a studio, so it’s great if you can just grab a cast mate and do it around shooting.
“It’s also satisfying for the soul to call up a good actor mate, work through a scene together and then tape it.” The small collaboration might help you find something you didn’t see before. And you’ll learn through helping them with tapes. You’ll also learn through watching and editing your own tapes.
I should add here that yes, definitely, it’s really important to get in rooms and make those connections. Do it as much as you can! Get in that room! Get in there! Especially if you’ve never met that casting director before, or most importantly if you know producers or the director is going to be present.
But if for whatever reason you need to DIY here are some practical tips-
- Invest in a decent digital camera. I use a Canon HD DSLR. The better the lens the less you need to worry about lighting, as you can make the most of natural light by playing around with the aperture. Being able to go without electric lighting and just using good natural light can be a lifesaver when you are traveling.
- Do your tape during the day and set up your camera with the natural light source behind it. Point towards as plain a back ground as you can find.
- Find the best quality lightweight proper tri-pod you can. It’s an annoying extra thing to lug around but it’s so much easier then trying to balance your nice camera on an upside down trash can on your hotel bed (done that), also it’s easier to find the ideal light, as you don’t need to rely on furniture or dustbins to dictate where the camera has to go!
- Frame one scene mid shot, so from the shoulders up, then one closer to show more and give variation.
- Have your scene partner stand as close to the camera as possible for eyeline but make sure they don’t speak too loud as they will be closer to the microphone.
- I use I-movie on my computer to edit, but could also use Final Cut.
- I upload everything to Vimeo but there are other options there too.
For travel you can keep it simple with just the camera, tripod and computer, but your set up at home can be as fancy as you like. At home I have a 2-meter x 2-metre stretched canvas that I use as a background that I painted a charcoal grey- it’s fun playing around with differnet background colours! And many guests come over and think it’s a minimalist modern artwork, haha. (Feel free to ignore this and just get a normal backdrop or just use a blank wall…it all works!) Lots of people also set up fancy microphones, have extra lights etc. Basically find what works for your home situation, experiment, get some feedback from your people, and have lots of fun with it.
Wishing you all the best with your self-taping adventures!