Audition tapes are your professional calling cards. As such, you want these virtual auditions to be tasteful, professional-looking, and carefully curated to help you showcase what you have to offer. Virtual is the way of the world today and we’re here to help with some mistakes to avoid when creating your own audition tape.
Never shoot vertically; always shoot horizontally. Always.
While an actor’s stock-in-trade is their entire body, the face is obviously the most important asset you possess. Audition tapes must make a good impression — fast. Ensure that your face is neither too close nor too distant in the shot.
The Full Monty
As noted above, an actor works with their entire body. If a casting director requests a full-body shot, frame it accordingly, in one take. Avoid panning from face to chest to legs, etc. Such an intimate tour of your assets will simply come off as odd and inappropriate, otherwise.
Avoid Unnecessary Distractions
Always film in front of a blank, neutral background; a simple beige, gray, or pastel wall, for example. There should be no objects — and certainly no clutter — visible behind you. The idea is to keep it clean and professional-looking, and to avoid drawing focus from the important subject at hand: you.
Audio and Lighting
Pay attention to the quality of the lighting you use. It should be neither too dark, nor too harsh. Ideally, use multiple sources of light, from at least two different angles. Other lights can be used to highlight hair, from above, but they should never cast your eyes in shadow — assuming you are not auditioning to play a raccoon.
Audio is equally important. If at all possible, avoid inappropriate background noises, such as cars honking, your neighbor’s leaf blower, or barking dogs. Consider investing in a microphone that works with your smartphone, if that’s what you will be using to shoot. Built-in phone camera mics are simply inadequate for the task.
Choose Your Line-Reading Partner Wisely
Unless you are submitting a monologue, you will need a fellow actor for dialogue. While it might seem intuitive that he or she should not outshine you, in fact, a flat reading by an individual who is not a trained actor, with excellent diction, could bring the entire audition piece down. Place them to the immediate left or right of the camera, so that you appear to be addressing the lens directly. They may need to adjust their volume so as not to overwhelm the recording.
Dress for Success
White is never an appropriate choice. It reflects too much light and may affect a photographic parameter called “white balance”. In essence, the lens adjusts to the reflected light, rendering you, the subject, too dark. Rather, choose solid, brighter colors, and attempt to dress in a manner that reflects a style appropriate for your character.
If you’re auditioning to play the first female President of the United States, for example, you wouldn’t want to wear a peasant dress. If your character is a miner, he probably wouldn’t appear in a three-piece suit. In any event, avoid wearing distracting jewelry, hats, accessories, or heavy, inappropriate makeup.
Subtlety is a secret weapon, wielded by the greatest of actors. Anyone can yell, scream, bawl hysterically, or throw things. Far more interesting and compelling are subtle cues that suggest your want to do those things but are exercising restraint beneath the surface. Anger can be expressed with deadly quiet, for example. Sadness can be hidden behind a fragile facade of cheerfulness. Viewers find it far more compelling when they see those subtle hints of restraint and unexpressed tension. Pulling back is almost always more interesting than exploding.
Know Your Lines
You should never audition on tape with script in hand. Never. Know your lines. If you must keep the script at hand, hold it as still as possible.
Go Big Then Go Home
Give the end of your audition scene a strong ending, and remain in character throughout. Don’t do anything that might take viewers out of the compelling moment you have created. And…scene.
Learn to Edit
Programs exist that enable virtually anyone to become a film editor. Learn how to use these to seamlessly edit your tape, if needed.
Finally, don’t fear the virtual world of acting and online acting training. Know your character intimately, make bold choices, and stay committed.