Christa Schamberger-Young
Richard Lothian
Independent Casting Directors for Film & Television
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WORKSHOPS

When time permits we offer various Audition Workshops at our studios in Johannesburg and Cape Town. These are practical on-camera sessions combined with talks on presentation, preparation, CVs, showreels and much more.
Please send an e-mail with details of your experience and an indication of when you would be able to attend a workshop. You will be notified when we are able to put together a group of students of similar experience. You will be sent a suitable Brief and Sides to prepare for a workshop..

The Self Tape Guide below was put together by Richard and Ben with additional information by Digby after they had endured hours of frustration either trying to help actors do their "self tapes" in our studios, or knocking submitted self tapes into shape for sending to Producers. The guide contains the backbone of Workshops Richard and Ben have delivered to SAGA Members or to students at acting schools. We are making this valuable content freely available so that Actors can PRACTICE while we wait for Production to resume when the COVID-19 Pandemic has receded.

SELF-TAPE BASICS

Essential Equipment:

A mobile phone camera. Although accessories such as external microphones are available for some models, they are not essential. It is far more important to get to know the capabilities of your phone camera and to practice using it to your advantage. If you already own or have easy access to a dedicated digital video camera and software, that is an advantage, but it is just as important that you learn about the capabilities of your equipment, especially with regard to reducing the size (in MB = Megabytes) of your final submission.

A means to keep the phone aimed and still. This could either be a phone-bracket on a tripod if you have one, or a car hands-free clamp stood on a chair on a table, If you have neither, think creatively – use a combination of press-stick, elastic bands, and clothes-peg wedges if you have to, but keep the camera still! If a friend is holding the camera, it is a good idea to devise a dead-rest for their arm.

Your Space:

Background: Use a plain untextured wall, preferably NOT white, as a background. You do not want anything that is going to distract from your performance. A fussy background will also “steal” bandwidth from capturing you in the best quality. You could hide a busy background by suspending a clean, ironed bed sheet or plain blanket.

Lighting: Soft daylight from a large net-curtained window can work well – especially if you place your Reader on the window side of the camera / mobile phone. Experiment to find a good distance from the window; too close and the opposite side of your face may be too dark; too far away and you may not have enough light for the auto-focus to work, causing your face to pop in and out of focus. Use the curtains to diminish the light on your background wall.

Sound: For the best sound you should record in a small room with soft furnishings such as curtains, carpets and bedding. Hang blankets or sheets just out of frame will to help damp “Reverb” within the room and also to diminish sound from outside the room. Do a test recording of just the room sound and listen to it - your brain filters out environmental sound that the microphone does not.

Always record in LANDSCAPE format! Always!

Phone Horizontal_Crossed.jpg

 

 

 

 

If your audition arrives upside down, we can fix that, but if it is taken in portrait (Vertical) format there is nothing we can do – your face will be very small on screen.

 

 

 

 

 

Framing and Camera placement:

Auditions are usually filmed in MCU – Medium Close Up.

Frame a little way below the shoulders and make sure there's enough headroom so that you can move a bit without looking as though you are locked in a box.

Set the camera / phone level with your face, with the lens no lower than your chin.

Most cell-phones are fitted with a fixed Wide Angle lens, which exaggerates movement towards or away from the lens and distorts facial features when too close. Minimise forwards/backwards movement. Do not make hand gestures toward the camera lens within the frame – this will exaggerate the size of your hand and may cause the autofocus to “hunt”.

Eye line:

Your Reader should be as close to an imaginary line between your face and the lens as possible. We need to see your eyes so that we can see what the Character is thinking.

Do not turn profile to the camera – for audition purposes, other people in the scene are all within 45 degrees either side of the camera. If you really must refer or speak to someone right next to you, establish that with a brief glance, then favour the camera as if “talking aside”.

When looking at your Reader, favour the eye closest to camera.

Reader:

Almost any reader is better than no Reader. If you have to use a family member / non acting person, take the time to instruct them in what you need, and give them an opportunity to practice too, particularly with regard to keeping cues tight.

Mark up the Reader’s script with a highlighter – yes, that means you should Print it out!

Be patient – remember that they may not have the confidence of even a beginner actor!

If you have the means, consider setting up a Skype / WhatsApp call with an actor friend on a laptop or another phone that you can react to. Try to position the other device to give you the correct eye line if at all possible. Even with the slight Skype delay, this is arguably better than locking yourself into the pace of your own pre-recorded cues.

Given the present peculiar situation, if you cannot arrange a suitable Reader, make contact with Richard or Christa and we will endeavour to help you via Skype.

Blocking:

Keep it still and strong. Besides generally weakening a performance, if you are swaying from one side of the screen to the other you will only distract from whatever you are trying to portray.

Cut out the action - Simplify everything. If there is implied physical interaction, reduce that to a representative gesture, just enough to “trigger” a different emotional “tone” for you.

Keep the Reader out of your frame!

If you are supposed to be walking in the scene, place your main eye line on where you are going, close to camera on the opposite side to the Reader. This gives you the opportunity to carefully choose moments of interaction with the other character. Do not simulate walking!.

Beware the Props - If it isn’t critical to the scene or doesn’t help you, you don’t need it – and that includes miming with imaginary props! Miming within the frame is very seldom any more than a distraction from the emotional content.

If the scene requires you to be seated at a table, keep the table out of shot and cover it with a hand-towel to mute the handling sound of any props you may feel are essential.

SLATE / IDENT:

Straight into camera, preferably in a mid-shot, (Head to waist) which will give an indication of body type. Use the ACCENT you adopted for the Audition. Practice saying your name in that accent! Do not “toss off” your ID as an afterthought – if the Director gets through your audition, your impression during the Ident could be decisive! Yes, really! Your NAME & SURNAME (Professional name, spoken clearly, the most important information after your actual performance!)
The
ROLE your are auditioning for,
Your
AGENT ("I am represented by XYZ agency in Cape Town, South Africa")

Known Non Availability issues. Absolutely pointless “hiding” these - very damaging if you do!
Your
HEIGHT (in feet and inches for American and British projects) In that order - THAT's ITNO AGE, please! 

We will only ask for your age if you are a Minor. (16 or younger)

DO NOT tilt the camera down to your feet and back up to your face – utterly pointless! It would be far more useful is to attach a recent full length photo (Compressed file size please – no larger than 800 pixels high).

If you are using a video camera and Operator, AND you have the space, you could zoom out to a full shot while you say your Height, but its' not essential.

REVIEW AND SELF ASSESSMENT:

Being able recognize your best work is an important part of Self Taping. It is too easy to get into the “habit” of “just doing” Self Tapes.

Once you have shot your takes, WATCH THEM CRITICALLY

Don’t assume your last take is the best. Sometimes you get things in earlier takes that you miss or have become stale by the last take. Send the best over-all take.

Only send more than one if it is a different enough interpretation to warrant being watched again, otherwise the viewer may not even bother to see a second Scene. Do not send more than two takes of the same scene.

Include yourself on the email to your Agent and the Casting Director. This will enable you to check whether it is useable.

Collect your tapes and watch them again in a week or two. You will begin to notice a pattern of your habits, and therefore get an idea of how to change them. 

EDITING:

Absolutely the most important “Editing” you can do is to NAME THE TAKES SENSIBLY after REDUCING THE SIZE OF THE FILES for web transfer!

Video Editing capability on mobile phone cameras is often limited. All you need to do - if you can - is to trim dead time at the beginning and end of the takes. Never edit within a take – it is never done in auditions because it obviously raises suspicion and doubt!

If you can join the clips in order (Scenes first, then Ident) do so, Export to mp4 format, naming the composite output file as:

Name Surname_Character. Some add Filmtitle_City_Agent

If you are not able to create a single audition file, then Name each Scene and Take as:

Name Surname_Character Sc ? Tk?, adding _Filmtitle_City_Agent if necessary for your International submissions.

Repeat: Absolutely the most important “Editing” you can do is to NAME THE TAKES SENSIBLY after REDUCING THE SIZE OF THE FILES for web transfer!
Learn to COMPRESS your files.
The pace of modern Production means that your audition may need to be downloaded on the Director’s phone on a location with poor reception. The Director WILL give up if the clip takes more than a few seconds to download.

On many phones you could start by choosing a small video size in the camera “Settings” menu (Usually a “gear” symbol.) before you recordDo NOT record in HD! On simple Editing software you are looking for something like “Save for Web”. mp4 format with Mono audio is compact and plays on almost all devices.

Internet Bandwidth in South Africa is slow and expensive – in this time of scarce work, we all need to save the pennies where possible. Bear in mind that you are sending one audition – we have to deal with dozens. Processing self-tapes actually increases our work load and expenses - badly done submissions even more so. You don’t want to make us grumpy!

WE ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WANT HD RAW FOOTAGE UPLOADS.

Auditions, with whatever number of takes, should have a maximum size of 50MB, encoded into an .mp4 format.

UPLOAD PLATFORM:

Wetransfer is by far the best platform send files to us. It is free to use up to a maximum of 2 Gigs. If your self tape is larger than this than something has already gone wrong. You can send tapes to more than one person and in this case, tapes should go to Richard and Christa and your agent.

Wetransfer LINK: https://wetransfer.com/

If you have DropBox: Put your audition in a dedicated Folder on your DropBox, especially if it consists of several clips. DO NOT simply click “SHARE”, because you could overload our quota and we will simply refuse the Share. Create a Link to the Folder, which you can email to us either from DropBox or by copying it to your own email.

Google Drive: Put your audition in a dedicated Folder on your G-Drive, especially if it consists of several clips and Create a Shareable Link to the Folder, which you can email to us from Google Drive or by copying it to your own email.

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PS: Have I mentioned that...

Absolutely the most important “Editing” you can do is to NAME THE TAKES SENSIBLY after REDUCING THE SIZE OF THE FILES for web transfer!

...and:

WE ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WANT HD RAW FOOTAGE UPLOADS!



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