This last year has been a whirlwind for most of us, and as actors, we have had to succumb to a ton of changes. One of those has been the new normal of video auditions. In my experience, actors either LOVE them or HATE them. Let’s talk about them so you can learn to LOVE them because they are sticking around!
You want your auditions to be the very best they can be EVERY TIME. This is not an area to be lazy. You would not go into a live audition and give 50% so why would you in a video audition? It’s the same thing! Only instead of the casting director recording you, you are recording you. So, let’s get started…
Here is the thing about video auditions, they are easy if you have your setup, and not so much if you don’t. My suggestion to every actor out there is get your setup asap! So first, let’s talk about the “setup”.
The setup is the key to doing a great video audition. And yes, this will take some investment on your part. It is a business, remember? And there in no business on earth that does not take some investment. Here is what you need:
- A solid background. How easy is that? This can be your wall! (I do not recommend a plain white wall but if it’s a tan color or light brown then it works). Some people use light colored sheets. (If you go this route, make sure your sheet isn’t too wrinkled. It’s distracting.) I find the best option to be the pop-up backgrounds. They have these on Amazon under pop-up photography backgrounds. The key is to NOT have a distracting background. Choose a color that is not too bright and not too loud. Light tans, light blues, greys and even some light pinks work best. (Please do not use a green screen).
- Good lighting. This is so important! I have seen a ton of video auditions where the actor has a huge shadow across their face because their lighting is terrible. You want your video audition to be as good as if you were in the room auditioning live. When you walk into a live audition what do you see? Lighting! Good lighting does not have to be expensive. Some record with a window open for natural lighting and that sometimes works. You can also get a box lighting set on Amazon for a reasonable amount. It’s best to have two lights on either side of the camera to eliminate any shadows. Do not go overboard here. They want to see your skin tone and the color of your eyes. Make the lighting as natural as possible and not too blown out. If you are Hispanic, watch your video back and if you look Caucasian instead of Hispanic, you’ve gone too far. It needs to look like you!
- A good camera. Again, this does not have to cost an enormous amount. Most actors use their cell phones. Cell phones have great cameras these days and they work perfectly. Again, the main thing here is to have a clear, in focus, sharp image. Whatever you choose to use, just make sure the picture is good. Come on, you’re an actor, you don’t like to watch videos that have terrible quality so why would you turn in a video that has terrible quality! Side note: your videos need to be horizontal, not vertical. If you are using your phone, turn it horizontal!! Please!
- A reader! This is vital! In order to completely be in the scene, you need to interact with another person. I know some of you (as I have in emergency situations) have recorded your own voice and used it for the other person but I do not suggest this. First of all, they know. I do not care if you’re changing your voice, they know. And it’s too hard to truly be in the scene if you are hearing your own voice and trying to get the timing down. If you cannot find a reader to come to you, there is always zoom or facetime. Most CDs are more understanding and tolerating of this since the pandemic. Bottom line: find someone to read the other lines. It will always make for a better audition. There is a site called weaudition.com. You can sign up on this site to be a reader or just use it to find a reader. Its full of actors who are willing to read for you. There is a small charge, but it is worth it!
- Good editing software. Again, there are a ton of options on this, and it does not have to be expensive. I use Movavi. I think it cost $30. Unless you are a perfect actor and never make mistakes, you will need this. Chances are you are not filming you audition, slate and full body shot all in one take with no bloopers. IF you are, please contact me and tell me your secret! But most of us do several takes (as you should until you get a great one) and make several mistakes. Either scenario, you are going to have to edit your audition together. So, get something that allows you to edit it correctly.
Now that you have your set up down, let’s talk about some other points in video auditions.
As I said before, you need to treat these like you are in the room. Make great acting choices and use your space. I see so many great actors that do not do great video auditions. Why? Because it’s a different animal. For some reason, we turn on the camera, get in front of our background and all the sudden it’s like we put ourselves in a box. We don’t move or use our space. We just stand there. Listen, our eyes love movement. Use your space; don’t go crazy. You still have a frame, and you do not want to dip out of it but put yourself in the scene. Slight movements and doings are okay. Use good judgement. But please, do not just stand there like a frozen statue.
Also, make sure you are placing your reader to the side of the camera. DO NOT look directly at the camera unless you are specifically asked to do so in the instructions. Most of the time, the only auditions you will look directly to camera for are commercial auditions.
My biggest advice here is this: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! Read them once, then read them again, and then again. All casting directors are excellent about sending you directions for the video audition. And most of them are not the same. Do not be that actor that just does what they want. Follow the directions very carefully because it could be the difference between your video being seen or getting trashed. There is just no excuse for not doing what is asked. It is not hard to follow directions.
When in doubt, ask someone! I will say this again and again, it is a business! You would not turn in a project for work that wasn’t done correctly, so why would you turn in a video audition that wasn’t done correctly? AUDITIONING IS YOUR JOB AS AN ACTOR! So, do a good job!