Advice for Self Tapes

When getting asked to do a self-tape, how can you be sure you're doing it correctly and that your child will stand out? We've asked the mum of Daisy, who has been in many onscreen shoots and photo-shoots, how they prepare for self-tapes.

How do you and Daisy prepare for a self-tape?
When a self-tape brief comes through, I will read it first and ensure that I understand what has been asked for. At this point, if there are any questions I would contact the agency and ask for clarification. Often the brief is clearly laid out and I am therefore able to tell Daisy what the client has asked for. We always make sure that the house is quiet for recording, this means background noise is kept to a minimum, even things like washing machines can be heard so we turn everything off. We always use, unless otherwise specified, a white wall as the background in a room which has good natural light. If the self-tape is urgent and needs to be filmed in the evening we always make sure that the lights are on and test the filming first to ensure that Daisy is clearly seen and clearly heard. Daisy will read through the brief/script until she feels she is ready for me to record it. Always use a tripod or rest the camera/phone on an even surface. As a rule, shoot your child between just above their chest and just above their head unless specified in the brief. I make sure Daisy is wearing a plain top, often black and ensure her hair is clean and brushed in its natural style and that her face is clear of food or if after school, coloured pens!! Once we are ready we will record the self-tape, Daisy will introduce herself and then start reading the lines or acting out the brief. The main thing is to Enjoy the experience!

How do you choose the best footage to put forward?
The great thing about a self-tape is that you can practice until you get it perfect. You want the child to appear as natural as possible and often over practising can affect this, however, you also want to appear as professional as you can whilst filming at home. I will record Daisy numerous times and then when we both watch the footage back together, we choose the version that matches the brief but also the version where Daisy comes across in her most natural way. Also ensure the sound quality is as good as you can possibly achieve at home and that the footage is clear, well lit and as steady as possible.

How does a self-tape differ from an in-person audition?
A self-tape differs in a number of ways, firstly you are able to submit your child without having to leave your house, your child need not 
be nervous as it is you recording their tape and not a stranger. You have more flexibility regarding when to do the self-tape rather than having a small window to attend a casting in person. You are able to practise a few times first to get the best result. My daughter tends to prefer to self-tape rather than audition in person as she feels more comfortable to be herself in front of me. Once you get into the swing of self-taping the quality of the outcome will improve.  

What do you do to make the self-tapes standout?
We try to make the tape as professional as possible, so always remember no other background noises, distracting backdrops or patterned clothing. We often add a title page at the beginning of the tape and this can be a simple as a typed sheet printed out with the child’s name, age and agency clearly stated.

Do you adjust your self-tape method depending on the role? Is so, how? (Eg, lighting, clothing, background, etc)
What we do try and achieve is as close to what the casting director has asked for, so If Daisy was to be playing up in age, i would change her hairstyle and choice of plain top to reflect this. If the tape requires a moving subject, we would also think about how best to allow Daisy to be captured from head to toe whilst she carries out the tape, this is often when a tripod is useful to ensure the camera stays as still as possible whilst the action is moving.

What tips would you give someone who has to send through a self-tape?

1) Don’t rush it, make sure you submit the best version.
2) Always have your child looking their best, so out of uniform and into a plain top with clean hair and face.
3) Keep the background simple and plain.
4) Use the best lit room or put lights on so the child is clearly seen,
5) No background noise, dogs, washing machine, tv etc.
6) Make sure you are clear of the brief.

And last of all, enjoy the experience!


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