30 Day Self-Tape Challenge: How To's, Advice, and What I'll Do Next Time
If you missed this article, I recently underwent a full 30-day commitment to self-tape a scene every single day. No batching. No cheating. Blah blah blah. I also posted about it every day from my Instagram here.
A few people even got so pumped they asked to participate with me...I can safely say I love all the enthusiasm, but it died shortly after on day 3. So I pushed on alone. Here is how I set it up, what I learned, how I (kind of) did it, what I wish I could have done, and what I am planning for the future.
the technical set up
I posted about my lighting set up in this article, I highly recommend having an easy at home set up not only for this but for your own random auditions. Rarely do auditions come in at convenient times and there is a solid chance you won't be shooting in the purest daylight. I also use this camera rig to prop my iPhone on one of the light poles, then simply move it back to the side of the office space when I'm done. As few technical steps as possible will make this (and all self-tapes) a lot easier and then you can focus on the thing you are required to be good at...the acting. I prefer to shoot with the app FilMic Pro, just because the quality is solid and the ability to adjust the lighting on the video itself is so key.
I seemed to have picked a solid few weeks of summer wherein I had little to no auditions. Yay. Thank god I keep sides. I know a lot of people therapeutically throw them away after every audition, but I have a massive file folder they go into instead. And not just mine. I also put in scripts I was actually hired to work on, sides I used with friends, or even VO's. But if that's not something you have on hand, I have a few suggestions. 1, ask your fellow actors from FB groups, classes, etc to pass along anything they don't have to sign an NDA for (duh), 2, keep a list of the projects you self-submit for and then head to ShowFax and search the sides for the projects (whether you get them or not, if you pay for a membership you have access), or 3, Google literally any movie or TV show with the word "pdf" after it and you'll probably find the script. This option will obviously require a little more effort to search specific scenes.
Other actors will tell you they want to help you...but actually getting on the same timeline is easier said than done. I used my boyfriend (thank you again Caleb....thank you) for a LOT of my auditions (did I say thank you?) mostly because he lives in the same home. Recruiting roommates would be helpful too. If you've been a reader for your friends before, nows the time to cash in on those favors. There's a good chance they too could use some dialogue work. Skype is a viable option, it's annoying and not as clean and simple as in-person, but I resorted to this a time or two to get a reader. Last ditch efforts: monologues (I know) or recording the other half of your lines on video on your computer.
*What I wish I would have known: WeRehearse. This is an online platform based on self-tapes. Not only does this revolutionary company run taping over webcam, they also provide readers if you just need to rehearse, as well as casting and other opportunities. And you can make money by becoming a reader yourself...win/win! Keep an eye and ear out, you'll be hearing more about them soon!
getting it "done"
The hardest part by far was just working the material and getting it into a good enough place to film it. I would schedule my taping session into my calendar the night before (I have a whole post coming soon on how I use my calendar) and then make it happen. I will tell you, not every piece was my finest work. Somedays they were just...complete. Usually, I would not have time till 8-9pm and would film without any makeup, my hair in a messy bun, sweating profusely (side note: don't do this in the dead heat of summer without central air).
*What I wish I would have done: I wish I would have picked my scenes in advance, about a week or so. Scrambling to get it together minutes before my reader arrived was stressful and I never felt properly dressed to be on camera.
where I went wrong
Mid-way through the process, I lost steam. On top of that my grandmother got pretty ill and I needed to travel to see her. I had already traveled quite a bit during the time I set aside (nothing new, we all know self-taping when out of town is a skill we should have since the second you book out, they come flying in!) but this was different. A full few days of solid family time require a lot more attention, so I set aside my challenge for those 4 days. Getting back into it was hard after that. I felt like I failed because I took time off. I had lost my streak. I managed to go the next few days but then I started a new acting class intensive that required a lot of rehearsals and I also started interviewing for a new job. I hit day 26...and stopped. That's right folks: I did not complete the 30 days.
*What I wish I would have done: I tend to go really all into an idea. And never just one idea at a time. For example, I finished Improv, started a new class, did this 30 Day Challenge and decided to change jobs so I could spend more time on acting...within the same 6 weeks. Great in theory...terrible in execution.
I learned a LOT though. Getting material into my hands every single day was a game changer for my skills. Getting off the page comes quicker now than it has in months. I hope to keep the skill sharp AF. I also love that I was an actor every single day. I went to bed knowing I did some sort of work on my career...even if the only thing anyone would see was my screenshot on my Insta-story. And that is priceless.
The next time I do the Self Tape Challenge, it will be 7-10 days long. And all my material will be reel-worthy. And I will film them all as if they were going to execs at Warner Brothers...anyone wanna join?