Self-Tape Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Chances

Self-Tape Mistakes

When the casting agent asks you to send in an audition tape, you’d either dread the time-consuming process you’re going to suck at anyway or forget about the casting call entirely. If you’ve sent out a couple of tapes and haven’t booked jobs from them at all, you’re probably doing something wrong. How do you increase your success rate in landing more roles when self-tapes are required? Here are the common self-tape mistakes actors make that give casting directors the cringe.

Self-Tape Mistakes: Why You’re Not Getting Callbacks

Casting director Howard Meltzer says, “The self-tape has to be good, if not better, than the actors we are seeing in the room.” Don’t let these common self-tape mistakes deter you from making your audition a huge success! Here are self-tape mistakes to avoid:

Shooting too close or too far

The casting director should be able to see your face, eyes, and expression in the video. Don’t shoot too close or too far. Get it just right, and shoot from the waist up.

Self-Tape Mistakes

Shooting vertically

Probably one of the biggest self-tape mistakes in casting is viewing a video that was taped vertically. It is standard that all self-tapes should be shot horizontally, no exceptions.

Distracting background

Don’t film in front of a wall with any distractions. Clear a wall of paintings, clocks, and all clutter that will steal the focus from you. Shooting in front of closets, in a bathroom, or cluttered kitchen is one sure way to lose your chance. A self-tape should be filmed in front of a blank wall of neutral color like gray or blue.

Self-Tape Mistakes


This is film, not theater. Acting for film or TV does not require being heard in the farthest row. In fact, just the opposite is true. The more “intimate” and soft your voice is, the more attention you will command on-screen. Show your character’s emotion without trying too hard.

Overdressing, underdressing, or undressing

Choose clothing that suggests the character in subtle ways. However, don’t overdo it. If you’re auditioning for the role of a nun, you absolutely shouldn’t dress as a nun. Don’t underdress either. You shouldn’t be sporting a bed head, shorts, and a tank top if the character is a businessman. Stick to solid colors, but avoid white. No hats, crazy makeup, excessive patterns, stripes, or unnecessary jewelry. Most of all, do not undress just to make a statement.


Poor sound and lighting

Are you still balancing your iPhone on a stack of books and strategically aiming lamps at your face? Soft box lighting, a lavalier microphone, tripod, and iPhone tripod adaptor clip all come in cheap and are a good investment if you are going to be doing a lot of self-tapes. Do not film your self-tape in a busy, crowded place. Traffic noise, ringing phones, and children playing are all to be avoided. Sound quality is equally important to image quality. Also never film in a dark room or in a room that is only lit from above. Poor lighting is certainly a deal breaker.

Not standing still

Being still is a big part of being powerful and interesting when you’re acting in a tight frame. If you don’t show that you know how to deal with the requirements of acting in a tight frame right from the top, casting won’t be inclined to stick around to watch the rest of your audition.

Fumbling with your script

Off-book is always best. You may tape the lines to the tripod so that if you need to glance at it, the viewer is still getting a full view of your face. Ensure that you are not looking down too much at the script during the scene. The casting director doesn’t want you to be obscured by the script. They need to see you engaging with your reader.

Choosing a bad reader

Pick a reader who’s already a good actor because even though you’re the one auditioning, a bad reader can bring the tape down. Make sure your reader stands to the immediate right or left of the camera and brings their volume down a bit. This will put your eyeline close to the camera lens without looking directly into it. There’s nothing worse than a reader who thinks their performance will land them the starring role in the film. The actor should always be louder than the reader. The focus should be you, your acting, your connection, and your eyes. It may take readers some practice to make sure they don’t steal focus, but it will be well worth the effort. Most importantly, the reader should not be seen at all.

Forgetting to slate

When performing the audition, you shouldn’t be looking at the camera but at your reader. The only time you should ever face the camera is during your slate. A typical slate is directed at the camera and includes your name, your agency, and the role you are auditioning for. If you’re underage, you may need to state your age.


Submitting an unedited self-tape

If you’re taping two scenes, you need to be able to edit them together as seamlessly as possible. Casting directors would not want to see any arms or fingers coming to the frame to press the off button. Learn how to use an editing program, or find a professional. Also, send only your best take.

Labeling the file inappropriately

Be sure to label your file or link correctly and clearly. If they don’t give you instructions, use this format for files: Last Name, First Name, CHARACTER NAME, Project Title. Sometimes even a simple “Name_CHARACTER” will suffice. The casting director’s downloads folder is already filled with too many self-tapes named “,” “,” “,” or “” Don’t add to their stress, and make your file easy for them to find.

Don’t put mediocre work out into the world. Treat every tape like it’s going to be sent to Hollywood. By avoiding the self-tape mistakes above, you will have a better chance of winning the casting director over and getting the callback you’ve always been waiting for. Remember, your self-tape audition is your elevator pitch!

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