HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED
When I decided to become a professional actor, the very first class I took was an Audition Bootcamp. The instructor had us go through the entire audition process including walking into the room.
I hit my mark and said, “Now what?"
“Now you slate.”
“What’s a slate?”
LOL! I’ve come a long way since my initiation days, but I truly had no clue what a slate was. Now I feel like I spend 40% of my auditions worrying about the slate.
Once I got my self-taping studio together, I didn’t realize how involved taping an audition slate would be. I was also surprised to see all of the various slate requests I received. I guess I assumed there was a standard slate. Not so, Actor Boss.
Full body slate shots became my primary self-taping hassle. In this post, I’ll breakdown how to save yourself tons of time self-taping your full body shots.
Disclosure: Hey Actor Boss, I have affiliate links in this post, which means at zero extra cost to you, I make a commission if you purchase through my link so I can keep delivering the Actor Boss goods.
What about you? What's your biggest struggle with self-taping? Comment at the bottom of this post to share.
WHY ACTORS DREAD THE FULL BODY SHOT
If you're self-taping an audition at home, I'm guessing that you also hate resetting your studio to get the dreaded full body shot each time. Why is there no universal standard for slating?!
You may be surprised at how often you'll audition alone or via video, leaving you to shoot the full body shot yourself. That means no zooming or panning plus resetting your camera and lights. This. Takes. Time.
I solved this problem by saving all of my full body shots and slates to my phone. Now I can just pop whichever one I need into my audition video. However, this isn't as straight forward as it sounds. There are a few tips and tricks you should try to make those shots easier to use.
AUDITION SELF-TAPING SLATE TIP #1
It's too confusing when your hair is different in your closeup and your full body shot. The full body shots are typically a quick two seconds, so make it seamless.
Film a full body with your hair up and one with it down if you ever wear it in a ponytail so you can easily select the one that matches your closeup.
You don't want them to stop and say, "Wait is this the same person?" It may also feel like you used an old full body shot, which can create doubt about whether or not you actually look the same now.
AUDITION SELF-TAPING SLATE TIP #2
You can use wardrobe to make your slate transitions seamless, too. Pick one shirt to wear for all of your general reads that aren’t wardrobe specific so your audition outfit always matches your primary full body shot.
I had a life uniform for a while, and I miss it. I scored big with nine blue V-neck tees at Target on sale for less than $5 each! If the audition didn't suggest wearing something character specific, then you can bet I was wearing that T-shirt.
This saved me so much time because I never had to change or prep an outfit for self-tapes. I'm hoping Target gets that blue color back soon so I can go back to my life uniform days.
AUDITION SELF-TAPING SLATE TIP #3
Remember, you need to look the same in your self-tapes as you do in reality. If they book you from tape or give you a callback, will you look the same?
I suggest you update those full body shots every six months, unless your look drastically changes before then. Got new hair? Gotta update it. Lost or gained weight? Gotta update it. Got a cool new tattoo? Gotta update it.
You 100% cannot show up looking differently than you do in your self-tapes. It puts everyone in an odd position of either spending more money to make you look like they thought you did or wasting a bunch of time recasting your role for someone who has the look they need.
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Learn everything they forgot to teach you in acting class.
MARK THE FLOOR IN YOUR SELF-TAPING STUDIO
My actor friend Tracie and I read for each other's auditions. She came to my house at first until we moved across town from each other and discovered the magic of reading via FaceTime.
One day, she was in my studio and saw how much time it took me to move my lights and camera around until I had everything in just the right spot.
She said, "Why don't you just tape your floor?" DUH! I am a theatre major for crying out loud! We used tape for everything!
I needed a quick fix, so I just used masking tape that I had on hand already. If you want the pro stuff, then spike tape is what you need. You can get it in a variety of colors to mark your various setups.
For example, you can mark where everything goes for your full body shot in blue, closeups in green, and medium shots in orange. Spike tape is designed for residue-free removal so that it doesn't damage your flooring. You may still want to swap your tape strips every quarter just to be safe.
Spike tape is also awesome because you can easily tear it by hand.
YO! Please remember that you cannot vacuum or clean your floors or carpet while the tape is still there. You will create a hot mess that's not easy to fix when you're ready to move.
Even though spike tape isn't supposed to leave residue, it still may create a shape on the floor since that part of the floor hasn't experienced as much wear-and-tear as the surrounding areas.
PREP YOUR SELF-TAPED AUDITION EDITS
Save yourself even more time by creating an audition editing work flow. I've scrolled through my camera roll wasting so much time being aggravated that I couldn't find the stupid shot I needed when keeping it was supposed to save me time in the first place!
Save those full body shots or generic closeup slates to an album in your phone, and name it "Slates." Done. Easy. Now all you need to do is open that album and transfer the correct file to your video editing app.
You may also consider creating projects in your video editor with each full body shot you have. That way, if you're wearing a polo for your audition, you'll already have a project started with your fully body polo shot. Wash, rinse, and repeat for your other outfits. Ideally, though, you'll wear the same top for your general reads.
SHOOT YOUR LAST SELF-TAPE SETUP FIRST
I was stuck on the idea that I always needed to reset my self-taping studio "back to one" once I finished taping my auditions. That meant shooting my closeup, moving my equipment to shoot my full body, then moving everything back into closeup position.
One day, I was in too much of a hurry to reset my equipment once I finished self-taping. The next time I went into my studio, everything was still in "position two" for my full body shot. I thought, "Great! Now I need to waste time resetting, and you know my hair is going to look frizzy once I do."
My mind functions in ordered checklists. If the closeup is going to be first in the edit, then my brain thinks that's what I need to shoot first. I started to reset my studio for my closeup and medium shots, when I realized that I could just start with the full body shot because my studio was already setup for it!
If your studio is already in the full body shot position, shoot that first. If it's already in the closeup position, shoot that first. Do not waste time resetting your studio once you finish self-taping, and do not waste time changing the initial setup when you go back into your studio for another audition. Shoot your last setup first.
I know that sounds simple, but I'm saying it in case you're an actor that thinks like me. It's ok to shoot out of order. Movies would never be made if this weren't true. No one is going to know that you didn't shoot in order, except for maybe your OCD.
Take it from someone who gets flustered when things aren't in a specific order--your time is too important and too valuable to waste on unnecessarily resetting your studio.
It's also a good habit for you as an actor to break this linear thinking when it comes to your work so that you don't get flustered at shoots. It's very possible that you end up shooting the last scene first, the first scene on day ten, and your major character arc on a totally random day due to weather.
I recently watched a show on Amazon Prime. In case you haven't seen this feature yet, when you hover over the scene with your cursor, you can sometimes see Trivia about the show. I was shocked to see that they filmed the entire season based on location availability. That doesn't just mean that they filmed an episode out of order--it means they filmed the entire season out of order with scenes from multiple episodes on the same day.
Those actors were ping-ponging scripts, emotions, and lines like crazy people. So it's possible that you'll be put in that situation as an actor at some point. You're constantly at the whim of the production schedule. Learning to be flexible in your self-taped auditions will prepare you for being more flexible with schedule changes on set.
What do you need to start doing to save yourself time on your self-tape slates? Comment and let me know which tip you found the most helpful.
If you want a full breakdown of my self-taping studio equipment, check out my page Spurgeon's Favorite Things. I'm still using the original lights that I purchased almost three years ago now, and I haven't needed to replace the bulbs yet.
You don't need to buy everything at once. At the very minimum, you need a tripod to keep your camera steady. With that, you can shoot against a blank backdrop with your smartphone while standing in front of a window with great natural light.
Eventually you'll need to upgrade, though, if you want casting directors to take you seriously as a professional actor. I'm about to upgrade my backdrop three years later. Self-taping is essential to an actor today, so just start somewhere.
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