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  • Writer's pictureClare Lopez

BUILDING YOUR SELF-TAPE CLIP LIBRARY

In the absence of a demo reel, actors often wonder when it might be appropriate to use self-taped clips of scene work. Our best usage of these clips is less than straightforward. So here's a guide on how best to build our self-taped clips, when to use them, and when to avoid using them with our actor submissions.

 

THE BASICS - SELF-TAPES VS ACTING REELS:


WHAT IS A SELF-TAPED CLIP?


A self-taped clip, is a short (under a 60 second) clip of a scene which we have self-taped with an off camera reader. These usually are scenes, not monologues, which show off our strongest acting and the characters we tend to play. These scenes are filmed in a professional self-tape audition set up including clean background, lighting and sound. These scenes are usually pulled from TV/FILM scripts that have already been released and not from any NDA sources. Each of these self-taped clips should be separated into individual links/ clips - and not combined as if it were a 'reel'. Reels are for completed footage only.


WHAT IS AN ACTING REEL?


Completed footage of Film/TV productions you auditioned for, booked, and shot. Ideally it’s all completed footage that aired and was distributed somewhere. It’s been produced by a studio, edited, with foley, and color graded. This footage is then edited by your reel editor to showcase your strongest moments. It is a trailer of only your best work and it shows us the type of roles that are in your wheelhouse. These usually range from 1:00 - 3:00 minutes depending on their use.

 

WHEN NOT TO USE SELF-TAPED CLIPS: 


Do not use self-taped clips if you are submitting to a larger scale union project. If it's for a major Network TV gig, or otherwise a larger scale indie film: these projects need to cast actors who've been in high tier films before. Those casting directors need to see completed footage.  At this level, they need to know the actor has that on-set experience and that they can handle being in the high-pressure conditions of a union set. If you know this is a higher tier project, and they ask for a demo reel, and you don't have one: don't submit at all.


WHEN TO SEND-SELF-TAPED CLIPS:


If the project is a smaller, non-union, student or indie short film, you can probably guess that they might be amenable to getting self-taped clips. But it's always good to be sure. In this scenario, a smaller indie or student film might be asking for email submissions and request a reel. Again: if you then send a bunch of self-taped monologues, you’ve just put yourself into a category of inexperience, as someone who doesn't understand what a demo reel is. In this case, I’d recommend that you submit, and make a note in your cover letter/ submission notes saying —


I’m currently awaiting footage from a few projects and so don’t currently have a demo reel available but, if you’d like to see some of my current work, I’ve got a few self-taped pieces up on my website here {link}.”


This way, the director can think: “Okay, this actor understands what a reel is and isn’t hiding or ashamed to be where they are with it. AND can point me towards footage that I can look at right now if I want.”  


Some folks might not want to look at 10 individual links to 10 self tapes, so I personally like dropping only Youtube / Vimeo Link to a clip, or a link to your actor Website or Actors Access. That way, if they are inspired to check out your work they can, and if they don’t want to, you haven’t just bombarded them. If you get ruled out from consideration because you didn’t have a reel, move on. 

 

BUILDING YOUR SELF-TAPE CLIP LIBRARY


You don't have a reel, but you want to put strong self-tapes up on your website or Actors Access in order to submit to those lower tier independent projects. Before you just throw up any old self-tape online, start with these steps to help maximize your time and be smart on your wallet. 


GET HELP WITH SELECTION


What material you select for your self-taped clips can be as important as the quality of those tapes. The scenes must showcase both you as an actor (it shows your strongest work) as well as fit your most castable type (the sorts of characters you were born to play). You might not always be the best judge of what scripts are a good fit for you. Reach out to a teacher, coach, or agent for advice on what sorts of scenes or monologues might serve you. Be clear on what genres and qualities each scene will serve in your overall package on Actors Access. Scenes tend to be better than monologues, as they allow us to see you actively engaging, listening, and reacting. But it’s crucial that your pieces feature you, are age appropriate, and are roles that suit your instrument as a storyteller.


GET PREPARED


Take some time to do your homework and prepare your scene. The first time you record a self-tape should NOT be the first time you've rehearsed this scene out loud with another human being. Do your script analysis, explore the text fully, rehearse, and know this puppy inside and out. Which means: you are off book, and fluent with exploring the journey of this piece. The text is alive and in your body and you are ready to just exist in the world and play.


GET COACHED


There are so many folks who record themselves working on a piece, and share on social media for fun or for feedback. And while getting that self-tape practice is always a good idea, this is a tool in your Actor Marketing package. If you want this to be the primary product an agent uses to submit you, you need to explore this content thoroughly. You need to get some outside coaching and guidance before you pay the $22/ min and upload to Actors Access. If you are still new to the industry, or simply new to the on-camera aspect of this work, the only way to get a feel for how well this piece is serving you, is to get coached on the material. A good coach, will also tell you if you aren't performing your best work and give honest recommendations as to whether or not the tape is usable. Coaches can also assist you into finding and editing content to suit your purpose. 


FOLLOW INDUSTRY STANDARDS


Make sure your self-tape is following industry standards, and shot with high quality gear.  This means having an off camera reader for any other characters, and high quality audio and video with clear light, correct framing, and compressed to the correct size without losing quality. The editing also will allow us to see a moment before and an end button.


UPLOAD TO ACTORS ACCESS & LABEL CORRECTLY


In general, clips should be under 1 min, and should include detailed descriptions so that casting knows what they are seeing before they click play. An example might be:  

Dramatic: Gone Girl – “Unhinged wife gets back at cheating husband”. 

These clips can absolutely be uploaded to your Actor Website too (remember: as long as the project has already aired).

 

FINAL THOUGHTS


It's always okay to be wherever you are in your career.  If you have completed footage for a demo reel, awesome! You won't really need to upload self-taped clips to your casting profiles at all (outside of some special skills clips). But, if you don't yet have a reel, this is a great first step into being able to submit to those smaller, lower-tier student films and shorts. Self-taped clips can absolutely help you get seen for those independent projects. 


While our self-taped clips won't serve us in building a reel, these are a fantastic placeholder of content you can point folks towards who want to see your work. These clips can also be used to submit to agents. If you already have an agent, you can have a conversation about what clips will/ won’t serve you in your career.


Like everything else in our actor package, our materials will continue to grow and be replaces as we continue training and auditioning. Focus on presenting your best work, where you are, today - and let go of the need to be perfect.








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