Updated: May 17
As an actor in the southeast, in-person auditions are becoming a rarity (unless you do a lot of commercial work) and a self-tape is the new norm. You will receive a breakdown from your agent and be asked to turn around a fully-realized self-taped audition within 12-72 hours. This is a new skill many actors must learn. And you may ask yourself... Should I tape myself or find an audition taping service?
As a person who is simultaneously an actor as well as reader and coach for an Orlando audition taping service, Book From Tape, I may shoot myself in the foot a bit here because I've seen, first hand, many examples of people booking jobs from *ahem* "low quality" audition tapes. 2 actors are up for the same role... Actor 1 hired a crew to film him in an alley with a very realistic hijacking scene, while Actor 2 (the actor who booked it) was literally holding his own phone in selfie mode against a blank wall. I, myself, have propped a camera on a ladder and filmed an audition without a reader, just reacting to silence... and I booked it.
This tells me that the casting director, director, and producers usually have enough lenience to forgive bad tapes and to be able to see the talent within. But, in my opinion, that's no excuse to consistently settle for bad tapes. Actor 2 was on location and couldn't access a taping service so he improvised and did the best with what he had, which was a phone and a wall. When I taped without a reader, I had exhausted my other options and chose to submit, regardless of taping quality.
In my 11 years in the Southeast acting scene and 4 years of directly taping and coaching actors, I'm convinced using a professional audition taping service will offer you the best chance of booking, and here are my top reasons why.
Your reader is 50% of your heartbeat of your audition. A good reader can provide a character who makes strong choices and responds to you honestly; a good reader can tap into the beats and shifts of the scene, giving you something to work off of rather than steamrolling over everything you'd done up to that point; a good reader knows when to offer something versus keep their mouth shut and let you work. If 50% of your scene is your reader, why wouldn't you invest in someone who will give you the tools you need for a great audition?
Equipment Quality and Efficiency
If you're not prepared to invest a few thousand dollars in a great camera, microphone, backdrop, lighting, and a computer fast enough to edit video files, you can hire an audition taping service to use theirs for pennies on the dollar. More and more casting directors are settling for iPhone videos (which really bums me out) but, as good as the iPhone camera is getting, it will still never beat a professional setup operated by someone who knows how to use it. Taping on a phone should be reserved for emergency situations only.
Each audition you do is not an isolated event of "oh boy, I hope I book this job." This is you flexing your acting muscle and showing your agent, the casting director, and a team of creative types that you are ready to put in the work and invest in your career for the long run. So, in the grand scheme, how do you think it reflects on the hardworking actor when they submit tape after tape but, each time, the lighting is bad, the colors are off, and the room is so echoey you can hardly hear their words? Would you show up to a job interview with an impressive resume but handwritten on a legal pad?
What is your Goal?
The hard truth is, no matter how incredible your audition is, there are 100 reasons after you submit why you will or will not book it. And they are all out of your hands. Knowing that, what is your goal? If it is to submit for anything under the sun and trust that eventually something will land, then you may want to invest in your own setup and make sure your reader takes a few acting lessons. If your goal is to only submit to projects that will advance your career and you treat each audition as a stepping stone to reaching that higher level of work, an audition taping service is a tool that can immediately magnify your work and help you enter the competition at an elevated level.
Jordan Woods-Robinson is an Actor and Head Honcho at Book From Tape Acting Studios in Orlando, FL. He challenges his actors to harness impulse as a tool, to trust their guts, to work on their feet, to break rules, and, overall, to make bold choices that make a lasting impression through tape. Email Jordan