Top Tips For Self Tapes From 3 LA CDs

A guest post by Mai Arwas, an Israeli Actress who grew up in London and now lives in LA.   Mai Arwas...

    Nowadays self-tapes are such a big part of the auditioning process. You have got to be prepared— anytime anywhere— for that email from your agent asking for a self-tape ASAP.

As we approach pilot season, I decided to reach out to a few casting directors and ask them 2 questions:

1. What is their number one pet peeve about self tapes?

2. If they could give one piece of advice to actors in LA today about self-tapes what would it be?

Despite how busy they are, these three top CD’s took the time to answer those questions. Awesome right?


* Risa Barmon Garcia, The BGB Studio,  Risa’s résumé includes more than 65 feature films and numerous television shows and pilots, including: SEAL Team, Roseanne, CSI: NY, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life and Sing it!. Steve Braun is an acting coach and his clients include lead and recurring actors from West World, Mr. Robot, Feud, Narcos etc.

“No matter what it looks like, if the work you present isn’t amazing, it probably won’t get noticed. Make bold, personal choices, explore and discover in the work. The more you can see the self-tape as an opportunity to play, explore, discover, and find the joy in that, the better your work will be.”

“Take a breath, slow down and allow time for your work. Taping a scene takes time before, during and after. Don’t take a week to do it. But there are no extra points for finishing quickly. Honor your work by taking the time.”

“What does it take to have the industry chase you instead of you chasing it? To be in tangible command of your career? It takes you getting off your ass and making something happen. It takes you creating something. It takes rethinking your place in this business, believing that you deserve to be here, and claiming your seat at the table. It requires that you put yourself out there, that you take action, even if it’s baby steps, to be the master of your own mad invention.”


* Terry Berland – CSA Casting Director on legions of commercials, voice overs, films, video games and theatre. She also teaches commercial acting workshops Credits include: The Chocolate Soldier, G.R.E.T.A, Cathrine and Out Way to Fall.

It’s bad if the on camera self taped auditions are shot too close.  Let us see body language. For voice over self taped auditions, I like two takes to show a bit of range. For on camera— don’t over act.  Keep your performance honest.  If you are reading with someone else, have that person off camera. For VO.  Don’t rehearse and rehearse and edit the heck out of the audition you are submitting.  If you get booked and can’t take direction and give a good read on a dime, you are not representing yourself properly.”


* Susan Deming (The Heist, Time Is a Place, The Gunfighter)

My #1 pet peeve is too many bells and whistles up front. I just need to get to the ACTING. A simple name slate is ALL we need. No floating graphics, no still photo of your resume and agent info – I already have that. Get in to your WORK as fast as possible because oftentimes my decision to call someone back is made within the first 15-30 seconds of the tape and, it’s best if those first moments are YOU doing THE WORK!”

“Don’t grouse about self-tapes, please. It’s usually NOT the casting director’s decision. Look at it as an OPPORTUNITY to craft your audition EXACTLY as you want it. You can’t possibly know what the CD or directors or producers WANT for the role – we don’t know until you SHOW US! Also, please DON’T spend money doing a self tape. Being an actor is costly enough with all the sacrifice and rejection you accept to follow this passion. Again, the perfect lighting and the “professional” background mean NOTHING to those watching the tape – THE WORK is what matters (as long as we can see and hear you…)! And, pay close attention to the submission guidelines the CD’s office gives you – familiarized yourself with VIMEO, Dropbox, WeTransfer, etc. and know how to make files fully downloadable, pay attention if you are asked to NOT password protect, etc.”

GET THE GEAR26661222389_633f9a71ed_m

If you do want to do it at home and want to invest in some gear which will also be great for ‘on the road’ here are some options:

CAMERA – you want your video to look good, good picture and not a bad quality one, and of course amazing acting, but here are some options for you:

* You can download an app on your phone which makes your phone camera 10 times better, it’s called: ‘FILMIC PRO’ and it is only $15

* Panasonic G7 – I just bought that one so can vouch for it! It has got an amazing quality, and it has auto focus that tracks you, so if you move during your audition you are always on focus.

* Camcorder – any camcorder is going to do the job as well. – a lot of my friends use basic camcorders and their tapes look awesome!


If you’re just not tech savvy and you need some help, here are a few places where you can go and get self tapes done:

* LA On Camera Training Center –

* CAZT (self tape yourself for FREE) –

* The creation station studio –

Some agents have a set up in their office for their clients to come self tape too.

If you label your file with your name, the role, and the project it will be easy for the CD to find your file. 

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