Stepping Into The Frame Without Fear. Three important tips on how you can level up your self-tape auditions and tap into that inner magic!
When I was a kid, I had no problem letting my imagination soar! My playing space around me was all my own. I was in total command of it.
But as I grew older, expectations I had about who I should be and how I should look changed my relationship with that once-safe space. I started to build walls to hide my inner magic. Walls like, darting my eyes and crossing my arms. Behaviors that really meant: don’t judge me.
Thankfully, I realized quickly that it was important to cultivate a practice that made me feel safe and freed me in front of the frame. I needed tools to break those physical habits and to tear down that emotional wall hiding the magic behind my eyes.
Here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way to free myself in front of the camera, level up my self-tapes, and tap into my inner magic!
The eyes are the windows to the soul. So why hide them? Knowing how to effectively use my eyes in the frame is an important part of my preparation. To do this l set up markers behind the camera to practice my eyeline before I audition.
I think of the camera lens as the center of a clock. My reader might be at 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock. That doesn’t mean my eyes have to stay there. I can play with the space at the top of the frame near 12 o’clock and the space at the bottom of the frame at 6 o’clock if the scene calls for it. As long as my eyeline is specific, I am free to make solid choices.
Here’s an exercise that can get you started with a seamless eyeline:
Will you ever have to imagine a rainbow in a scene? I have no idea! But you may have to see someone or something from one side of the frame to the other using only your imagination. Once you learn the feeling, you will be able to do it easily from memory.
During my self-tapes, I watch to see if my gaze is targeted. The more I practice, the less afraid I am and the more fun I have. When my imagination is in full swing, you better believe those choices are strong! Then I’m confident I've painted a clear picture of the imaginary world with my eyes. And confidence is key!
As an actor, you are the instrument. Having an awareness of how to use that instrument includes how you stand in the frame. When I am in control of my instrument, I feel free. That same freedom will help you level up your self-tape auditions as well.
I promise you don’t have to stand front and center like a rigid statue for your self-tapes. You can use your angles to make the frame come alive!
Since self-tapes for film and TV are (for the most part) in a medium close up, it’s good to remember that there is a 45-degree angle you can use in your playing space.
My eyes can travel from either side of the frame and my body can certainly move, but I keep my angles no wider than 45 degrees. This will prevent me from playing in profile and hiding my inner magic.
Here’s an exercise to get you started with utilizing your angles (which will build on the last exercise):
Repeat the exercise but this time:
Practicing in the frame beforehand, seeing what comes instinctually, and watching it on playback helps to ease my fears. I’m giving myself time to shape and reshape the scene. I’m giving myself time to play. Whether you choose to move or not to move in the frame, utilizing your angles can make a big impact. So take command of your playing space!
The most important monologue of your life will be what you say about yourself. Positive affirmations, meditation, and power poses are methods I employ whenever I need to get out of my head and become grounded. This helps me free my inner magic.
Before auditions, I always affirm to myself that “I am confident, I am talented, and I am enough,” for about a minute or two. This is something that I continue to do even before my self-tapes and zoom auditions.
It can be easy to forget that we’re artists about to play when we’re also concerned with our lines, the lighting, sound, the backdrop, and our framing. Taking two minutes to take care of our inner magic will do wonders as we embody a character in an audition – because at that moment we ARE that character. That moment is ours. We should be able to inhabit it fully without fear (aka negative self-talk) getting in the way.
Here’s an affirmation – or as I like to call it, my manifesto - to get you started:
Every day, I am…
… an actor!
You can pick up a free printable of this manifesto here. Print it out and put it on your vision board or save it on your phone. Read it out loud when you need a reminder of how incredible you are.
Being as free as we were when we were children can take practice, a safe space, and the ability to shape that play into something that is fulfilling and gratifying for us as storytellers (and for the audience). Doing all of this from home should feel just as freeing. And it can be if you let it.
So when you’re at home filming your self-tapes or auditioning live on-camera, try to remember one very important thing: YOU ARE MAGIC, UNLEASHED. Now go get your scene!
Lisann Valentin has appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, including NARCOS, THE BLACKLIST, and MANIFEST.
The actor and author shares on-camera acting tips in her latest book, The Everyday Actor, encouraging fellow actors to refine their on-camera technique and keep their magic alive! But this happens to be the second book on her shelf. When Lisann left the law to pursue her acting career, her abridged memoir, “Playing the Part,” was part of the New York Times Best Seller: Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It.
While this multi-hyphenate has lived many lives, Lisann’s favorite role has been as a storyteller in film and television for over a decade.
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