Acting : The Self-Tape Controversy: Six Actors Speak About What Makes It So Maddening (Yet At The Same Time Strangely Convenient) by Richard "RB" Botto

Richard "RB" Botto

The Self-Tape Controversy: Six Actors Speak About What Makes It So Maddening (Yet At The Same Time Strangely Convenient)

Fascinating takes on both sides of the current self-tape auditioning controversy. Would love to hear Tammy Hunt and others ring in!

The Self-Tape Controversy: Six Actors Speak About What Makes It So Maddening (Yet Strangely Convenient) At the Same Time
The Self-Tape Controversy: Six Actors Speak About What Makes It So Maddening (Yet Strangely Convenient) At the Same Time
By the look of Sunday's Oscar telecast, life had returned to normal in Hollywood. The red carpet was packed with stars, publicists and the media, while the Dolby Theatre was at capacity to celebrate t…
Matthew Cornwell

As I mentioned in the last thread on this, I'm Atlanta-based. We were screaming these same things literally 12 years ago. So it's kinda cute to watch LA actors shouting from the rooftops, as if no one has ever been through this transition before. We're like the parents trying to talk to the teenage kid who thinks no one could possibly know what it's like to be them. LOL. Ok, I'll take my tongue out of my cheek...

I think there's still a gap in understanding on both sides.

Actors forget the advantages of self-tape in favor of the down sides. Here are a few:

1) Personally, I love not having to drive to auditions that are 2mi, 20miles, or 450miles away (yep, Atlanta actors used to drive ALL over the Southeast for TV/film). That savings alone is overlooked. Not to mention the inherent cost of your TIME when you had to wait in traffic, wait in a waiting room, etc, and sometimes lose half a day or more (potentially giving up a shift at work to do so).

2) Since the audition is the ONLY time you are 100% in control of your performance, self-taping affords me the ability to take FULL OWNERSHIP for that brief moment in time. Then, I let it go, and welcome the chance to start collaborating on the callback or on set.

3) Let's face it. You left in-person auditions wishing you had done something different. Even when they gave a note or adjustment. With self-tapes, you never have to have that feeling. You can do a 2nd take! Or a 3rd! You also get to watch your tape back and learn that way. You then have a catalogue of EVERY AUDITION! You know what you did "in the room" so you can bring that to set!

On the flip side, even the most empathetic CDs underestimate the time costs of self-taping. Because even a one-liner audition could occupy a lot of real estate in my brain as I decide when to tape, what to wear, and then deal with either booking a time slot at a service, or setting up my gear at home. And when it becomes a larger role, now you add in spending time getting the lines in my bones, doing script analysis, maybe coaching with someone, etc.

And I can't speak for LA/NY, but in Atlanta, outside of this slow season we're having, it's not uncommon for a workaday actor like myself to have 3 TV/film auditions at the same time, due the same day. I could have 3-12 pages across those 3 auditions to prepare with less than 72 hours to do it. CDs can easily forget that their project is NOT the only one out there. For numbers, I had over 120 TV/Film auditions in 2022. Those are ALL full-budget studio projects. That's almost a full-time job AUDITIONING (when you add in all the time spent thinking, prepping, setting up, etc).

So with an average of 3-4 a week, and with each casting office having slightly different idiosyncrasies on what they like in their tapes (framing, labeling, slate info, files together or separate, do multiple takes or NEVER do multiple takes, etc etc), it becomes MADDENING to keep it all straight. The struggle is real, and if a CD allows themself to think narrowly only about their own office and their own projects, they could easily accuse the actors of just being whiny.

In the end, social media once again rears its ugly head by tipping most people into negativity. That mob mentality has destroyed the potential for a healthy discourse. I am thankful for Stage32, as it always seems to stay away from that toxicity.

But no one's asking us in Atlanta, anyway. And besides, I have a 3-pager to prepare for, so I'll wrap this up...

Matthew Cornwell

And I didn't even acknowledge the defense of CDs in all these Deadline articles. Namely, they don't set the budget, therefore they can't even afford a physical room most of the time, and once they prove they can cast faster and cast a wider net with self-tapes, the producers will hold them to that standard moving forward.

The other note that actors aren't acknowledging is that even with an in-person audition, the ultimate decision makers (studio/network) are still going to see your audition... on a computer. Unless it's a huge role or series regular, there's no need to have those people in the room. So the CD records your audition and then shows that recording to the powers that be.

Again, for each point, there's a counter point (on both sides). And it's sad, because arguably CDs and actors should be the biggest allies, since we're often fighting the same battles...

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