Apr 30, 2021
7 mins read
Ello all! So earlier this week, I was recording some Backstage pre-screens/self-tapes, as I'm wont to do, and it got me thinking about all the different skills, jobs, what-have-you an actor must have these days. It seemed like a good topic to pontificate on Evo Terra-style. Hi Boss!
First off, what's a pre-screen or self-tape? It's an audition, basically. While there are still in-person auditions, it's become common for the first round of auditions to be videos submitted via email, WeTransfer, etc. Understandably, this has become even more common during the pandemic. And now, Backstage, a casting call website/publication, applications have a pre-screen option, which skips that first email asking for a self-tape and has you submit one right there with your initial application. Most of the time, they're optional, but as Backstage suggests, it does boost your application. I'm trying to get better about doing these.
So what does a self-tape entail? It depends on if it's an audio or video submission. Obvi, audio is much simpler. Most just want to hear your voice, so I run through the script a few times out loud, then record the lines with my phone's voice recorder app.
Video is more involved, especially if I care that day. You see, some days I decide they just get what they get. Whatever state of makeup I'm in or not in, whatever top I'm wearing, that's what they get. After all, submitting anything is better than nothing, and it's not like [most] guys go through the effort of makeup. Also, I've heard stories of big-name actors who were literally in sweats on their bed when they auditioned for X, and they got the part, so does any of it matter? And most any actor will tell you it's the auditions they don't care about that they land. So again, does any of it actually matter?
Buuuut sometimes I care. And some steps are easy because I'm already set up for them. For example, my ring light and backdrop are always up because I'm doing Murder Mystery Co shows at least twice a week.
So assuming I'm giving it my all, or hey, maybe it's a live, virtual audition, or even a show like my murder mysteries, here are the roles I go through to get to be an actor.
Administrative Assistant - I have to be on top of my own shit. Deadlines, casting calls, resumes, tax documents, location addresses, scripts...Google Drive is a fairy godmother sent to keep me organized and save my life on occasion. I have made emergency detours to FedEx to print a resume, which I could only access because I could log in to my Google account. If you're not using Google Drive to sync all your shit...I-I just don't get it.
Casting Agent - Yeah, I don't have an agent, I'm not with an agency, and I'm non-union. While I'm currently working on getting representation, I find my own auditions and gigs. I'm subscribed to several different websites, I belong to many Facebook groups, and there's always word-of-mouth. If you have the above-mentioned organizational skills, there's not much need to pay for an agent or whatever. I've also been lucky enough to get in good with some casting people who now email me when they have opportunities. That's the tits.
Vocal Coach/Trainer - I warm up my voice with various oos, ahs, tongue twisters, humming, lip-trills, runs, etc. I am very aware of the toll improper speaking can take on my "instrument" since having vocal nodes in twelfth grade. Yes, like Chloe in Pitch Perfect, I'm a survivor. Typically, I multi-task with this while setting up my equipment or getting dressed.
Techie - For lack of a better word. I set up my X-Rite backdrop and my Neewer ring light around my desk. Occasionally, depending on the time of day, I have to add in my clip-on ring light I bought on Wish. Sidenote: this bitch is clutch. She's portable, rechargeable, and has three brightness settings. Pick one up from the e.l.f. end cap at your local drugstore.
Makeup Artist - Lucky for me, I love makeup. I enjoy trying out new products, and I'm slowly but surely gaining more skill. Again, this is an added burden of being a woman in the entertainment industry. Full face includes face primer, foundation, setting powder, blush, eye primer, eyeshadow, brow pencil, brow gel, mascara primer, mascara, lip liner, lipstick, then setting mist.
Costume Designer - For most auditions, this is just picking a neutral top since most of my auditions are virtual, and that's all they'll see. Actually, a bit of a challenge for me since I'm not a neutral personality. But that's where business purchases come in. This is more involved when it's an in-audition or performance, or shoot. So far, I've only had one gig where they dressed me, and that's because it was period, and I had a speaking role. The rest of the time, I show up with my giant suitcase of wardrobe options. I always overpack. I'm wardrobe's dream. Another top? Course. Skirt instead of pants? Sure. You got it.
Hair Stylist - Extra difficult cause I'm a curly girl. I'm proud of that, but I won't lie; it's a challenge. And sometimes I just do a cute bun. But I prefer to show off my curls, which means prepping my hair in braids a good day before. So I have curl-specific shampoo and conditioner and a leave-in conditioner. Hairspray and gel are also close friends of mine.
Actor - I do eventually get to press record, or I hear, "Alright, Allie, whenever you're ready," or my favorite word, "Action!" Some will say on-the-job training is all you need, but I am eternally grateful for the lessons I learned while earning my BFA in Acting at Towson. I feel prepared for any situation.
Videographer/Editor/Publisher - Before I had money to pay for a reel service, I had to edit my own acting reel. When I auditioned for acting internships after college, I edited together all of my video submissions. When I lived at home with my parents, the amazing Bruce Press helped me record auditions. But now I live in my own house and shoot my own stuff. Again, I'm lucky. I edit videos daily for my Simpler Media job, so I'm proficient with DaVinci Resolve.
Publicist/Social Media Manager/Content Creator - So like apparently Instagram has become really important as a metric for the following you as an artist can bring to a project. * sigh * I get it. It sort of makes sense. But it means that I have to do my own promoting and attempt to build my following. This is an even bigger job now with my #FutureBlackCat campaign, but I recognize that's a job I signed up for. Oh, and now they have casting calls for content creators because companies would rather pay millennials $50 or $100 to write, perform, and produce their own content than have professional marketers write ad copy. Or whatever. I don't fuck with that shit. I usually skip those casting calls. But I do promote myself. Want people to come to your show? Like your post? Notice me, senpai? You have to publicize it for yourself.
And that's just what goes into a self-tape. That's not counting the Special Skills you have to have on your resume to set you apart from the crowd, hopefully. Some of those require classes. For instance, I want to be stage combat certified in at least a few weapons. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company offers those for many dollars. But if I'm going to be an action star femme fatale, I think it's necessary.
So I hope you enjoyed this peek into the life of a professional actor in 2021. This is why I ask for cups of coffee. Or cans of Monster. Or tubes of lipstick.
The Last Movie I Watched: The Bishop's Wife
I'm Currently Binging: Dragonball Z, Future Man, Bones