Tape one: Detective Watts
This tape was done in about twenty minutes, from the time the casting director called me. She asked why I hadn’t submitted for the role, and I told her I didn’t think I was age-appropriate. (It’s always nice to be contacted directly from a CD who is thinking of you, but this happens after they all get to know you better.) She asked me for a tape asap, nonetheless. D’Lytha and I were at the studio shutting the building down to leave town on a trip. We stole 20 minutes to make this tape and get it to the CD. I used my best memorization skills, an anchor prop, and some cold read skills. I shot it with a DSLR in the studio on the grey wall using a three-point light setup. Please note the eye position of where I place the other characters in space. Does it inform you of their location? Can you tell whom I’m speaking to? Can you sense the status of the characters in the scene? The crackers were NOT in the exposition, but something I added for interest as the exposition suggested the cops might be on a lunch break. After making this quick tape in 20 minutes, I followed up with the casting director, a couple of days later, and she told me that she loved my tape and interpretation, but they had decided I was NOT age appropriate. 😉 Use your gut. Mine was right, but in situations like this, you should probably submit anyway. I learned something AND I’ve been able to use this tape and experience for educational purposes.
Tape 2: Inspector Spratling
I actually booked this role on AMS Pictures series, Murder Made Me Famous. It was a fun shoot in Corsicana doing period, England and the Jack the Ripper story. I’ve included this tape for two reasons. It’s very cinematic. There’s little dialogue; it’s mostly reactions. This is what a CD is watching for. I’ve also included this one because it’s lighting and backdrop is more rudimentary, but I want you to see that a tape doesn’t have to be shot perfectly on a gray wall, etc….in order to be a book-able tape. Use what you have and make sure it’s not distracting.
Tape 3: Simon Napier Bell
If you get deep into my tapes archive, you’ll see that I’ve played several historic characters. I’ve included this self-tape because it shows a different backdrop color I was using at that time — but it’s still a bookable tape. This tape shows some use of anchor props. You don’t see them, but you hear the glasses at the top of the scene. I’ve dressed for the part, and I’ve added the dialect they wanted. I studied Simon’s actual accent before making this tape — found him in old MTV and Youtube videos. The second scene is very cinematic and required me to interpret a moment where WHAM was being accosted by Japanese fans. Simon is helping hold back the fray while calling for a car. This type of action on screen (cinema) is very helpful to tell a CD that you’ve got what it takes. If you can create some semblance of realism in a studio, you could even more easily create it on a real location or on a green screen. I actually booked this one.
Tape 4: Razmig
I lived in Russia many years ago and so I’ve always dreamed of playing a Russian on TV. Unfortunately, my archetype isn’t what most Americans think about when they think of Russians, even though I technically look more Russian, in reality, than many of the brutes we see in archetypal roles in TV. So, I have yet to fulfill this dream. I was excited to audition for this project, though, but was shocked by the sides as there was VERY LITTLE dialogue and at least two pages of lengthy exposition. This required some interpretation on my part. The character was supposed to fall down on the ground and wallow in a puddle and hide under cardboard while lying on the ground, which isn’t possible in a self-tape, so I MODIFIED that action here. Take note. Notice how I use the sides of frame to suggest the character is hiding. This is a significant modification in the spirit of what’s written. I also take hits from invisible characters by telegraphing movement. The casting department told us we wouldn’t hear from them unless we were in consideration for a part; I heard back about 48 hours later and they told me they absolutely loved my tape and that I was being considered. In the end, I didn’t book this role, but it was very close, and the affirmation from casting was a rare treat. This movie is now in theaters, at the time of this note, in 2022. When in doubt, Modify. Modify. Modify. Make sure you maintain the spirit of what’s written. Another significant reason I’ve included it here is because I did NOT have a good reader accessible the night I made this tape, so I recorded the dialogue of the other character and reacted/acted along with pre-recorded dialogue. After recording the tape, I placed it in my editing software and removed the brassy live audio of the other character and replaced it with a less distracting and more subtle dialogue track. You can do this too when you have no reader. Brush up on your editing skills to make this happen. I liked this option too, because it allowed me to show off my Russian accent.