Pre-screen Video Advice

SELF-TAPE ADVICE & INSTRUCTIONS                               updated 10/11/2020

Video auditioning has been around for several years, though until recently it’s been most often used in TV and film. Now, between the pandemic and various social media platforms (Hello, Tik Tok!), we would hazard that almost everyone has set up their phones and recorded themselves doing something. And given that pretty much across the board classes, training, and auditions all shifted to video/streaming formats of one kind or another in the spring, we suspect that many of you already have basic equipment for putting yourself on tape. For your pre-screen submission, keep it simple. If you have video that you submitted for college applications, that is perfectly acceptable as a pre-screen for our purposes. Video of a prior performance is also acceptable as long as you feel it shows you to your best.

Your pre-screen should not exceed 3 minutes in length.

For those who are singing: pre-recorded accompaniment is perfectly fine.

Following are specifics for the different audition types.

Song & Monologue: All videos should include a slate, or introduction, if it doesn’t already have one: “Hi, I’m [NAME] and this is [SONG TITLE].

Monologue Only: All videos should include a slate, or introduction, if it doesn’t already have one: “Hi, I’m [NAME] and this is [CHARACTER] from [PLAY TITLE].

Dancers Who Sing: All videos should include a slate, or introduction, if it doesn’t already have one:  “Hi, I’m [NAME] and this is [SONG TITLE]. Yes, we want to hear you sing. Additionally, Dancers should submit a video of themselves in action, whether video from class, in studio, or in performance. NOTE: This will require you to edit together a brief song cut and a dance demonstration (see our note about editing below). Bear in mind – as we say in our Audition Types page, you are expected to have extensive dance training (10 years+) in multiple disciplines and musical theatre experience or aspirations.

How to Submit: Load your video(s) to your YouTube or Vimeo channel. Log in to your StrawHat account: your dashboard will display the Task, ‘Pre-screen Video.’ Click on UPLOAD. In the next screen you’ll see drop-down menus to select the Title and Type, and a field to copy/paste the url. Click SUBMIT to save your entry. You will use this same section to input your StrawHat 90-second audition and your StrawHat Musical Theatre Dance Call videos (Instructions about the StrawHat Audition video and the Virtual Dance Call are found in the Premium Content section of the website.)

If you don’t already have a video you’re satisfied with, just keep these tips in mind:

  • View. A medium shot is preferred – waist up or a comfortable head and shoulders. No extreme close-ups or full-body shots for songs/monologues, please. Dancers: full body shots are expected for your dance section. We will assume that the camera is focused on you if you’re submitting from a performance.
  • Good light. Good, natural light works great and costs you nothing. Set up your camera/phone so you’re facing a window and the light is hitting your face. If it’s an overcast day, you may need to use other lighting; a ring light if you have one, or position two lamps slightly behind and to either side of the camera, so that you and the lights create a triangle. The two fixtures will balance the light on either side of your face so there are no extreme shadows.
  • Good sound. This can be particularly tricky for singers, because you want good balance between your voice and the accompaniment – too much piano and we can’t hear you. Too much you and we can’t tell if you’re in sync with the piano.
  • Background. If you can, try to find a simple blank wall (grey or blue if available) or other backdrop that’s not distracting. Just avoid a white wall if possible. White bounces too much of the light and is too stark.
  • Possibly… a tripod. We don't want actors to have to spend money on equipment but being able to set up your phone so it’s stable and adjustable may be worth it. There are several inexpensive tripod adapters made to hold phones, as well as ring light/tripod combos to solve both issues at once.

If you need to edit to combine videos: Equity Actor Richard R. Henry put it very well on a recent discussion thread, “YouTube has been an invaluable resource to me for questions about editing in iMovie, Premier Pro, or GarageBand. These little tutorials are usually taught by 14-year-olds from Britain which is very humbling but they know what they’re talking about.”

There is SO MUCH ADVICE out there! There are professional studios, coaches who specialize, online classes you can take – but this is a pre-screen, so don’t go crazy (or let it make you crazy). Keep it simple, try to have some fun, and Let the You Shine Through.