The audition process in the film and TV industry was revamped during COVID-19 — and it might be here to stay.
After pandemic precautions shut down all in-person auditions, there was a heightened demand for actors to send in recorded videos, known as self-tapes, to audition for roles. The process has allowed for a wider range of people to be able to pursue a career in the film and TV industry.
“I have way more opportunities doing self-tapes,” said JJ Harris, a Vancouver-based actor.
Harris used to work a 9-to-5 government job that didn’t allow her to take time off work for auditions. Now, by having the opportunity to audition through self-tapes, she can hold multiple part-time jobs while continuing to pursue a career in acting.
For Harris, this flexibility has reduced tension when auditioning for roles.
“There’s the mental stress of always being sort of on edge when I get an [in-person] audition,” Harris said. “I want to be happy about it. I don’t want to be like, ‘This is going to cause me so much stress, I don’t even want the audition.’”
On the casting side, people also reap similar benefits from working at home.
“Being able to be in my own space has taken a lot of stress out of my life,” said Maria Georgescu, a casting assistant at Candice Elzinga Casting.
Georgescu said that the transition from seeing 100 people in-person to 100 self-tapes a day was an adjustment, but ultimately quickened the casting process.
Despite the benefits of self-tapes, there are still downsides.
Unlike in-person auditions, self-tapes require a decent level of production skills in lighting and sound.
At the start of the pandemic, Harris had to buy her own equipment for filming self-tapes. Due to restrictions, she also found it difficult to find a reader, someone to read lines for her to reply to.
Bazinet charges $70 for a 50-minute session –– a potentially significant expense for actors.
However, Bazinet’s clients come for more than a simple self-tape.
“My self-tape services are all-in-one and include acting coaching, a reader, a camera operator, editing and uploading,” Bazinet said.
Her customers agree.
“[Self-tape studios] are a voluntary expense,” Harris said. “For me, it’s well worth the effort.”
Georgescu predicts that self-tapes will continue to be used for smaller roles and become initial submissions for larger, principal ones.
“I think it is something that the industry should get used to. Actors can take a bit of control back into their lives and also keep chasing that dream.”