Director of multi-award winning performing arts school The MTA, Annemarie Lewis Thomas gives her opinion on the rise (and rise!) of self-tape auditions in our industry, and describes in detail the steps she has taken to incorporate the trend into The MTA audition process.
2017/18 will be The MTA’s 10th year of auditioning a new intake. Since opening in 2009 the industry has changed so much. I think that people actually forget how quickly the arts evolve – indeed, it’s one of the reasons that I insist on hiring a faculty that actually work in the industry, to ensure that my students are trained essentially for tomorrow’s industry (if that’s at all possible)
Back in 2012/3 we were tipped off that over in LA self tapes were becoming the next ‘big thing’. In truth I hated the idea. Actors setting up videos in their homes or hired studios, performing to camera and then sending them off to faceless production companies or casting directors. However I had received the information from a reliable source, and duly passed the information over to my students. At this point it was just that . . . information, that this ‘thing’ might be coming.
Then almost in the same week, I suddenly had students asking to book out our acoustic pod because they were going to be ‘live auditioned’ and interviewed via Skype! I couldn’t quite believe it. It was a mixture of relief that I had pre-empted the trend, so that they weren’t phased by the request, but there was also the realisation that we, as a college had to actually start dealing with the trend, in case it set in and became more than a passing fad.
In truth it took a little while for self tapes to really explode in the UK, however explode they did, as casting directors and production companies suddenly realised that they were a cost efficient way of seeing a greater number of people. European companies could cast their nets much wider by placing a self tape advert.
If an actor could lose the fear of self taping, they could often work in their favour, after all you got to send the casting people your best attempt, unlike in the audition room when it was a one take moment.
Of course with smart phones getting smarter, and their videoing capabilities soon overtaking the handy videocam, the self tape culture had found a natural ally.
At The MTA we had found an amazing company, Go Film It, who specialized in smart phone filming (who incidentally matched our ethical code, as the owner Cass does some amazing work within the community), and had started to bring them in to teach our lot how to best set up their equipment in order to produce an industry standard self tape. As flash forward to 2016/7, and there was an industry standard. The old ‘point a camera at the wall and stand in front of it’, didn’t cut it any more. You weren’t expected to be Spielberg, but you were expected to have good quality sound, good light, have a neutral backdrop etc.
As a college with a 50/50 stage/screen split, my graduates can now expect to do as many self tape auditions as they can regular ‘in the room’ auditions. Therefore when I was reviewing our 2017/8 audition procedure, specifically how to cut costs for the auditionees, it became a no brainer to go down the self-tape option.
I am acutely aware that the drama school audition circuit is expensive for the auditionee. Whilst I’m confident that my college gives the applicant value for money, I know that the additional costs like travel and accommodation soon mount up when you’re applying to several colleges. So by offering up a self tape option first, I can potentially save someone all of those costs.
The theory is simple. At The MTA the successful applicant must be strong in 2 disciplines and will have the ability to be taught the 3rd. Now myself and my team won’t be able to tell if you’re able to be taught the 3rd until we meet you, however we will be able to tell if your 2 disciplines are strong enough simply by watching you on a self-tape.
So in order to make this less intimidating, we teamed up with the Shootdotme app (which we predict will soon become the industry standard – so it’s a useful one to download anyway), and if you’re using an Ipad or an Iphone you can simply use that and email us your self tape. If using an android device you can upload your self-tape directly onto our website.
The tapes are watched by myself and my senior faculty, and we’ll get in touch within a few days to let you know whether it’s worth you carrying on with your application or not. In other words, you don’t pay anything until you know that it’s worth your while.
We hope that this proves that The MTA is not using the audition process as a revenue resource. However we also hope that it proves, that once again The MTA is leading the training sector, not simply keeping up with it.
Many colleges have used self-tapes or DVD’s (back in the day) to essentially audition overseas students. However this is the first time that a college has offered up a self tape audition to all students. We hope that more colleges embrace the technology and start reducing the costs for applicants.
Find The MTA @ PerformingArtsTutor.com