Tiffany Renee Johnson
That's What Walls Are For
This pandemic has turned actors across the world into self taping extraordinaries. We’re all trying to be at least. It’s a doozy figuring out the moving parts behind the camera while working on the material to perform before it. It’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach, but it’s also so cool watching it all come together! Here we are, deep inside this new normal. In light of that, I recently opened my IG story for questions about acting and at least half of them were about self tapes, specifically. That led me to talk about some things I’ve learned, gotten wrong, and actively worked (and am still working) to improve upon.
When the first shelter in place order came about, auditioning as I knew it changed quite a bit. Self-tapes weren’t completely foreign to me, but a lot of it was new, especially the act of orchestrating things behind the camera. Many of them I’d never done on my own before. I was introduced to a world where my friends became Zoom and Facetime scene partners, reading sides (scenes from scripts) with me, from wherever they were in the country. It was an adjustment, but one that I welcomed. I love a good challenge. Finding the best place in my house to tape auditions was an adjustment as well. If these walls could talk, they’d say they held me down for a couple months. They probably also judged my very...peculiar initial setup, where my wall, window curtain, and some things in the background served as my backdrop. My bedroom wall soon stepped up though. It became the star player of March and April, and maybe even a bit of May. It served as my new and improved backdrop and trusted friend. My bedroom light was a close second bestie. My cell phone became my camera, and my stool and books, and maybe even a candle or two, collectively amalgamated into my tripod. I was willing to do whatever it took! We were all a team working toward a common goal: taping effective-as-possible auditions for jobs we hoped would happen in the near future.
After a while, though I thanked my bedroom wall for its service, it was time for change. Again. After watching webinars, attending Zoom talks, and hearing from wonderful casting directors, agents, instructors and unions about ways to efficiently self-tape, I started to think about how I could expand. I knew the things I wanted to add to my arsenal were not required of me, but I wanted to put my best foot forward. SO, I perused the internet and found a few thangs! They included: a blue backdrop and stand, soft box lights, a clip-on lapel mic, and a table top tripod to hold my cell phone. These. Were. Game. Changers. I started to feel more confident about my audition tapes and the quality of them. I started learning how to best light myself. It took me A WHILE to understand how light works best in my space with the things I have (like probably up until yesterday), but I’ve figured it out for the most part. During daylight hours, it’s best for me to face a window, using natural light. During evening hours, my softbox lights work well. In both instances, to avoid the overexposure that light mixed with the hue my blue backdrop can cause, I have to stand far enough away from the backdrop. If I don’t do this, the light distorts my skin tone like crazy. I’ve also learned some new tricks in iMovie, so now I don’t have to adamantly ask my upstairs (and downstairs) neighbors to lower their concert hall level music. I can just silence the background noise. WHO KNEW?! I’m still learning a ton and still make mistakes from time to time. For example, this recent journey I took with plugging my mic into my phone is HILARIOUS. Quick story. I couldn’t figure out why my mic wasn’t working properly the other day. I thought my new adapter was faulty. After a long chat with Apple Care about ordering another replacement, I figured out the problem...the mic switch was OFF. Dawg. Ridiculous. Moral of the story, turn ya mic on and it will work. LOL.
I’ve learned so much and am curious about exploring more things. I’ve found the fun in taping myself. It feels like an exciting new project to explore and conquer, everytime. I’m learning how to be as efficient as possible but also remembering to enjoy myself and to greet each character I put on tape with open arms and an open heart. This will be the way things go for the foreseeable future. Might as well have a ball!
If you have any specific questions about what I’ve learned or used, or what’s been most effective for me, send me a message! I love questions! I love yall!