Facebook Live: Casting Performers & Mastering Self-Tapes

The methods in which casting directors, actors, young performers and their parents work have never been so vastly different than in this climate. With many in-person auditions not moving forward, our industry is looking towards digital avenues to ensure productions can move ahead and professionals are cast in roles. With much ownership now on actors to submit self-tapes and take part in Zoom auditions, casting directors hold a very important key in understanding how these can be mastered.

During our recent Facebook Live, we were joined by renowned casting directors Tree Petts CDA and Emily and LJ of Keston & Keston! They have cast incredible theatre productions, commercials, TV shows and more and they were on hand to discuss the changes in casting during the current climate, how it has affected the industry and the long-term effect this period may have, as well as offering expert advice to performers on how they can best succeed. Alternatively, you can watch our session on our Facebook page.

Established actor and Mandy’s Business Development Executive on the USA’s East Coast, Collin Meath, posed questions to our panel, some of which were submitted by the Mandy community. Tree, Emily and LJ provided a unique insight into how they are casting during the pandemic, as well as sharing advice that is useful for every performer.

Tree: “Because we are casting the first round from self-tapes, you need to find somewhere in your house with a plain background so we see just you and our eyes are not distracted. Once you have that spot, your self-tape area, that's akin to you being in a studio.”

Keston & Keston: “We’re so passionate about access to the arts and access for children who are underrepresented. We have always done nationwide tours for casting outside of London to ensure everyone has a chance. During the pandemic this is more difficult but we are doing it virtually.”

Tree: “Parents: please do not over rehearse with your child. You may find there is an energy and spontaneity that may only happen in the first few takes, and this is lost with too much rehearsal and unnecessary takes.”

Keston & Keston: “With a headshot, it is important that above all else the picture looks like you. Don't try to dress up or dress down - dress as the age you are.”

Tree: “Even though you feel a particular self-tape does not encompass the full skill set of your child, just stick to the script - there will be more roles. Do only want what is relevant to that particular audition.”

Tree: “Treat your self-tape as if you are going to a casting. Try not to get panicked if we are asking for self-tapes with perhaps one or two days notice. Just be prepared that sometimes you have to do that in this climate.”

Keston & Keston: “Often parents ask what strong performances from child actors they can show their children. We suggest watching Henry Thomas’ E.T. audition on YouTube. His audition tape in particular is captured beautifully and you can see the young performer truly in the moment.”

Tree: “The downside in this climate for young performers is that we can audition more talent, which means more competition. But each one you do is helping you perfect your style. The more practice you have the better your child will be.”

Tree: “I don't think kids need to get professional headshots done every year. We can't expect parents to do that. What can work is a high-quality image taken from a smartphone. We need to see what you look like now, but as long as it is of high quality, it should be fine.”

We would like to extend a huge thank you to all those who tuned in to our Facebook Live! A huge thanks is also in order to our panel. They offered an incredible insight into how you can perfect your self-tape and virtual audition, as well as understanding the key developments within the industry.

Tree Keston

An esteemed UK-based casting director, catering for major clients both domestically and internationally, Tree has worked on many award-winning commercials, advertising campaigns, films and music videos and is a founding member of the Casting Directors Association. Having cast over 1000 commercials, Tree specialises in traditional casting, street casting and working with children. Over her 20 year casting career, Tree has built up a comprehensive database of 'real' people and professional casters, and has a team of some of the best street casters/researchers in London.

Emily and L-J Keston are children's casting directors and children's general managers. From initial castings through to closing night, they help bring incredible projects to life. They boast a diverse portfolio, and are currently casting for an NBC musical shooting in London later this year. They have cast huge UK-based theatre productions, including casting Cindy Lou in the record-breaking Broadway export ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ (UK Premiere & UK Tour), as well casting 300 children nationwide for Nativity! The Musical in 2018 and 2019 and many more.