Code of best practice for self-tape & Zoom auditions for scripted drama
The CDG, CPMA, Equity and the PMA are unanimous in declaring that close cooperation and communication is essential in our industry between performers, their agents and the casting directors' community. For that purpose, these named parties have agreed the following as a guide to best practice in self-tape and Zoom auditions.¹
We understand that self-tape and Zoom auditions can present challenges to all parties involved in the process — performers, agents and casting directors. On a positive note, what has become more apparent, is how self-tapes and Zoom auditions have given opportunities to artists that may not have otherwise been seen for certain roles and to artists that might have difficulty attending physical auditions.
It is understood by all parties that these provisions will not always prove practical due to the fluid nature of our business. In circumstances where the recommendations set out are challenging to implement, the Casting Director involved is urged to make this clear to performers and their agents, and to keep the lines of communication open.
¹ References to Zoom will be deemed to apply to auditions using Microsoft Teams or any other form of video conferencing. References to self-tape auditions will include Zoom/Team auditions unless otherwise specified.
For all parties involved it is hugely beneficial to give as much information to the Artists when requesting a self-tape. We understand with NDAs ('Non-disclosure agreement) and confidentiality on projects this can sometimes prove difficult, but a sense of tone, style of piece, period etc. is incredibly useful, or a more detailed creative vision — a couple of lines from the Director or Lead Creative where possible should be passed on.
In principle, it is agreed that simplicity is a key part of self-tape auditions and performers should not, except in special circumstances, be asked to provide their own props or re-arrange their home as though it were a set.
In relation to the turnaround time for self- tapes, it is agreed that casting directors should aim for a four-day minimum turnaround, with a maximum of six pages to learn in this time. Minimum turnaround for three pages or less would be three days. No artist should be asked to learn more than six pages for a first self-tape and there must not be more than two different roles asked for in one self-tape and no more than two scenes for each role, with no more than two versions of each scene.
In circumstances when an artist decides they do not wish to do a self-tape, it is incumbent on the artist and their agent to inform the Casting Director immediately in order to give other artists the opportunity to tape and to manage expectations of Director/Producers.
If a self-tape is asked for on a Friday, then it will not be due back until the following Tuesday. If the intervening Monday is a Bank Holiday, then the self-tape will not be due until the following Wednesday and no self-tape request will be sent out on a Bank Holiday Friday. Any self-tape requests sent out on a Thursday immediately prior to a Friday Bank Holiday will not be due back until the following Wednesday.
In circumstances where it is not possible to comply with these provisions, it is up to all parties to work together to find a possible compromise or agree to abandon the self-tape.
A reader² is often beneficial to a good self-tape but should not be an absolute requirement. If an actor is struggling here then please communicate to agent and Casting Director and all endeavours will be made to assist. Actors are not expected to pay for readers for their self-tapes.
Where a script needs to be translated from English into another language, unless it involves only a couple of lines, it is the production companies' responsibility to provide the performer being auditioned with such a translation.
The Casting Directors' Guild reaffirms its commitment to Equity's Yes/No campaign and will urge its members to ensure that performers and agents are updated about casting decisions when they have been made.
Under no circumstances should any actor be asked to self-tape fully nude or partially nude. Nor should an actor be asked to send fully or partially nude photographs to a CD or Producer at any point during the auditioning process.
Casting Directors always seek to set reasonable deadlines for self-tapes but it is accepted that unforeseen circumstances may alter such deadlines. If a deadline has to be altered, then Casting Directors will aim to use their best endeavours to organise an extension, if this is requested by the agent or performer.
Casting directors will only call for as many artists' self-tapes as they have sufficient time to consider. It is worth acknowledging that the majority of tapes will be downloaded and viewed either offline or via another platform. It is also worth noting that when a tape is downloaded and watched offline some file sharing sites (Vimeo for example) don't recognise that the tape has been viewed as a result.
Accessible auditions and self-tapes for deaf and disabled talent
A quick fire, non-exhaustive guide to best practice
This summary aims to empower both you as a casting director and the Deaf and Disabled talent you see for auditions to enable the best performance possible.
- PDFs are an inaccessible format for many people. Please send scripts or any other documentation in Word document format unless requested otherwise. This enables the recipient to adapt the text to their unique access requirements and is also accessible to screen readers.
- If you are working with deaf or hard of hearing talent, it's your responsibility to source a British Sign Language interpreter/s. For more information on this, please refer to the Equity guide to good practice with BSL in the arts.
- Time can often be limited, but many deaf and disabled performers require extra time to prepare and read materials for audition as well as possibly organizing any personal assistant or access worker support that maybe needed. So it's best practice to allow for this — otherwise you're not providing an equal opportunity. Materials should be sent as far in advance as possible. This is true for both face to face and self-tape auditions.
- If you're asking performers to demonstrate skills pertaining to their impairment, be specific about what those are. There are many examples of wheelchair users being asked to perform "tricks" at audition. If you're looking for tricks, do you know which ones? However, if instead you're looking to assess a person's physicality or physical capacity, it's better to ask them in a genuine honest way preferably with a reason as to why you need to ask.
- Ask every person you invite to audition, whether they're deaf, disabled or non-disabled, if they have any access requirements. If everyone is asked the same question it will set this standard as the 'norm' rather than treating different groups of people differently. This will encourage deaf and disabled auditionees to disclose what they will need in order to have equal access to the audition. As well as encouraging agents to start to have this information to hand. Many non-disabled people have access requirements too, such as childcare considerations. Access requirements differ from person to person, so if you know what they are in advance you will be able to implement as many of them as possible, allowing both you and the performer to feel more confident.
Some examples of access requirements:
- If face to face, make sure the space you're using has an accessible toilet and step-free access.
- If your talent is visually impaired, they may require a guide from the nearest station to the audition venue and/or to navigate in and around the building.
- For self-taping/Zoom recalls, some people may ask for a certain time slot so as to limit screen time for the day because of fatigue, etc.
- Understanding that lighting is very important for visually impaired and deaf people.
- Some may find filming themselves challenging without a personal assistant or access worker — who they will only have at certain scheduled times in the week.
- The real key to working inclusively is: if you don't know, then ask. Ask the individual or their agent what they need in terms of their access requirements or when it comes to things like break downs, where to find talent, the right language to use etc. Ask the many disability and access advisers and consultants that are out there.
This document, for example, has been created in partnership between the CDG, Equity's Deaf and Disabled Members Committee and C-Talent. C-Talent being a disabled-led talent and consultancy agency based in the UK and US. Who provide expert advice and consultancy services to theatre, television, film, commercial and media production companies from beginning to end of the production process, including casting.