Self-Tape Challenge Finished! Sort of…

We did it! For 30 days in a row, during August, we stood in front of our cameras and created a self-tape every single day. Now let me tell ya, it wasn’t easy, there were days I felt like quitting. There were days when I had no idea what I’m going to do up until the point of picking up my camera and creating something. There were days when I hated my tape and felt ashamed to show it to anyone. Also there were days when I was exhausted and fighting headaches, when I have traveled over 200 km few days in a row for auditions or had tough days at the day job and doing a self-tape at the end of the day was the last thing I felt like doing. Yet it picked me up every time.

On the other hand, I’ve become so used to the self-taping that I looked forward to it every day when I woke up. I also couldn’t wait to watch the tapes of other SMFA ninjas who took the challenge with me, because I’ve learned so much from them and they kept me inspired and motivated thorough the challenge. The amount of support this group provided to each other continues to blow my mind and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it. I witnessed how everybody’s confidence, including mine, grew and our performances improved with it.

And we are continuing on a weekly basis, now doing Self-Tape Saturdays and we are thinking of doing a new 30-day challenge in December when things slow down due to the holidays, so we can keep our skills sharp during that time.

Now, I’m not one to give any official advice that an expert would give you, but I hope sharing my personal experience and what I’ve learned will be useful to you. These are some of the questions that I asked myself before I started the challenge that I wished I had answers for. Well, since it’s after the challenge, I think I can answer them now. 🙂

Will I be able to come up with something to shoot every single day for 30 days?
– Yep! Taking the challenge one day at a time turned out to be the key. I felt overwhelmed in the beginning, as I couldn’t imagine how am I gonna make it work. I did not plan ahead too much and listened to what I felt like doing that day. And I tried various things – modern monologues, classical ones, monologues I wrote, vlogs (to practice being myself on camera), cold reading of monologues, un-rehearsed book reading both in English and Czech, various improvs and accent-focused tapes, etc.

Can I manage this challenge together with auditions, gigs AND my day job?
– I’m gonna be honest, it was hard to juggle. What helped was choosing what I’m gonna do that day based on how much time I had to prepare. If I had at least 30 minutes or an hour to memorize a monologue, then that’s what I did. But whenever I was really pressured for time or too exhausted, instead of chickening out altogether, I picked up a random monologue or a book out of my shelf and did a cold-reading. Or when I felt like I had something on my mind that I wanted to share with the group, I shot a vlog, which also didn’t take long to make. What was important for me in this challenge was to not let life interfere with my creativity, because we rarely (if ever) have the perfect circumstances to do our thing. And one more thing, I had to learn to let go of my perfectionism and accept that doing my best under the circumstances is good enough, even though it doesn’t match any perfect vision I had imagined in my head.

I don’t have any filmmaking equipment, how am I going to make the tapes?
– I thought I couldn’t do this without a proper camera, lights or mics, but self-tapes don’t need a lot of production value. As long as you can be clearly seen and heard and there isn’t anything distracting in the background, it’s enough.
I shot all my tapes on my old-ish Samsung Galaxy S Duos, that happens to have solid audio and video that is good enough for now. I used a grey blanket as my backdrop, which turned out to work the best (compared to a white sheet that I also tested but completely washed me out, since I have no tan, haha). For lighting I faced a window if I shot during the day and 3 lamps when I shot during the evening – two ordinary table lamps – one facing me as my key light, one slightly on my side as my fill light and a ceiling lamp as my back light. I diffused the lights by placing a light sheet (old baby cloth diaper, judge me 😉 ) over them. I also had no phone holder or selfie stick, so I had to MacGyver one – I just duct-taped some wires on a box and taped a mirror on top of it, so I can see myself, since I filmed myself with the back camera, as it has better video quality.

Am I willing to put myself out there like this and share my tapes (in a private FB group)?
– This was honestly really scary. For the first few videos, I felt so nervous to share it and it took time to get comfortable with that. However, it turned out that doing this challenge in a group totally elevated this whole experience and I learned so much more than I would have learned doing it on my own. It almost felt like a safe environment of an acting class, except we were spread across 3 countries (bless the Internet again!). Besides what I mentioned above, the group environment kept me accountable and motivated to not give up, because I’d let them down and that’s unacceptable. So I can wholeheartedly recommend doing this challenge in a group!

Lemme know in the comments below if you have any additional questions or concerns, I’m happy to answer! Also if you’ve done this challenge in the past and you feel like you wanna add to what I wrote here, please feel free to share that in the comments, too!

If you are bumping into my blog for the first time and wondering what the heck is the self-tape challenge all about, I recommend you to read this article by Bonnie Gillespie that started it all.

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