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Performers Struggle to Fund Self-taped Auditions

MARK GILCHRIST: January is a busy month for actors. That’s when the bulk of the auditions for summer shows are held. But like so many other things, auditions have gone remote, adding another hurdle to the extremely difficult process Emily Schutz has the story.


EMILY SCHUTZ: Dancer Cameron Hah is rehearsing an audition in a midtown studio. The room is large and bright, a camera is set up on a tripod about ten feet away.


SCHUTZ: If this were pre-pandemic she would attend dance calls in person, but since theatre’s opened back up, casting directors have required audition tapes.

CAMERON HAH: January was self-tape city. Probably I was in the studio if not once a week, twice a week, which definitely got expensive.

SCHUTZ: Self-tapes are typical for TV and film auditions but haven’t been used for theatre until now. Hah prefers renting studio space over filming at home because she thinks it looks better to casting directors. And theatre professionals seem to agree. Peter Fernandez is an actor and theatre professor at Columbia University.

PETER FERNANDEZ: The more professional you come off the better you look. It’s probably not good to audition for Juliette on camera in a washroom with a bunch of dirty clothes next to you and no decent sound.

SCHUTZ: But Hah isn’t sure how long she can keep this up. For every audition, she has to rent studio space at $30-$60 an hour.

HAH: It’s definitely not sustainable. I mean just having to rent studio space makes it inherently disadvantaging people who may not have the financial means to get in the studio.

SCHUTZ: Other performers film their auditions in their rooms or outside in the cold. Danielle Burman is a musical theatre performer.


SCHUTZ: She’s filming an audition tape in the corner of her New York apartment bedroom and adapted the routine to fit in a tight space, walking in place over traveling. Even so, her feet are cut off from the frame and at times so are her arms.

DANIELLE BURMAN: In just the month of January alone I submitted 38 videos.

SCHUTZ: Burman says she’d rather film her auditions at home, and save money to polish her dance training.

BURMAN: And If I’m gonna spend $30 on a studio space, then that’s $30 I can’t go towards a class.

Liz Lewis is a casting director, working on theater in New York. She says that during the pandemic, self-tape auditions are the only way to stay safe.

LIZ LEWIS: Although everybody doesn’t want it to, but right now with the way things are going it’s gonna stick around for a bit.

SCHUTZ: But Peter Fernandez thinks self-tape auditions might be here to stay, even after the pandemic fades. He says casting companies are saving time and money with the new self-taping process.

FERNANDEZ: It is cheaper and much quicker for those who are actually seeking talent. They don’t have to rent space anymore. Self-tape is the future.

SCHUTZ: For this season at least, performers are rolling cameras in hopes of landing their big break. Emily Schutz, Columbia Radio News


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