Rain, self tapes, money and time

34 days in and again the Gods are angry. The little dog comes home from walking looking so drenched it’s all I can do not to wring her out. The swimming pool in the back is close to overflowing. All the storm drains are full. 

Noah has given up hammering on his ark. The wood’s too wet. This sort of water will take months of sun to evaporate. With characteristic atrocious timing, I have finally found a car at a price that I can countenance paying. It’s a Chevy. Nothing about it works but the engine. I love it because it’s cheap. It’s like all the cars I’ve ever owned. Almost dead. But It only needs to take me through the month. I’ve got nobody to impress and besides, anybody that would cast aspersions at someone’s choice of wheels isn’t worth being concerned about. However little I mind, and however much I’d love it if it was a Corvette, I’m not driving it for the first time in this crap.  I don’t trust LA drivers in rain.

I’ve got plenty to keep me busy at home. My friend has come to The Valley to get some help with a “self tape.” This is becoming a more and more frequent phenomenon. Even though he’s in town, he needs to put himself on camera in a simple fashion delivering the lines in order to be considered for a meeting. It’s another of these trends in my industry that worry me in terms of what it might be doing to diversity. We have all day, and it’s raining, so it’s easy to get it done and sent off. But it takes some setting up, and we have to fiddle around with lights for ages. I’ve got time, he’s got time. We use the time, get it done and send it off.


But what if he was working two jobs to pay the rent, and had to rush it in the lunch break with whoever he could persuade to hold the cameraphone, and one shot at it? At home a lot of people I know have built improvised self tape studios in their flats. Lights, reflectors, a tripod, backgrounds, even a good mic. They can get home at night and do it before they crash. But the equipment costs money which you might need to spend on essentials. And the studio takes room. And at the end of the line, the people who assess the tape won’t have any context. They just have the tape. The guy who gets one shot in his lunch break looks like he doesn’t care unless his coworker happens to be good with a camera. The guy who, like my friend today, has a willing friend, reasonable equipment, and time has a silent advantage. Obviously the hope is that production values are not taken into account for self tapes, but you can’t help worrying that they are. And you know that some bugger will have the time and kit to send it in with knobs on. I wonder what casting directors experience is on this. I’d be interested to know. And I’m looking at just the financial side of it. Loads of great artists are luddites. They’ll never get a good self tape done…


As an old harrovian actor with a flat in Chelsea who can afford to take two months in LA in order to recalibrate myself and settle demons, it worries me that so much is predicated toward advantaging those with wealth. I know this is a frequent touchpaper subject at the moment. I see lots of people speaking to media about it, and lots of wilful misinterpretation of comments on both sides. As it happens the money I took for granted growing up went with my youth. It took me years to recalibrate, and even so I have my beautiful home, and I wouldn’t be here without it. No way. If self tapes are really the future of television and film auditions, is there a way that a fund can be introduced to allow people who live in a tiny flat full of screaming children to use reasonable equipment centrally with no charge? I need to earn some cash and set one up in my flat.”The broke actors audition club of Chelsea – You get a self tape and a meal in exchange for your company.” There is so much infrastructure in place to try to take money in exchange for aspiration. In this city everyone pays to meet people, pays to get qualifications, pays to raise chances, pays to get a self tape down at Spotlight, which you pay for annually. How do we redress this attrition that often forces the greatest young actors out of the industry at the start?

Once again I feel the need to discover a load of oil fields and then die. I’ll get right on it. The soil is wet enough for me to drill pretty deep when the rain stops. I don’t have a drill, but if I tell the dog there’s a treat…?

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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