When casting directors watch self tests, we only need to watch the first 20 or 30 seconds. In that time, we can ascertain if you are in the right territory. What is the right territory?
Well, where is the series or film set? What performance style does this casting director or director usually deliver?
You must nail the character type as this is far more important than getting the technical right. OK sure, there is a minimum standard, we must be able to see you, hear you. But in that first 20 seconds or so, we will know if you are in the ball park.
If you are, we may watch another 20 seconds. If you are not in the ball park ……. Well, you know the answer to that one.
A casting director is seeking characters to populate a community. The community of the film. Think of Game of Thrones.
There is an intensity and individuality to that series of characters that helps create that community.
That is what we are looking for. If you are in that zone, we keep you on the list. If you are not a very good actor then you are on the B list (but still on the list!)
A good actor who is pitching their character into a different show, has wasted everyone’s time by self testing.
In effect, what you have to do is to place yourself – and your character – into the casting director’s vision of that community. So the prep you do is not about the character, and the intention, and the motivation. It is about the on screen society that this project is attempting to create.
That is your goal. To be in that culture. And if you achieve that, but your screen test is lacking in some quality, they will ask for another test.