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The Essentials

Five tips for performer parents or guardians who need to self-tape whilst caring for kids or babies.

Self-tapes have opened actors up to a world of possibility, but they can become pretty complicated when you add small children into the mix. Love them or loathe them, self-tapes are here to stay but if you’re a parent or guardian of small children, that idea needn’t fill you with dread.

I’m an actor, and so is my partner. As the number of self-tape requests grew, so did our family and I’ve had to learn some nifty tricks to navigate taping in a busy household of toddlers and children.

If you’re new to self-taping around little people, here are a few tips to help you out.

1. Tape when your baby sleeps

It’s an obvious one but nine times out of 10, it’s easier to do a self-tape when your little ones are asleep. If you have a baby under one, you may be able to self-tape in the daytime while they’re napping. With older children, you may have to wait until bedtime but meanwhile, you can learn your lines and set your kit up so once the kids are fast asleep, you’re free to focus on getting a great tape done in as little time as possible.

2. Prepare quiet food for them to munch on

Weaned babies and toddlers can be easily distracted by what I call ‘quiet food’. Think little pieces of fruit like chopped grapes and blueberries. Whilst they’re busy trying to pick their snack up and wrangle it into their mouth behind the camera, you can be in front of it, recording your tape*. Pick the snack wisely though as your microphone will pick up background sounds, so the quieter the food is to eat, the better it is for your self-tape sound.

Casting Directors aren’t listening to check you have a 100% clear background, they’re there to see your performance and your interpretation of the character. It doesn’t matter if your little one makes a slight sound or two on the recording, as long as your performance can clearly be seen and heard. If there are some obvious baby noises between the spoken lines you can edit your self-tape afterwards.

My method to clean up sound on my tapes is to:

  • Detach the audio from the video file.
  • Remove the section with audible baby noise from your tape.
  • Replace it with a silent room ambience.

You can watch tutorials on how to replace audio in a video on YouTube if you’ve never tried it before.

*Obviously you want to make sure you can see them whilst they’re eating so you can keep an eye on them.

3. Distract kids with a soundless device

CBeebies without sound can be a welcome distraction for little ones. Try putting a device just out of their reach with one of their favourite shows playing and then crack on with your tape. It could give you 10 minutes or so to get a take or two done before they get bored.

4. Set up and practise while your child is awake

There’s no harm in setting up your camera and greenscreen (if you use one) while your little one is up and about in another room. There’s also no harm in running the scene a few times while your baby is crawling around your ankles or you’re feeding them. It’s a great practice to check you know your lines with distractions (it helps to create an element of reality too!). It also means once you start the real takes, you’re in the flow of your character and ready to do your best when your reader calls ‘action’.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If all else fails and you’re struggling to get the self-tape done, ask a friend to help you with the baby. If you happen to be in Spotlight’s Parent Performer circle, you could WhatsApp the group and ask if there’s anyone local who fancies giving you a hand. What better situation to be in than to make a new self-taping friend in another actor parent so you can help one another out from time to time?

People have been having babies for centuries, and that includes casting directors and agents. We all understand the pressures and time constraints, and it’s absolutely fine if your self-tapes aren’t perfect so next time your inbox pings with a self-tape request from your agent, don’t be frightened, be elated. The main thing is that you still have fun so enjoy it, and remember, those little humans don’t stay little for long.

Angela Peters is an actress, voice over artist and narrator. Angela founded the UK Actors Tweetup and TweetFest Film Festival in London. Her own credits in TV include ‘Emmerdale’ and ‘Queensland’s Best Living’ (Seven Network in Australia), and films screened in cinemas, on Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Sky. Over the years Angela has coached dozens of actors, helping them on the business and marketing side of being a professional actor, and her book, ‘How to CREATE your own star’, helps actors everywhere to make tangible goals to realise their acting dreams. She also juggles a family of two kids around her career! 

Headshot credit: Jennie Scott Photography

Photo credit: Drazen_ / iStock