8 Tips for Filming Your Pre-Screen College Audition Video

Pre-screen audition season is upon us. For most students auditioning for BFA musical theatre or acting programs, recording and submitting pre-screen audition video clips with a monologue, song, and/or dance material is the first step to securing a college audition slot at their dream program.In recent years, the pre-screen has become incredibly popular, with new college programs adding themselves to the pre-screen list every year. This year alone, we saw programs like Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Southern California’s new BFA in contemporary musical theater become “pre-screen schools” (not to mention a pilot music theater supplement video option at Northwestern). As you prepare for your filming session, here are eight tips for getting the most out of your pre-screen college audition video.

1. Plan out the shoot.

One of the worst feelings is to finish filming and to realize you forgot an introduction video requirement or didn’t film a monologue or song in the specific way a school requested. If you forget something, it’s very important that you re-shoot.Colleges receive hundreds to thousands of pre-screen videos and you don’t want to not pass a pre-screen because you did not follow directions. Think of it as your first college test; being thoughtful about making sure you have everything you need to film, as well as planning out the structure of your shoot, will allow you to have a smooth filming experience.

2. Apply and reapply (makeup).

I am not a makeup guru, but it is important that you look fresh throughout your shoot. This is your first visual impression, so you want to budget time into the shoot to make sure your hair and makeup stays consistent. Guys, please don’t wear “guyliner,” but a little powder to reduce the shine goes a long way.

3. Pay attention to background, lighting, and sound balance.

Background, lighting, and sound balance are the most important technical elements you want to keep in mind wherever you film. You are the star of the tape—not your life-sized “Frozen” cut-out in the background and before you ask, yes, I’ve seen this in a pre-screen video, or the high school band playing in the background.The background should be clean and simple; if you use a sheet, make sure it’s not too wrinkled. The lighting should be bright enough to see you and your facial expressions. The sound should be balanced; if you’re singing, make sure the piano doesn’t drown out your voice (this could make or break the song component of your pre-screen).

4. No more than three takes per requirement!

There’s a common misconception that you can just keep recording until you get it perfect. If you were already “perfect,” then what would you spend four years in a BFA program working on? The college audition faculty is looking for potential, not perfection. If you muscle in too many takes, you’ll get into your head and begin to doubt yourself. You’ll also start to strain your voice, which you’ll need for the rest of the shots in your filming.

5. There’s a difference between direct-to-camera and off-camera focus.The general rule that you want to follow is that slates and any video introductions should be filmed looking directly into the camera lens; monologue and song material should be filmed with you looking slightly to the left or right of the camera. You would never deliver a monologue or song in a college audition using the audition panel as your scene partner, and the same rule applies to pre-screen filming.

6. Establish your physical parameters before filming.

You want to stay in frame at all times, so if you’re moving at all in your audition material (Texas State University’s BFA acting program wants you to move in your pre-screen), make sure you know what your physical boundaries are to stay in frame. This is definitely an interesting challenge when putting material on-camera that’s intended for a physical, in-person audition—you’ll have to adjust slightly for the film medium. If you move out of frame or get too close to the camera, your brilliant take might not be usable.

7. Be mindful of the framing specifics that each college asks for.

Some pre-screen schools, like the University of Michigan’s BFA musical theatre program, want a mixture of “full body” and “waist up” shots.” Indiana University’s BFA musical theatre program wants “full body” s