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Quarantine Cuties: Shooting a Self-Tape Audition with Amel Khalil

In Full Color's skillshare and chat series, Quarantine Cuties, put self-tapes in the spotlight this Thursday!

The weekly IG Live show hosted by Summer Dawn Reyes features women artists, entrepreneurs and hustlers sharing knowledge and skills. Each episode gives viewers a chance to support these women through #COVID19 or raise money for causes they support.

On May 21, we hung out with Amel Khalil, whom fans will recognize from her performance of writer Sholeh Wolpé's monologue in In Full Color 2017, as well as her work as part of our touring troupe.

Amel May Khalil is an Arab American actress, writer and community advocate. Persistently promoting a positive perception of Arab Americans in all aspects of media, she continues to gain recognition for her roles on TV shows such as New Amsterdam (NBC), FBI (CBS), Tommy (CBS) and Madam Secretary (CBS), among others.

As a proud Palestinian, she is intimately familiar with the struggles that individuals from the Middle-East, and other marginalized communities have to face on a regular basis. It is for this reason that advocacy and leadership roles are as important for her off-screen as they are on-screen. Dedicated to the advancement of her community and as an advocate for survivors of Domestic Violence, with an emphasis on the Middle Eastern/Muslim community, Amel has been responsible for facilitating Bias Trainings for hundreds of law enforcement, and child protective service employees among other local agencies. As a grant writer, Amel has garnered over $700,000 in funds to assist resettling refugees find their place in America, struggling parents to feed their families and empower women who are escaping abuse with financial services and literacy workshops for a safer tomorrow.

Here are some basic things to keep in mind when creating abstract works, no matter the medium!

Before You Tape

- Stay Safe: Make sure the person you're sending your audition to is legit! There are plenty of scammers targeting young actors. - Check the Directions: Most submissions will have specific requirements for format, file naming conventions, etc. Always look through the instructions before you begin! - Pick the Perfect Place & Time: Choose a room and time of day when it is fairly quiet. Usually rooms with more furniture and carpets absorb sound better. Let anyone you live with know you are taping in advance so they can try staying quiet! If something happens during your tape like a dog barking or a car alarm going off, don't lose a good take if you don't need to--roll with it and stay in character. If anything, it's a great way to show how well you can embody that role! - Use a Backdrop: You can get affordable options online, or use a bed sheet or plain wall as your background! Choose plain colors like blue or grey, and make sure it's as flat and taut as possible. Ironing and pinning your backdrop is a great way of making it look smooth. Also, don't shoot in a corner! Always use a flat wall. - Don't Go Crazy with Your Camera: Most phones are able to shoot in high enough quality nowadays, but if you want, invest in a simple camera that you can easily put on a tripod. Also make sure your battery is charged and your SD card has plenty of space before you begin! - Find Your Light: While natural light looks great for still photos, it can be unpredictable for film. If you are using natural light, make sure you pick a good time of day for the window you choose to sit by. Invest in a ring light or a small light you can easily direct. Ideally you should have a light in front of you, and one at either side for a three-point configuration, but work with what you already have. Also, favor soft light over harsh light! Test with your camera to see if the light looks too strong and is washing you out. If so, try bouncing it off a wall to soften the light and eliminate shadows. Do some research and play around! - Be Heard: Test the audio quality of your existing equipment to make sure you can be heard clearly. Sound is very important! If needed, try buying a lavalier (lav) mic that you can clip on your clothes or place nearby. Look for a model that plugs into your camera or phone, and make sure to get an adapter if necessary. It'll make a huge difference! - Markers & Framing: If your sides require you to talk to multiple characters or the person you're talking to is supposed to move across the room, mark out where you might look at them as they move (your eyeline) with tape on the wall opposite you. Also remember to check your framing--is there space above your head? If you gesture, will your hands be seen clearly? Remember TV casting directors tends to favor closer framing focused on the face and emotions, whereas commercial CDs want to see more of your body! - Memorize Your Words: Try to be off-book if possible! This will help you really be the character and act naturally. Keep a script nearby to give yourself peace of mind. - Dress Smartly: Choose plain-colored clothes without patterns, text or logos that contrast well with your skin tone and backdrop color. Also avoid glasses if possible (lights will often reflect off your lenses) and keep your hair out of your face. Your wardrobe should be the least distracting it can possibly be -- which also means jewelry or low-cut shirts will typically be bad moves. - Be Spare with Props and Costumes: You don't have to go crazy with props and costumes, and different casting directors will have different preferences. But figure out what's important for the sides/scene and the role, and hint to it. For example, if you're a doctor, wearing scrubs might be the right way to go. But maybe you don't need to have a mask, gloves and full surgery get-up.

- Choose Your Reader: If you need someone to read other characters' lines for you, rehearse with them a bit before you shoot. They should remember that all they need to do is read--and that this is your moment to shine! There are some apps that provide you with virtual readers as well, and casting directors understand that you may need these because of COVID-19. Don't record yourself and read with yourself, though, CDs hate that. During and After Your Shoot

- Be Human: You've done all your prep, and you're ready to shoot! Don't worry about the technical issues anymore. Let go and focus on the audition. Be human and let your craft take centerstage. Live in the moment! - Slating: Keep it simple and human. Just say your name, height, location and any other information they ask for. Keep it professional. - Send Your Tape In: Make sure to follow casting directors' directions for submissions and send the file in the format and through the platform they choose. Also, make sure when you send your files that your quality isn't diminishing--many transferring processes will compress the file. Also, again, make sure your audition is properly labeled along to the CD's instructions. You want to give them the least work possible.

For more tips, check out Amel's webinar series May 22 and 23!

Amel's demo directly benefits In Full Color and will help us create more opportunities for women of color. Donate through Venmo or CashApp infullcolorus, or make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tune in for the next Quarantine Cuties on Thursday, May 28 at 7 pm EST on IG Live on @infullcolorus_

The next episode will feature Liliane Wolf sharing How to Celebrate in Quarantine! She'll be showing how to make a graduation cap piñata and giving advice on isolation parties in general. It'll be our season finale! Come through.


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