How to Win a #MonologueChallenge
Along with jigsaw puzzles, virtual dance parties, and Zoom happy hours, another activity to trend during quarantine is the wave of #monologuechallenges all over Instagram.CDs and channels like Freeform are taking this opportunity to discover new talent, or reconnect with talent they already know, by hosting open calls and inviting actors from all over the world to submit their work.Here’s what I’ve found after looking at some commonalities between the winning self-tapes that have won, and a few general tips to streamline this process and keep it fun.
Staying In The Know: You Can’t Win If You Don’t Submit!
You should already be following CDs on Instagram (IG). Make it a routine to check their IG stories at least a few times a week. That’s how news of scene challenges and open calls are spread! Even if a particular CD isn’t participating in a challenge or open call, many share news from their casting colleagues to help spread the word to their own followers.
- Look out for IG tags by CDs in their posts and stories when they share these updates- it’s an easy way to find additional IG handles of people who work in casting.
- There is an ongoing list of current open submissions on the Career ACTivate Success Network Facebook page.
Scroll Through Social Media (You’re Already Doing It)
Since these challenges have been going on for weeks, a list of past winners can be found in many CDs’ saved IG stories, which can be viewed in their IG highlights – they’re the little circles at the top of their profile, hopefully labeled something along the lines of “Past Challenge Winners” or “Monologue Challenge.”
Check out past winners to inform your own performance and scene choices, especially if the same CD is running a new challenge.
Here are examples of 2 #SelfTapeChallenge winners from Career ACTivate’s self-tape challenge. What jumps out at you that may be effective if applied to your next tape?
NOTE:3 other winners were announced on our Instagram (@careeractivate) last week, and we’ll be announcing the last 4 winners in the upcoming couple of weeks via email or social media. Stay tuned…
Which leads into…
The Biggest Decision You’ll Make In Quarantine Today:
Choosing the right material!The vast majority of monologue/scene challenges and open calls are coming from CDs who work in TV and film. Although many are fans of theater, and Shakespeare has written some wonderful monologues, it’s most effective to use these opportunities to show how you could be cast in one of their upcoming TV and film projects. Therefore:
- Be knowledgeable about what each office casts. What tone or genre is most appropriate to put in front of this particular CD?
- Know your type, and the roles that you’d largely be competitive for once the casting process picks up again.
- Play to your strengths. Just because you like a particular monologue doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Now is the time to showcase your skills, not experiment and stretch yourself as an actor. Save that for acting class.
- It’s generally wise to use a contemporary monologue unless this CD specifically casts Shakespeare (I don’t know of any) or is currently casting a period piece you’re right for.
- It’s also a good idea to avoid monologues that have widespread recognition and are iconic in their original performance. You’re setting yourself up to be compared to acting legends and will likely fall short.
- If you do choose a scene from TV, make sure it’s from a project that’s already released (no current pilots or roles that are currently casting).
- At the end of the day, it’s about making a genuine connection with whomever you’re speaking to – having a strong intention, message, and need that jumps off the screen and affects the viewer. Even if, as in my case, you happen to be talking to be a piece of tape attached to your laptop camera.
Post Your Tape!
The point of all this is to show what we can do as actors. To get more eyeballs on your mad monologue skills, post the tapes to your IG account, to your IG stories, tag the CD who’s running the challenge as well as any CDs who’ve posted about this challenge for their peers (they’ll each get a notification), and use the proper challenge hashtag.
Make Things Easy For Yourself
With seemingly new #monologuechallenge and open call opportunities popping up every week, it can seem like a lot to keep up with. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, find a good monologue/scene that plays to your strengths and use that same tape for every challenge it’s right for!
Tell Me Your Name & Handle
Slates are meant to be simple and just provide the required information, so don’t overthink it.
- Follow the instructions. What information is needed? Do they want the slate at the beginning? The end? As a separate attachment? If this information isn’t included, you can:
- message the CD on IG to ask, OR
- assume that it’s generally acceptable for actors to include the slate at the end of the audition tape.
- Since this competition lives on social media, it’s maybe not a bad idea to throw your IG handle in your slate as well. You can do this by inserting text in your video, if you have an easy way to do so, writing it down, or spelling it out. Another option is to simply post and tag.
- To save time in the future, I keep a separate folder on my computer just for slates. In general, slates typically ask for a combination of the following information:
- Profiles/Full body
- Age (if under 18)
Each time I create a slate for a project, I’ll save the slate as a separate file for my own records and label the file by what information is included, ex. “Name_Height_Location,” or “Name_Height_Full Body_Rep”. That way, when a slate for a future project asks for the same info (and the character doesn’t have a drastically different style or tone), I’ll just reuse a past slate.
Boring, But Still Important Part
Follow the rules.
- If the rules state that your performance needs to be under 1.5 minutes, keep it under 1.5 minutes.
- Respect deadlines. With the thousands of submissions that pour in every time a new challenge is announced, challenge moderators are unlikely to bend the rules and you’re saving them time by disqualifying yourself.
- Give yourself some flexibility and submit earlier so you don’t run the risk of technical difficulties right at the submission cutoff.
TIP FOR INSTAGRAM NEWBIES:Each submission opportunity comes with its own rules and submission link. It can be hard to read the rules and submit on your phone. You can access and view IG from a computer (although you can’t post) if it’s easier to read the submission rules and access submission links there vs. your phone. Just go to www.instagram.com/@(CD’s IG handle)
Here’s to winning the next challenge! Or, at least, having created usable, quality self-tape material for ourselves in the process. Sounds like a win either way.
— Coach Melody