If there is one subject likely to cause heated debate among actors right now, it's that dreaded word: self-tape. Already on the rise before the pandemic made it the main game in town, self-taping is a deceptively simple concept for what is becoming an increasing point of contention.

In theory, a self-tape would seem a straightforward matter. You are sent the casting breakdown, brief, and/or script, then you merely hold your phone up in selfie mode, act your socks off to camera in the comfort of your own surroundings, whizz it off to the caster, then sit back and wait for the bookings to roll in. Casting directors gush over the joys of self-tapes, swearing that it widens the casting pool and increases everyone's chances of booking work.

It is true that there are some definite advantages to self-taping. You can do as many takes as you like; you don't need to be in the same city (or even country) as the caster, so don't need to pay travel or babysitting expenses; you have control over your environment. Many actors are enthusiastically embracing the trend, fine-tuning their equipment and techniques.

However, others are finding that there are downsides, too. The casting inevitably comes in at short notice, often just before a weekend, leaving little time for turnaround. The script might be two pages, or it could be ten; the caster may want one scene, or multiple scenes. Some feel like an entire application with intro videos, extra photos, and even voiceover samples required in addition. Then there is the dreaded phrase "It would be good to see several different versions of this" – which then spawns several different recordings of each scene. As for the comfort of your own surroundings, well, those surroundings better involve a blank wall or room for a photographer's backdrop; space to move around in without tripping over furniture; a decent smartphone, tablet, or video camera; proper lighting; an endless supply of appropriate costume and prop pieces; not to mention easy-going family members or house mates who simultaneously don't resent being told to be quiet and stay out of the room and are also willing to leap in at a moment's notice to shoot or act out the scene with you. Setting up different shots, finding appropriate costume pieces, doing makeup, fixing the lighting, learning lines (or loading the script into a teleprompter/scribbling it onto appropriately placed bits of paper) and, oh yeah, acting the scenes to a standard you are happy with, can all suck hours of time that an in-person casting never used to.

Once this is all done, and you have decent material, your work isn't over. The piece then needs to be edited to the increasingly rigid specs of the caster (must be .mp4 not .mov; must be .mov not .mp4; must be under a certain size; must be landscape NOT portrait; must have an ident at the front; must have an ident at the end; must have all scenes edited together; must have all scenes separate; must be labeled in a particular way …)

Finally, after all those hours of sweat and toil, the final version needs to be uploaded and sent in the requested manner (must be sent by Vimeo; must be sent by WeTransfer; must be sent to this Dropbox …) Not a problem if you live in a neighborhood with superfast broadband which you have access to; not so fine if you don't, if you live on a street that only carries ADSL, or in the depth of the countryside with poor signal, or you can't afford the superfast fibre package or your only access to wi-fi is through your phone's data package and you are nearly out of data. Suddenly, that level playing field begins to look decidedly tilted.

Even if you do finally manage to upload your masterpiece of an audition, then comes the kicker – has it been received? And if it has, has it been viewed? Some casters are excellent at letting actors know their work has arrived; however, many times actors are left in the dark, with no clue whether their hours of hard work are being seen with the rest, or are languishing in someone's inbox. While the #yesorno campaign for castings was gaining momentum before the pandemic struck, it now seems a case of "out of sight, out of mind."

So what is to be done? A few months back, Equity held the first ever membership survey on self-taping which garnered an enthusiastic response. While the results are still being pored over, certain takeaways seem to be emerging. One is that most people have now reconciled themselves to the fact that this is the way forward, and they are developing methods to meet the challenge; another is that people's experiences vary greatly. It is clear some casting directors are sensibly giving actors a reasonable amount of material, guidance, and time to create their self-tapes, and others simply aren't. There are reports of  under five hour turnaround times; having to prepare more than 15 pages of text; and submitting for five roles or versions of roles at a time. While self-taping is undoubtedly here to stay, it's time for such extreme practices to be reined in.

Off the back of the survey and motions carried at recent conferences, Equity has now set up a self-tape working party to address these concerns with casters and look toward creating a guide for self-taping best practice. The working party will have its first meeting in March; if you have an comments, suggestions, or feedback around self-taping, email Tim Gale at tgale@equity.org.uk

And if you would simply like a forum to work on your self-tape technique with other like-minded individuals, AAUK has started up a Self-tape Dojo. For more information, email selftape@AmericanActorsUK.com.