The Art of Slating

Posted April 10, 2012

When preparing for an audition, you surely read and reread your sample script again and again.  You practice in the shower.  You tape it to your steering wheel as you drive to the casting.  You have a spouse, friend, or the cat listen to you tweak it until it’s perfect.

You’ve got it nailed and you are ready to dazzle.  Then, somehow, you blow your first impression before you even get to the script with a lousy slate.

Let me back up.  First of all, what’s a slate?  Simply put, your slate is you stating your name and agency on camera before your audition.  Occasionally, you will be asked to add additional information that is important to the project, like your height or kids may be asked their birthday and age.  It’s a reference tool for the client reviewing the audition.  It gives them a chance to get a feel for your look and sound.  I generally see clients searching their stack of headshots for your face after they watch a slate.

It sounds simple enough, right?  And yet, so many actors have a difficult time taking advantage of the slate.  The good news is, once you’ve mastered your slate, it will be easy to deliver it on demand without much thought.

The best way to perfect your slate is to practice on camera.  Try working on it 10 minutes a day for a week while recording yourself so you can watch it and review your slate.  It will well be worth it and seeing yourself on screen as the client will is the best way to be objective!

Your slate should be simple.  There is no need for a long introduction or a flourish of words.  Try something simple and direct such as “Hello.  I’m Mandi Morris and I am with Azalea Agency.”

Some talent will also add on the name of the character they are reading for, a technique often requested for film auditions.  I recommend reserving this for occasions when it is requested only.  The role being auditioned for will be obvious in most commercial and industrial projects.

The client should feel three things from your slate.

1.  Confidence.  The most common mistake I see is talent stating their name as though it were a question.  Their inflection goes up a bit at the end of their name and makes them sound as though they are looking for confirmation.  “Hello, I’m Mandi Morris?”  Make sure you have a period at the end of that sentence.  Avoid looking anywhere but the camera during your entire slate.  If you are holding a script, keep it down at your side and off camera.  Stay in the moment.  Too often an actor is thinking about their first line and the anticipation of performing the scene during the slate.

2.  Friendliness.  SMILE SMILE SMILE.  A slate is the time to be yourself, not a character.  This is your chance to assure the client that you are kind and easygoing, an absolute joy to have on set.  Take a deep breath, put on your most sincere smile, say your slate and end again with a smile.  Again, maintain eye contact with the camera after you’ve finished speaking for a good solid moment before you rush into the script.  If you act rushed, the client will also feel rushed.  You are in control of your audition, so make sure you know what you are doing!

3.  Clarity.  Enunciate!  We introduce ourselves and say our own name so often in our lives that we rarely think about it.  Avoid mumbling and take your time.  It is very important that a client hears your name the first time so they can remember it!  Equally important, practice saying Azalea Agency.  I’m a fan of alteration (could you tell?), but I know better than anyone that I’ve created a bit of a tongue twister for an actor who is not careful and rehearsed.  It may help to say it slowly a few times to get all the sounds right.  “UH-ZALE-YUH AGE-N-CEE”.

I realize your slate is a brief moment in the course of booking a job, but it is a vital one.  A good slate projects a professional and polished image (there’s that alteration again).  These skills are also applicable for voice over castings, just pretend your microphone is your camera and never forget that you can most definitely “hear” a smile.