Backstage Experts Answer: How Should Actors Slate?

Photo Source: Jesse Balgley

Casting directors, producers, and other decision-makers aren’t just paying attention to your read! When you walk into the room, you’ll probably be asked to slate your name and other professional details. It can be confusing!

As industry professionals spanning various areas of the business, our Backstage Experts have seen the best and worst of ’em, so we knew they’d be the perfect bunch to ask the following question:

How should actors slate?

Here are answers from nine industry professionals!

(And if you missed the last installment of this column, check out “What Should Actors Wear to Auditions?” and see how to get your acting questions answered at the bottom of this article!)

Paul Barry, L.A.-based acting teacher and founder of Acting 4 Camera
Do’s:
Stand on the mark provided. Equal weight over both feet, or comfortably sit your weight onto one hip. Look directly into camera and imagine you’re talking to someone friendly. Say your name, and if requested, agent. If you don’t have an agent, say, “Freelance.” Speak in the accent of the role for which you are auditioning. Employ charm.

Don’ts: Slate in character. Slate with glasses, hat, or distracting costume pieces on. Rock from side to side or move about. Mumble. Dart your eyes around. Apologize. Say anything else, unless requested to.

Though there are exceptions to every rule, no actor ever landed a substantial role from their slating alone. Just keep it direct, clear, and charming, and focus your energy on being as prepared as possible for your audition.

Stephanie Ciccarelli, co-founder of Voices.com
Depending on how you’re auditioning, slating may be absolutely critical or a non-issue. In some circles, slating is expected, whereas in others, a simple slate may actually detract from your performance or lose the ears of your listener. Take auditioning for a voice acting job via an online casting site, for instance. When you submit an audition, the people who posted the job can see your name and may even be able to click into your profile to learn more about you. They don’t need to hear a slate because:

  • It’s redundant (clients can see your name beside the audio player).
  • The slate stands in the way of hearing your interpretation right away (time-crunched clients don’t want preamble; they just want to hear your read).
  • A slate, if jarring or contrary to the read you’re submitting, might lose you the job. Not everyone will listen longer than need be if they think you aren’t the right fit upon first hearing your voice.
  • Not everyone comes from the traditional casting world and slates aren’t expected.

David Patrick Green, founder of Hack Hollywood
Generally speaking, actors should slate exactly how they are told to slate. No more and no less. A slate is not the time to deliver your life story or a funny anecdote.

With professional auditions, they know how to reach you already so they usually just ask you to slate your name or possibly some other piece of information, such as your height, so they know how you will fit into the casting process. With amateur auditions, anything is possible, so just do what they ask.

When you are submitting online, it isn’t always obvious what they want. The best way to find out is to ask them by sending them a note or calling them. Don’t be scared. They will appreciate you getting it right.

The most important thing is that they know how to reach you, so make sure they have a good working email, phone number, or both. This can be provided in a slate or in a note attached to your submission.

Clifton Guterman, Atlanta–based expert
For self-taped auditions, begin with the camera zoomed to a head and shoulders framing, and state your name, height, agency (if applicable), union status and home city as in, “Hello, I’m John Doe. I’m 5’10”. I’m with Top Tier Talent. I’m AEA and SAG-AFTRA, and I’m based out of Atlanta, Georgia.” Then, have the camera zoom out to a full body shot before cutting out. Slate could be at the start or end of the scene taping or as a separate file, depending on instructions from casting.

Cathryn Hartt, founder of Hartt and Soul Studio
The first thing I always try to get my actors to do when they slate is to stop acting. Just be natural. However, do get your energy up first so that there is a light in your eyes. I suggest you start with a slight smile and address the camera directly as though you were speaking to a real person very simply, and end with another little smile. Sometimes, I suggest that you feel like you are flirting slightly with the camera. The slate is as though you were walking into the casting room in person and telling them who you are.

If auditioning for Disney or Nickelodeon, have a bit more fun and speak up a little louder to get more of a party going on—but always be natural.

Tony Howell, founder of Creative Social Media
As you can see, this is subjective! I encourage clients to embed their video submissions on their websites. This way, rather than sharing an unlisted YouTube or Vimeo link (with randomized numbers and letters), you’re inviting VIP guests into your online home with a customized room! An example is JessicaMHumphrey.com/submission. Jessica can change the “/submission” and any content on the page for the project she’s submitting to. When you embed your video on a customized page, I don’t think a slate is necessary. Your slate is your email invitation, personalized URL, website photograph(s), and customized text. Still, Jessica has an awesome slate from Tim Grady Films that she can precede any video audition with. Even without these tools, I don’t think slating on camera or with screen overlays is necessary. Introduce yourself in the headline (listing your name and the project or role) and description text (including your website address, pieces performed, and contact information). No need to agonize over editing or introducing yourself! Others may disagree, but I’d go straight to the work!

Ken Lazer, owner of Ken Lazer Casting Company
Believe it or not, but I consider slating to be an important part of your audition. Why? It’s the first part of your audition that the clients will see. How you introduce yourself could determine whether or not a producer/director will even watch your audition. Always good to think if I was the producer/director, “What kind of personality would I want to be on the set with for eight to 10 hours?” Also, I have found that slating in character can also help.

Joseph Pearlman, L.A.-based acting coach, founder of Pearlman Acting Academy
The audition starts the moment you enter the room and not, as many would think, when you start acting. Some of the industry’s biggest production teams and casting directors will actually interview you as a person before they audition you the actor. The slate is often the first time the producer, writer, or director will encounter you, as they are not typically in the room during pre-reads with casting. The slate marks the start of your audition.

I advise my clients to make a genuine connection with the production team by bringing their empowered and aware selves to the slate—their best selves in the moment. Any attempt to impress or force yourself into an emotional state can, and often will, put an abrupt end to your audition before you start acting. Slating with confidence, presence, and awareness—your version of it—can win you the role before the scene starts.

Jessica Rofé, founder and artistic director of A Class Act NY
From my days in casting, here are my suggestions. It’s important that young actors slate in a quiet place in front of a blank wall that doesn’t distract the eye. If you have access to a wall that has a nice bright color like blue, purple, or green, that’s always a plus! Don’t wear stripes or polka dots. A solid-colored shirt is preferable. In addition, make sure to frame the actor in a three-quarter shot, or even a bit closer in a headshot. No shaky cameras please! Make sure to use a tripod—a cheap one will do. State your full name clearly, your age, your height, and you can tell a little short story about yourself—something about you that makes you unique! Keep it upbeat and friendly! You can look directly into the camera for the slate or at the person who is filming you. In my experience, the casting director will let you know where to put your eye focus for a slate in the room.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.