Why Good Slates Matter

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Slates are important to casting and clients for a variety of reasons. As an actor, I prefer not to include slates—I don’t like anything to distract clients from total immersion in the story and my performance. If I’m required to include slates in a self-tape, I usually put them at the end.

But as an actor, it’s also important to remember that slates aren’t for us, they’re for the client.

The point of a slate is to help clients get a brief, helpful introduction to actors and their essences. They serve to deliver important information about an actor: height, allergies, city of residence, whether you have a valid driver's license, if you’re comfortable with animals, etc. They can also be useful in determining whether you’re cool and nice before committing to spend a whole day or more on set with you.

The best slates are authentic, pleasant, and get the job done. Think of them like a handshake when you first meet someone.

For slates that include interview questions, keep your answers positive and brief (less than 30 seconds unless directed otherwise). Sometimes there is no copy or specific action we need to see in an audition, so an interview question is an excuse to get to you know, and spend a few seconds soaking in your vibe and look.

You have no idea who’s going to end up watching the video, so don’t over-share, or say political or obviously controversial things. Don’t give someone a reason to say no over something that has nothing to do with the project. If you disagree with the product or company, you shouldn’t even have been submitted. Make sure your agent is well aware of all the types of jobs and roles you refuse to do, like ones that contain fur, smoking, or whatever you feel strongly against so they don’t submit you for them. Your audition isn’t the right place to make a statement.

READ: How To Slate For The Best First Impression

When you’re asked to do a full turn, show us your profiles or your hands, we’re just making sure there are no surprises. Just like you feel entitled to examine a used car before you buy it, so too do we feel entitled to see the state of your instrument before we hire you. So try not to look annoyed by that request and don’t rush it. Allow us to see what we need to see to feel comfortable.

If you’re asked to change something about your appearance—shaving your beard, dyeing your hair—it’s totally fine if you can’t, just tell us why. Maybe you’re working on something that requires continuity or you have a signature “look.” A plain “no” always feels a little uncooperative.

If you’re interviewed, tell the truth. I’ll never forget one time we were casting for a mom role, and during the late, one actress told me about her two-year-old and how she was sick. She went on to have a great audition.

A few weeks later, I saw that actress and asked her how her daughter was. She told me she didn’t actually have a daughter, that she had made the story up for the audition. I hated that. I felt totally weird about it. We actually do listen and care. With the client hat on, we’re not actors. We’re trying to get to know you. Lying on your slate is like lying on a first date: A totally gross-feeling red flag.

Slates are an important part of the casting process. They help those who don’t know you or your work get familiar with your name, learn key things about you that are relevant to the project, and get to know you a little bit. Keep it real. Keep it cool. Show us you understand and appreciate the value of slates as part of the casting process.

Then we can all just focus on the work.

Ready to audition? Check out our horror film listings!

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.

Shaan Sharma
Shaan Sharma is a session director, on-camera acting teacher, and author of “A Session Director’s Guide to Commercial Acting in L.A.”
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