On its face, slating is a fairly straightforward concept—a “slate” is simply an actor’s introduction before they launch into an audition. But it gets more complicated from there, especially as Zoom auditions and self-tapes have raised new questions around the slating process. And while stating your name may seem like a throwaway moment before the real work begins, nailing the slate can set the tone for your whole audition.
Here’s everything actors need to know about slating: what exactly you should say in your slate, how to film a full-body slate, and whether or not you should slate in character.
What is “slating”?
“Slating” is the industry term for introducing yourself in an audition, whether it’s in-person, virtual, or self-taped. The exact information you provide in a slate will depend on what the casting team asks for, but often includes your name, height, and location. In theater, it’s common for an actor to mention what play their audition monologue is from. Voice actors may also be asked to slate before a voiceover audition.
When slating for a self-tape or a live virtual audition, the casting team may request a full-body shot. (They’ll get a full-body shot if you’re auditioning in-person, too, but at the office someone will direct you where to stand.) They may also ask for profile shots to get a better sense of how you’ll look on screen.
An actor’s slate is usually the first moment that casting directors see them outside of their headshot or demo reel, so it’s an important opportunity to make an impression. You’ll soon be diving into someone else’s words, so think of the slate as a small moment to showcase your personality. “Saying your name seems so simple, which is why many give it no real thought,” former casting director Carolyn Barry says. “This can be a mistake because the slate provides important information about who you are. It depicts confidence or lack of, essence, a personality, and so much more.”
How do I slate for an audition?
There are two schools of thought for how to slate:
- You should slate as the character you’re about to read for.
- You should slate as yourself.
Casting director Caroline Liem suggests splitting it down the middle and performing your slate “with an energy I would describe as half you and half the character.” Australian actor Lucy Fry (“Vampire Academy”)—who CD Marci Liroff says is one of the best slaters she’s ever seen—approaches her slate like a scene. “I try to fill it with the same energy that I would any action as the character because focusing on energy, the breath, and the character makes it feel easier,” Fry explains. “It’s the only chance you ever get to look directly at the lens, so I try to channel the energy of the character with warmth and confidence so the people watching it can see the way the character sits in me through the eyes. I try to let myself be seen without pushing a fake smile or worrying about what anyone thinks.” Whatever approach you choose, the most important thing is that you’re comfortable while you slate.
Slating should also be considered a separate component of the audition process. In other words, take your time. Don’t rush into your sides or monologue; take a moment after finishing your slate. This gives the casting team a chance to catch up with you—and, more importantly, it gives you a moment to prepare for the work you’re about to do.
What should I say in a slate?
There’s no standard formula for a slate—exactly what you say will depend on what the casting team or audition monitor requests. You’ll always be asked to state your name, but other information you may be asked to provide includes:
- Present location
- Whether you’d be considered a local hire
- Union affiliation
- Character you’re auditioning for
For example: “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.” The key here is to follow directions exactly. If the casting team doesn’t mention slating at all in their self-tape request, you can email them to ask whether or not they’d like you to include one. (Not every casting office needs a slate! Some already have your profile page set up online ahead of time.)
No matter how you introduce yourself, it’s important to do so clearly and professionally. That’s not to say that you should treat this like a business interview, but just remember that the main purpose of a slate is to provide information. It’s important to be heard and understood.
How do I film a full-body slate?
Casting directors often ask that actors include a full-body shot as part of their slate, particularly in self-tapes. The best way to do a full-body slate is to start with a medium close-up shot featuring your head and shoulders. State the information requested, then pause (or cut) and pull out to a wide shot that shows your entire body. Then either zoom or cut back to the close-up shot and jump into the scene. All of this should be shot horizontally—don’t switch to a vertical orientation when you pull back for a full-body shot.
If you’re auditioning virtually, make sure that you’ve set up your space so you have room to move away from the camera for the full-body shot. “A lot of people would be perfectly framed in chest up fashion, but then when it was time to slate, they physically couldn’t move,” Maribeth Fox, who cast Epix’s “Bridge and Tunnel,” says of live video auditions. “You have to make sure that you’re ready to go. They might be in a tiny, well-lit bathroom sitting on a toilet and can’t step back. Try to find some type of flexible space where you can tape and do Zoom auditions, it’s super helpful.”
What about slating for voiceover?
There is some debate about whether or not voice actors should slate before an audition. In general, the rules are the same for voiceover as they are for any other medium: The best course of action is to follow instructions. Most casting directors, voiceover included, will be very specific about what information should be included in a voice actors’ slate.
When it comes to tone, casting director Jen Rudin stresses that you should slate as yourself. “I want to hear what your normal speaking voice is before you start the copy,” she says. “I want to meet you, not the manufactured voiceover you. I need to hear what you really sound like. This very important, especially if the copy is very animated.”
Ready to practice slating? Apply to casting calls on Backstage.