If the casting director is the gateway to a booking, then your slate is the very first step through the voiceover casting gate. There are lots of rumors and opinions out there about exactly how to slate. First: What is a slate?
A slate is an actor’s recorded introduction at the beginning of the audition: “Jen Rudin,” or “Jen Rudin, Take 1,” or “Jen Rudin, Burger King.” It’s very important to introduce yourself—especially when an actor is asked to send in an MP3 audition file. Even if the file is labeled with your name, I always like hearing a clean professional, slate at the start of each take. Here are some tips to perfect your slate:
1. The slate is your first introduction to the casting director. The slate should feel and sound breezy and conversational. First impressions are important and the slate is your chance to make a good first impression. You have one chance to make a good first impression, so don’t blow it by sounding fake and insincere when you introduce yourself.
2. The slate should sound like you! I want to hear what your normal speaking voice is before you start the copy. 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.
3. No animal voices in your slate! If you are reading for an animated role, I still want to hear you introduce yourself in a regular speaking tone. I have heard thousands of auditions in my life and nothing annoys me more than when an actor slates in a charactery, put-on animated voice. You’re trying too hard and it rubs me the wrong way and comes off as obnoxious. Leave the fun character voice for the actual lines. Don’t slate in your bear voice.
4. After you slate, take a breath and then begin your copy. It shows me that you are present in your own audition, and not running on automatic. Don’t rush from your slate to your read. Take a moment. It’s your audition. Own it.
5. For actors under 18, I often want to hear a slate that includes name and age. Some agents don’t agree and just have their young actors slate their name only. I like to know the age because if you’re 9 and sound 5, that’s to your advantage. If you’re 5 years old, and we want to hire an authentic 5-year-old, I want to know your age right away.
6. Practice slating! Record yourself on your phone introducing yourself. Listen to how you sound. Observe the different ways you say your name and aim for the most friendly and confident sound. Make sure you sound real and conversational and not fake or phony. I can hear when someone sounds insincere.
7. Ask how to slate. If the copy does not specify (for remote auditions) or if the casting director does not tell you right away, do not be afraid to ask how you should slate. They may want you to say what character you are reading for, or to slate agent representation. Be a smart actor and ask questions!
8. Own your slate. There are so few things an actor can control in the audition process. The slate is yours, so own it!
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Jen Rudin is an award-winning casting director and author of “Confessions of a Casting Director: Help Actors Land Any Role with Secrets from Inside the Audition Room.” (Harper Collins/It Books, 2013). Backstage recently named Jen one of the top 23 Los Angeles–based casting directors to follow on Twitter. Visit www.jenrudin.com and follow @RudinJen.
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