And why it is so important!
When an actor auditions for a film, a TV series or a commercial, they are usually asked by the casting director, casting assistant or session runner to slate for the camera. “Give us a slate for camera” or “Please slate for camera”. Or something similar along those lines.
A slate is an industry term in which you introduce yourself on camera right before you begin your audition. “Hi, my name is Jorge Ortiz”; “Hi, my name is Jorge Ortiz and I’m reading for the role of Anthony”; “Hi, I’m Jorge Ortiz”; etc. There are many variations on a slate depending on the instructions that the casting director gives to you. In the case of self-tape auditions, the instructions provided may ask you to include your height and location in your slate.
So, slates vary. But the point is that you are introducing yourself on camera right before you begin your audition.
And why is that important? Because you are introducing yourself to the decision makers on the other side of the camera. You are introducing yourself to decision makers who will be watching your auditions later.
This is your opportunity to let your personality shine through. This is your opportunity to let us know who you are because your slate is our very first impression of you. Is your slate warm, open and inviting? Does it make us say, “Wow, I like this person. I want to get to know them.” Does your slate come from a place of a great attitude that makes us say, “That’s someone I want on my set for the next 4-6 months.”
Don’t throw away your slate by coming across as unsure, tentative, nervous, hostile, unclear, mumbling, monotone, etc. Or they quickly state their name and move on to the scene. I’ve seen a number of actors in the classes I teach throw away their slates. Rather, impinge us with your slate. Make us sit up and say, “Who’s that?”
Think about how you introduce yourself to people. Or how you say hi to your friends. Bring that quality, that energy, into your slate. It’s open, warm, inviting, friendly.
However, that doesn’t mean you phone it in. That doesn’t mean you run for mayor and make your slate over the top. Because at the end of the day, we see and sense that too. It reads as phony and trying too hard. It makes us go “Ugh! They’re trying way too hard. Ease up. Relax.”
Here’s the key to a great slate. The slate starts before you even come into the room. Your slate is connected to how you feel about yourself. Your life force. Your purpose. Your sense of self. If these dynamics are off, then your slate will reflect that and be off as well. Your slate, how you introduce yourself to a group of decision makers, is connected to you. If you are connected to yourself, then there will be a certainty in your slate.
A great question that comes up all the time is, “If I’m playing a dark character or if I’m auditioning for a heavy, dramatic scene, then how do I slate? Do I slate with an upbeat, positive attitude or do I slate as this dark, heavy, dramatic character?”
This question really comes up because actors want to stay in character and stay in the zone of the material they are auditioning for. They feel that they will lose the character or lose being in the zone if they have to slate as themselves and then jump into the character. They feel that they won’t be able to get back into that heavy, emotional character or scene if they have to slate beforehand with an upbeat, positive attitude.
At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision. I personally like to come in as myself so they can see me, the person. My job is to come in as a person first and then get into the acting second. I want them to see my personality right away and know that I am easy to work with, fun to work with, a joy to work with. And then we’ll get into the acting part of the audition. Auditions are about being a person first and then acting second.
And because I’ve done the work beforehand, I know how to quickly transition into character and into my moment before once I’ve slated. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, and you want to stay in character and slate as your character, go for it. I would just say that at the end of your audition, recapture the room by slating again as yourself. In other words, slate again at the end of your audition as yourself so that they can see your true personality. They’ll say, “Oh wow, they were in character the whole time and then they slated as themselves at the end of their audition.”
Like I mentioned earlier, don’t throw away your slate. Really communicate and impinge us with your slate. Your slate is our very first impression of you. An actor I know-who works all the time-had an opportunity to do a directing fellowship with a major television network. They were in the room with the executive producer and creator of a major TV series. They were watching the auditions (the selects) that the casting director forwarded to them. The actor told me that the executive producer and creator would skip over auditions right at the slate. The executive producer and creator would say these things after certain slates: “Too nervous” or “Too green” or “Not confident”.
They stopped the auditions right at the slate! They didn’t watch any further. So you could have done a great job in your audition, you could have thrown the fuck down, but they didn’t watch it because your slate was lacking in some way. They’ll never know how great of a job you did because they stopped watching your audition at the slate.
So, don’t risk your slate. Practice, practice, practice!