Actor Slates - The how to's, do's and don'ts of Slating
What is a slate?
A slate is simply an introduction where an actor states information that has been asked by casting. Much like a slate used in filmmaking to keep track of takes and scenes, an actor's slate keeps casting organized and informed when showing your audition to directors and producers.
Although a slate will always ask you to state your name, the rest can vary depending on what the casting director needs to know for the project or in general. So, it's important to listen for what they need and to follow directions.
Some common things actors are asked to slate are:
city you live in or book from
your ability to work as a "local-hire"
Now, some actors think that the slate is an opportunity to show off their amazing personalities. Now, although there is no doubt in my mind, that you have an amazing personality, I believe the slate is more an opportunity to show that you have two of the most important skills that every actor needs. 1) that you can follow direction and 2) you know how to listen.
Remember, casting directors tend to see hundreds of actors a day! They are extremely busy people and as a professional, you should always respect their time. So, when they ask you to slate your name and height, just simply give them exactly what they've asked for. Nothing more, nothing less.
Remember that casting directors are people too and have their own sets of pet peeves and preferences. And while maybe it's not best to play your audition safe, until you have a relationship with that particular CD, you can't go wrong with simply giving them exactly what they've asked for.
You may be an actor who has worked for several years to finally get representation and it may be really tempting to want to shout out your agent's name from the rooftops, everywhere you go, but I strongly advise against it. Again, only give the CD what they've asked of you. Failing to do so can leave a negative impression on them and lead them to believe that you don't know how to listen and follow direction.
The most common question I'm asked about slates is this:
Should I stay in character or should I be myself?
My first answer is - You are overthinking it!
But perhaps my best and most honest answer is this: It depends :)
First, let me say that I truly believe there is no wrong or right answer here and that what I'm about to say is just my opinion. Take what rings true for you and leave what doesn't work for you.
For me, I find it really important to stay as believable as possible from beginning to end. After all, the job doesn't always go to the best actor, it goes to the actor that is best fit for the role. (There really is a difference...more on that some other time.) However, I do have some exceptions to this rule.
1) If I'm auditioning as let's say, a serial killer, or a lunatic, or even just a really despicable human being, AND I DON'T KNOW CASTING, then maybe, JUST MAYBE, I might be sure to slate as professionally and friendly as possible just to show them that I am someone who can be trusted and who is easy to work with on set.
2) If you have never met the CD and you do not have a reel that shows your experience as a professional, you may want to drop the act and show that you are a sane, likable, and professional human being.
There are two types of slates.
1) the close up - this is a close up shot of your face.
2) the full body shot - dun dun dun!!!! Every actors favorite...sarcasm.
The close up shot should be framed with about an inch or two of space above your head to the top of your shoulders.
The full body shot is well, a shot of your full body - head to toes!
Here's a helpful tip for full body shots. Don't feel like you have to stand still like a cardboard cut out! You can put a little swag and movement into it and you will feel and look much more natural and confident.
Another helpful tip to get through your full body shot is to stay in character by physically embodying the role. IE: A doctor is not going to stand the same way as a farmer or a zombie slayer :)
Casting will usually provide full details on what they want and how they want you to slate. Always read the instructions carefully and follow them exactly.
So remember, don't overthink it. Be professional, listen, follow directions and as always, confidence is key.
For more details on slates, and a few laughs, check out the video above on my "edutaining" Youtube channel, where I bring you all my tips of the trade!