To slate or not to slate? Indeed, my friends, that is the question. And one of the longest running debates in the voice-over world. While I’m certainly not going to answer the question once and for all in the next few hundred words, we will explore both sides of the discussion.
To Slate: A Definition
Let’s start at the beginning. What is “slating”? Simply put, slating is a short introduction spoken at the beginning of an audition or a demo. Sometimes as short as two words: your first and last name. You might also say the name of the character or role you’re auditioning for.
For example, “This is Caroline Cole, auditioning for Annabelle”.
This practice is standard in the film world for on-camera auditions. In the modern voice-over world, it’s not necessarily a given. Since many of us work from our closet studios auditioning for projects for all types of clients around the world, many clients don’t expect a slate at the top of an audition. More than that, they may be jarred by it or annoyed. It takes time to slate and time for someone to listen. Time that the listener may not have.
And yet, as Stephanie Ciccarelli points out, writing for Voices.com, “one side benefit of slating your name is that people in the press or podcasters will instantly know how to say your name. Having a slate could help to prevent gaffes (mistakes) and embarrassing moments for people trying to contact you, promote you, hire you over the phone or reference you on a program”.
Not to Slate: Always Read Instructions
If you’re anxious about knowing whether or not to slate, don’t stress. The first rule of auditioning is always to read the instructions. When making a decision whether or not to slate, begin with the information you’re given.
- If the instructions state explicitly to slate or not slate, then hooray, you have your answer.
- You may find that the audition portal itself has a policy on slating. (Voices.com, for example, makes it clear that actors should not slate when auditioning on their platform.)
- If a client reaches out directly to you for an audition or sample read, you don’t need to slate. You’re already on their radar. When in doubt, if you’re unsure, feel free to ask.
Do it Right
A good slate will enhance your performance, not detract from it. When you do slate, generally you’ll slate in character. Your name is the first part of the audition, as well as the first thing the listener hears. It should sound like the voice the casting director is looking for – whether that’s a cartoon character, game villain, audiobook narrator, or commercial read for Nike.
Casting director John Kovacevich puts it this way: “Your slate is the first thing we hear so if your slate voice is very different from what we’re looking for, I have to immediately overcome my first impression of you and then evaluate how you read the script ‘in character’”. Slating in character makes it easier for whoever’s listening to imagine you in the role. And that is always the goal.
Alternatively, with true character work (where your audition sounds nothing like your natural speaking voice) you may choose to tone down the idea of “slating in character”. Instead you can slate in the same energy, rather than the exact same voice. For example, if auditioning for an upbeat child character you’ll slate in an upbeat version of your own voice instead of the true character voice. This helps showcase variety and versatility in your abilities so casting directors hear your range in the difference between your slate and the audition read.
Whether or not you decide to slate and say your name out loud, you’ll generally label the audition file with your name (unless given specific instructions on how to label your audition – remember, always follow instructions to a T!). You want to make sure whoever is listening knows who to cast when they love your voice!
Realistically speaking, as a voice actor there will be times when you do slate and times when you don’t. Some casting directors like it. Some producers insist on it. And some platforms discourage it. It’s worth doing some digging around when you’re auditioning to know what the preference is. Again, the ultimate goal is to enhance your performance, never detract from it.