How to Slate On Camera Auditions (Video Acting Lesson)
What does it mean when casting says, “go ahead and slate,” and how do you do it? Learning how to slate on camera auditions will help you stand out and look utterly cast-able! Watch this video acting lesson with examples and read on to get called back more and book acting jobs!
Origins of the Slate
Before video, picture and sound were always recorded on two different media by two different machines, so picture and sound had to be matched up to run in sync. Picture was recorded to film, which you’ve probably seen before. Sound was recorded on film, too – magnetic film, or “mag.” Both films needed a mutual starting point to run in sync.
What’s a Slate For?
The first “slate” was a simple clapper with a chalk-board front (chalk boards were often called “slates” because that’s the kind of rock they were made of). Camera assistants wrote the shot name, date, or actor’s name, etc., in chalk and hold it for the camera to record it to film. Then they announced the same information for the “production sound mixer” recording onto mag.
In re-enactments of old movie sets, you’ll see them really whack that clapper down loudly, but they didn’t really. Very loud sounds suffer a print-through problem when magnetic film is rolled and creates artificial echoes. So on real film sets, the camera assistant tried to click the clapper just enough for editors to hear it clearly and sync the two kinds of film.
Slates Used to Confirm Actors’ Skills
On-camera auditions were once “film tests,” and they were one of the last steps in the casting process for actors. Film tests were once the first time casting directors, directors, producers and studio execs could see the actors they liked best on screen. Film tests only used to be done for the “finalists” or on the short list of actors being considered for major roles and usually did double or triple duty as wardrobe, hair, make-up, and dance tests.
Now Slates Are An Actor’s First Impression
With the ease of recording and sending video, on-camera auditions have become one of the first steps of the casting process. And the purpose of the slate has changed accordingly. The original purpose, of identifying the recording, is still there and very important. Now slates have also become an actor’s first chance to make a great impression on casting.
Make Your Slate Work For You!
For actors, every moment of an audition is an opportunity to improve your chances of being cast. And not just for the project you’re auditioning for at the moment. Casting directors, directors, producers, and studio executives work on many projects at a time throughout the year. Take advantage of any chance to make a great impression on these industry professionals by showing you are ready to act. Try the following: a great slate! It definitely helps!
What’s a Slate?
The basic contents of an actor’s slate is your name, and sometimes your age (if you are or appear to be under 18). So, first and last name. If you use your middle name professionally, you’d say all three. If you have a show name, you would slate with your show name.
Maybe your name is “Bob Roberts.” So to slate, you’d say, “Bob Roberts.” Slate done. But you’re already thinking of how you can do better.
A Good Slate is Clear
Clarity is really important. You want the casting director’s focus on you, your great eyes, your expressiveness, your acting talent, not wondering what you said your name was. So you want to make it super easy for casting to understand your name and age.
The big words for speaking clearly are projection, enunciation and articulation. The every-day words for those are to speak loud enough, speak clearly, and be sure to say all the parts of your name.
A Good Slate is Easy To Hear
It’s better to be a little loud than quiet. try to aim your voice to the back of the room. Pretend your mom is back there, or your best friend — someone who really wants to hear what you have to say, because trust me, casting really wants to hear you.
A Good Slate is Easy To Understand
Enunciating and articulating as you speak are about making sure you say all the parts of your words clearly. Take acting coach Natasha, for instance. If Natasha says the beginning of her name too softly or quickly, she quite easily becomes “Tasha.”
As a working actress, she wants casting directors to look for Natasha, since that’s the name on her headshot, that’s the person they called into the audition, and that’s the person she wants casting to call back and hire.
So Natasha is careful to say each part of her name, and she practices it all the time. She may practice it different ways to add personality, but no matter what, she make sure all three sounds—“Na – Ta – Sha”—are easy to hear and understand when she slates.
Leave Spaces When You Speak
It can be easy to accidentally run names or words quickly together, especially when excited, like in an on-camera audition. To help casting hear and understand your name properly, try adding a little space between your names when you slate. You can check out our article on enunciation and articulation for more helpful tips and exercises!
A Good Slate Radiates Confidence
When you’re starting out especially, you want to look like the prepared, confident, trained actor that you are. Your posture should be straight and tall, head up, and smiles are great. Let your confidence shine!
A Good Slate Has Eyes
What, you ask? Eyes? Yes! Your face and eyes are what move audiences and are why casting directors video record auditions. They want to see those eyes and every nuance of your expression as you perform. What you do with your face and eyes (and voice) is what on-camera acting is all about, and making sure it’s seen (and recorded) during your auditions is a huge part of getting called back and cast.
Control for Hair and Eye-wear
Unless instructed to do otherwise, wear your hair away from your face for any on-camera slate and audition. If you wear prescription glasses and can audition without them, take them off for camera.
Slate Right To Camera
Keep your chin up and slate directly into the camera lens. Depending on the type of audition you’re on, this may be the only time you’ll get to look right into the camera. So take advantage of the opportunity to make that lens yours, and let them get a really good look.
Practice Your Slate!
Your slate should be second nature. It should be the one thing so prepared, you don’t have to think about it at your auditions. You want to keep your energy and creativity focused on what comes after. However, when you’re not actively preparing for a particular role, rehearse the role of “confident actor you.”
Practice Your Slate!
If you can, get on camera so you can watch yourself back. Are you hiding in hair, or are you seeing your eyes? Are you standing straight, presenting your face to camera? Do you hear all the parts of your name? Are you practicing a great slate that will get you cast?
Even better, get some feedback from someone who knows what to look for and how to help you. If you can, try an acting class in Los Angeles or close to you. A good acting coach will individually guide your specific efforts to help you make the most of your auditions.
Practice Your Slate!
You can practice your slate and develop it by trying these skills at home, in your acting class or acting school. Use your mirror! Mirrors don’t need batteries, and you probably find yourself in front of one every morning.
You can make that great and lasting first impression by showing everyone you know how to slate for camera and are ready to shoot on set. Oh, and—
Practice Your Slate!