The Great Slate Debate

Jennifer Sims

As an advertising agency producer, I have listened to thousands of voice over auditions for all kinds of voice over projects.  The projects I worked on were varied and I had the pleasure of casting all sorts of  voice actors – everyone from “straight forward announcer” to “polka dancers” to “talking squirrel.”

I’ve listened to thousands of auditions that ran the gamut from guy/gal next door to straight-up quirky character. I learned quite a lot about voice over from listening to those auditions and I find that my background in casting has been helpful in my own voice acting career.

One of the things I learned was the importance of the slate.  As a producer, the slate was often the reason I would or would not listen to that actor’s entire audition.

To understand the great slate debate, it’s helpful to understand what a slate is: a slate is an actor simply saying his/her name at the beginning of the audition.

It’s the way the producer or casting director is able to identify who they’re listening to. It’s the first thing that anyone hears when listening to an actor’s audition, so you should consider it your first opportunity to make a good impression on the client.

If you are wondering whether to slate or not to slate, the answer is: Yes!  It’s the professional industry standard to slate your name at the beginning of your commercial audition.  Commercial producers and casting directors expect to hear your slate.

In my opinion, the only time an actor should not slate their name before an audition is if the agency/casting director has specifically said “No Slates.”

Now you know what a slate is, why it’s important, and you know that it is actually expected.  How can an actor go wrong just simply saying his or her name? And how could a bad slate cost an actor the gig?

Your slate is really a part of your actual audition.  It’s you, the voice actor, introducing yourself, maybe for the first time, to the producer/casting director.   The professional voice actor knows to say their name, in their natural voice, in the same tone as the copy they’re about to read.  That’s it.  Just their name, in a similar tone to the copy.  If the copy is very cheerful and upbeat, your slate should have the same vibe.  If the copy is a little more sedate, your slate needs to match that tone. For example, it sounds jarring for an actor to slate with a lot of energy and then launches into a read that’s far more low-key.

An ad agency may receive hundreds of auditions for one role and those auditions take time to listen to.  The actor who slates with “hey, hi, how are ya? John Doe here reading the role of Announcer, I’m doing  3 takes today and I hope you enjoy ‘em…” is wasting the producer’s time. It also comes off as unprofessional and inexperienced.   A long-winded, wordy, slate may also give the impression that the actor is difficult to work with and/or not respectful of the producer’s time.

In the global, highly competitive world of voice over, savvy voice actors know to think like the producers and casting directors who are hiring them.  These actors give themselves the greatest chance of putting their best voice forward.

So, slate your name!

If you want to learn more about how these projects get cast, and what producers are looking for, please join me on June 24, at 8:00pm EDT for my webinar, The Ad Agency Casting Process. I’ll show you how to get a leg up on the competition, and how to stand out from the crowd in a good way!