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Thursday, February 25, 2016

To Slate or Not to Slate – The Great Slate Debate

If you are new to voice overs you may have come across the term 'slating' and perhaps you are puzzled as to what it is and why it creates such controversy in the industry. 

Basically a slate is an identifying audio piece placed at the beginning of a demo - for example you may say 'this is Freda Bloggs British voiceover artist with my audition for your corporate training script' or something similar. But is it wise to slate, or does it put you at a disadvantage?

In this guest post Amber O'Neill, Commercial Account Manager at discusses some of the issues... with the help of the Bard.

The great debate of late in the voice-over industry is, “to slate or not to slate?” OK, I’ll stop with the dramatic modern day interpretation of Hamlet, but I will tell you this: slating is a significant topic of conversation. 

For actors, slating during on-camera auditions is important. It’s a moment to leave their mark; and most importantly, demonstrate their marketability. It’s a way to show off a bit of personality and give a hint as to what they’d be like to work with. For the casting director, that 5-8 second slate can end up being a valuable cog in determining between potential talent. Your body language, tone and volume are all assessed to determine if you have what it takes to appeal to the target audience. This is especially true for Commercial spots. 

Slating in voice-over can be a different story. With the industry evolving into a fast paced online marketplace, the perception of slating has changed significantly. In an age where we can have information at our fingertips within seconds, people want things FAST. It’s a sad reality, but sometimes those few seconds at the beginning of your audition are all the client has the time (or the willingness) to listen to. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, I JUST said that casting directors will use the slate to determine marketability, so what’s the difference? 

In the on-camera audition process, the casting director needs to determine if they can market you, meaning your voice, hair, eye contact, style, body, body language and any other unique qualities and quirks that make you, you. Do you have the “it” factor that they need for this particular spot? Your slate can be the determining factor, your badge of honour, if you will.

In voice-over, it’s all about that voice. That is the single thing being evaluated, and this is why slating can be a risky business. For example, if a client is casting for a guy next door voice, and your slate showcases your ability to be deep and gravelly, the client may click off the moment they hear it. Now that I think about it, this is likely a direct result of previous experience casting for on-camera actors. Old habits die hard and if your slate doesn’t sell them what they want to buy, it’s onto the next.

It could also be because the process of casting voice-over talent has become more streamlined than ever. If the client isn’t immediately impressed by what they hear, another option is literally a click away. I firmly believe you need to make every second count in voice-over auditions. Time is precious in this industry and if you’re not cautious of that, it may cost you a role that could have been yours.

Now, back to the question, to slate or not to slate? I will say, the trends I see on a daily basis point to slating being phased out in online voice-over auditions. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions of talent who slate and have massively successful careers.

So, now that I’ve taken a neutral standpoint, where do we go from here? I’ll offer these insights: if you’re fixed on slating, I’d suggest slating in the style of the role you’re auditioning for. This eliminates the risk of the client clicking away prematurely under the assumption you’re not the right fit.  

If you’d like to take a zero risk approach, don’t slate at all. Submit a read from a sample script provided by the client. The moment they click, you’re immediately showing them why you’re the perfect choice to sell the very idea they want their audience to invest in. Once you’ve proved that, it’s only a matter of time before they invest in you.

Though this business can be madness, there is method to it…okay I’ll stop with the Hamlet shtick now, because this above all, to thine own self be true….OK, this time I mean it.
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