THE 4 CRUCIAL SECONDS AT AN AUDITION THAT MOST ACTORS DON’T KNOW ABOUT
As soon as the camera is rolling and the Casting Director says "slate", you need to not only introduce yourself but SELL yourself BEFORE starting to read the copy or reciting your lines. Contrary to what a lot of actors think, a slate/slating is not just saying your name or the name of the product before taping a commercial audition. A slate is the first 4-7 seconds of your audition.
It is the first meeting you'll have with the client, the producer, the director and all those people sitting around watching the playbacks of 50-100 auditions- your competitors - and deciding WHO will be booked for the job.
Guess what? They decide in those first 4-7 seconds if they want to see your audition or if they're going to pass on you. A bad slate and they'll never see your wonderful commercial performance. You're out of the running. Audition over! They may see the slate and watch the first line of your performance, fast forward to the last line but probably not if they don't like what they saw in your slate.
What NOT to do in your slate.
PS: This applies for both commercial and TV series/movie audition but I've geared it towards commercials.
A - If you say your name in a bland, dull or boring way-that's what they think of you. Fast forward and they never see your "read". Oops! Audition over!
B - If you say your name indifferently and then look down at the copy and come back smiling, "acting" and selling the product, they'll think you're phony because you haven't connected YOU with the copy and the product. It should be seamless-no gaps in between. They'll probably fast forward. Oops!
C - If you say your name too fast, mumble or if your name is very foreign sounding or difficult to understand to the average Kenyan, Middle American, they will most definitely fast forward. Speak clearly! Say your name slowly, clearly, repeat if necessary!!!!! If you can't say your name and be understood- it's over. No one will spend a few million shillings on an Ad campaign if the actor representing the product and the corporation cannot be understood saying their own name! Oops! You're wasting your time coming to the audition.
What TO DO in your slate.
So the trick is to grab them with your smile, your warmth, your personality and your energy so they will watch your audition. Even then, they'll probably fast forward after the first line, skipping to the last line. They wrote the copy, know it very well and certainly don't need to hear all 50-100 actors say the same thing over and over. They want to be "blown away" by someone in the first few seconds or the last. Time is money- lots of money- in the Advertising world. Provide the solution in a hurry and YOU make the money!
A slate is the time to charm them, wow them, enchant and motivate them to hire you. Sometimes that's all you have to audition with, the slate.
How so? Well, If you go to a commercial audition and there's no copy, no lines, how do you book the job? 30% of all commercials have no lines, just a storyboard. The actor is doing something with a product. You're a teenager at the pizza parlor, a housewife dusting the furniture, a happy couple on a cruise ship, a pretty woman brushing her hair, some guys drinking beer at a bar. So how do you book a job where you can't act, can't speak or say anything? Your slate!
You can be the character they are looking for by the way you say your name and introduce yourself. No law against what you can say in a slate. So think outside the box. Be creative!
How TO DO That?
So for those spots with NO LINES you need to be very creative in your slate. There was a Volkswagen spot a few years back-very retro where they were looking for a couple of hippies from the 60's. I suggested to one of my clients that he go dressed in a tie-dyed t-shirt, wearing beads or a headband. OK. That's easy. Wardrobe choice. When he got to the audition-no copy. So what did he do? When it was time to slate his name, he raised a fist, turned it into a "V" sign for peace and said, "Like wow-Peace, man, I'm Stephen" and then mimed smoking a joint.
That did it! They could see the behavior as well as the "image" of a hippie and Stephen got cast. Network spot. Five figure income in the next 6 months. The slate got him the job. (well, of course he wouldn't be smoking a joint in a real TV commercial but it suggested 60's behavior.) A good actor has imagination and that's why he got booked!
Another example: For a baby shampoo, one of my clients mimed washing her baby who was obviously splashing soapy water in his bath. Wiping the imaginary soap from her face and eyes, she used her best "Mommy" voice and said during the slate, "Whew, no more tears even on my face- Hi, I'm Jenny and this little splasher is Joey... "
Again, the behavior, the Mommy voice during the slate and introducing an imaginary baby using the product, BABY SHAMPOO did it. She booked the major market spot and made a 6 figure income. Sound ridiculous? Well, that's how commercials work and that's why your slate is so important. Besides having fun and being creative as an actor, you make a lot of money! To sum up:
Just saying your name won't get you the job. Use the slate to show them who YOU are or to portray the character. Can't argue with a few hundred thousand shillings in residuals, can you??
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