This article looks at voiceover slating and tells you how to slate your voiceover demos and auditions. The big question though is should you slate your voiceover demo!?
The topic of slating is a contentious one, and many people argue in different directions – yes you should slate your demos, no you shouldn’t slate, yes you should but you should do it in a character voice and so on.
Firstly though, let’s answer the question…
What is Voiceover Slating?
Voiceover Slating is where you put an ident to who you are at the start of your voiceover demo reel, or your custom audition. Typically they go in the format of “Firstname, Lastname – Demo Type”, so for me that would be “Hugh Edwards – Narrative Reel” for example.
It should be pointed out that we are discussing slating here on both your custom auditions for Pay to Play sites and also on your pre-made demo reels you use to try and get work.
There are lots of examples of casting directors, or voice actors who say you should not slate your demos and auditions…so…
Why Should You Slate?
There are three reasons you should slate, and all of these are vitally important:
- Voiceover Slating tells the casting director who you are. As a casting director I get to hear hundreds of clips for each title I do, sometimes thousands, but over the course of a month, or even a year I get lots of repeat actors sending in clips. This gets lodged in the subconscious and over time, we see who is working a lot and who isn’t. You get to know people through their clips. The second reason this is important is that you’re actually telling us who you are – and that gives you identity and reminds us of your brand.
- Voiceover Slating tells the casting director what you intend the demo to be for. This may sound dumb, but I get between 5-10% of clips sent to me incorrectly, probably because people are auditioning so much. If you send me a reel that tells me it’s a caricature reel, but it should have been a straight-read, at least I know you weren’t over-acting. I’ve even had demos sent to me which were for the wrong subject entirely, but the performances were great – and I’ve booked them for the job anyway. Your intention of your reel is critical. This is done in the second part of the slate, e.g., “Hugh Edwards – BMW Demo”.
- Voiceover Slating Provides Immediate Range. Probably the most important of the three reasons to slate. It’s a bit of a trick, but it’s effective; if you slate in your normal voice, bright and sparky and then immediately launch into a character voice, or a narrative read with dramatic intention, you are immediately showing two different performances – your natural voice and your second read. One of the most important aspects of demo reels is the ability to show your range and ability as a performer, and your slate is an effective way to do this immediately.
But there’s another question we need to ask ourselves, that’s just as important:
What’s the Purpose of a Demo Reel/Audition Anyway?
Most people would think that the purpose of a custom audition or a demo reel is to get you hired for a job. Although that makes sense, it’s actually not true:
The purpose of a demo reel/custom audition is to get the hirer to listen all the way to the end, and then to shortlist you…
…Now that is a subtle difference, but that’s the way the world now works, and once you have that truth in your head, you have to conclude that the way you approach the creation of your reel and your custom auditions is subtly different as well.
You have to engage the listener all the way to the end, and you have to illustrate your range and ability in the clip…that is one step closer to auditioning effectively.
You can find out more about this in our Improve Your Casting Chances course – 22 modules on how to approach auditions.
Anyway, I digress. If you accept that you have to provide range to audition well, you can see the real benefit of the 3rd point I mention above – voiceover slating provides immediate range to the casting director. Yes, it’s a bit of a trick, but yes, it works.
Why Do Some People Say No to Voiceover Slating?
There are a few reasons why people say no to the idea of voiceover slating. In my opinion they are misguided, but for the sake of clarity I feel I should put their point of view forward fairly:
- The P2P Site Conundrum. One or two of the main P2P sites do not like you do slate on their auditions because they do not want the hirers to be able to bypass their site/system and contact the voice artist directly. These are rules which are employed by the sites, and must be obeyed if you want to work on their auditions.
Unfortunately, this is a bit of a sycophantic approach, done not for the voice artist but to retain profit in their own business model.
Even more unfortunately, this has propagated throughout the voiceover world as the way it should be done via the wonderful model of misinformation that exists in our industry.
However, some are getting it right; if you look at Voice123 for example, they do not employ this philosophy and have their business model weighted much more fairly to the voice artist.
- The Casting Directors Time Conundrum. I think it’s a fair point to say that due to the amount of voice artists auditioning today, trained casting directors do get many more auditions than they used to. Their argument against slating goes something like this: They want to be able to line up all the audition clips in a folder and click through them one-by-one, thereby getting to the meat of the audition in a speedy way. Although I don’t agree with it, I have to concede that this is a valid argument.
- The Non-Casting Director. It’s fact that although I’ve talked about myself as a casting director and other trained casting directors, it’s fair to say that nowadays, because of the P2P sites and the advent of companies who never used VO before casting jobs, there are a lot of people casting who have no idea what they are doing – they are not trained in the art. These people are following the P2P Site Conundrum Rules above, and are essentially being guided by the information given to them.
Is This a Geographical Thing? UK vs USA?
I recently attended the VO Atlanta conference in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, which by the way is an excellent trip if you can make it. During that conference I was one of four members of a director’s panel hosted by the excellent Mary Lynn Wissner, where we spoke about lots of different things from voice-direction to casting.
Of the four directors, I was the only Brit, the others were Americans. When we tried to tackle the subject of the elephant in the room – voiceover slating – we got the following responses; one said you shouldn’t slate (American), one said you should slate (American), one said you should slate but in character (i.e., not in your natural voice, and she was American) and the last said that you should slate in your natural voice (me, British).
Considering that all four of us are professional casting directors and all four of us gave different answers, I think this answers the question that this is not a geographical thing, but actually the personal preference of the individual casting director.
Aarrrgghh!! So Who Is Right?! Do we Slate Or Not!!!??
…was the look on several people in the front row of the audience who were now completely confused! You may well be feeling the same, and actually, those few were the inspiration for me to write this article to try and clear it up for everyone – (this one’s for you, ladies in the front row!)
Actually the answer to this is pretty simple:
So, here goes.
Slating is there for you, the voice actor, and for your benefit, not for the casting director’s benefit.
Once you get that through your head and remember the 3 benefits of slating that I talked about above, it’s easy to work out what to do.
…because human nature dictates that it’s in your interests to – your name lodges in their head, your range is increased and they know what your intention was for this demo reel.
Great! So I Slate All the Time?
So…always slate. There is one exception to this rule, which is….never slate if you are asked not to do so.
Casting directors are all individuals and have their own processes and methods – if you’re asked not to slate, don’t slate, there’s no reason to annoy them if they have specifically asked you not to. The same goes for P2P sites – if the individual site you are working on tells you not to slate, don’t slate – again you’ve been asked not to.
Likewise, if you’ve been asked to slate in character – do what you are asked! You’re going to fare badly if you ignore any of their casting rules!
But if they don’t mention it – always slate ….. as it’s more advantageous for you to do so.
In the ever-growing market of voiceover artists and voice hirers, being heard and standing out is ever-more important, and slating is just one of the things that will help you.
21st March ’17.