Thursday, March 25, 2010

To Slate, or Not to Slate? A Common Voice Over Question

There are varying opinions as to why or why not someone should slate in an online audition. The truth is... with any creative field, you never have a definitive 'right way', but there is always a definite 'wrong way'.

This week, we examine 'slating' and why or why it is not done.

  • It was a common practice when working offline, and going to studios to slate names before one began an audition.

  • The way auditions were collected called for it to happen this way.

  • Working in any new environment, such as online casting, it is common to do what you were once taught as a business practice.

Why is it NOT done as frequently now?
  • Working with a website involves a new way of collecting auditions. Your name is right there on the interface.

  • A marketing tip when working online is that if you can offer a solution to a problem in one mouse-click, and less time, the buyer feels like a genius for finding you.

  • Attention spans run shorter, online. In general, it takes somewhere between 5 and 20 seconds before they have concluded that the mouse-click was a failure, and it is best to stop listening. Should the first 10 seconds of an audition be a slate, or are you spending time telling them something they already know or will find out?

There are always those who can say, 'I slate, and I get work often online' and those who do not slate and get work. So what do you do now?

Think a moment about things already happening now:
  • Slates that offer personal commentary, or a long explanation into what the person is about to hear, usually leave a voice seeker bored before they hear the audition.

  • Feedback received from voice talent on Voice123 who have posted work as voice seekers, have expressed that 'techno slates' damage chances with the client because the first voice the client should hear is the talent's voice.

  • Many who audition are in the belief that they are always auditioning for the person doing the hiring. In fact, most voice seekers are posting the voice over work as a 3rd party to present to a client. This means, the auditions being presented to the client represent the job poster's ability to find voice talent. Any slate leading to the question, 'When will the audition start?', may do more harm than good.

A final note... a creative talent always has to face that question, 'Is what I am intending to do being received like I had intended?'. It is a tough question to face because creativity comes from the mind and heart, and the anonymous atmosphere online allows for people to be more opinionated than they would be face to face. It is always important never to take someone's business decision personally.

In a 'do-it-yourself voice talent' environment, each voice talent has to offer a bit of online customer service by knowing what you do not need to slate to them, if you even should, or looking at the track record of whether or not it has been a successful voice over practice online.

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
Voice123 Premium Forums
Steven's BlogTwitter: @stevenNYC123


David said...

Allow me to be a dissenting voice, as both talent here and a CD for 10-30 projects per month, both online and off.

I'm not sure what the basis is for voice talent commenting on "damage" - I don't think any of us could possibly say that we'd have gotten the job if we hadn't slated. So, I can't tell what value surveying talent actually holds in this debate.

I DO agree that using your slate as a conversation with the voice seeker is a HUGE mistake. Giving a dissertation of any length other than your name and the role is an amazing speed bump, which will cause any voice seeker to feel anxious about getting to the audition.

On the other hand, I completely disagree with the idea not to slate that simple information. It allows the voice seeker to reset from the prior audition, and if it's one of several roles the voice seeker is looking for, it helps remind them what the audition was for.

Again, I've read here before (as you mentioned, this was a repeat) that you don't recommend slates - I don't see any actual numeric data that suggests that's true for everyone.

In fact, I slate all the time. And I book a lot. But that's me - it's just as right for me and maybe not right for others as the reverse.

I would rather know who the person is and that they can be brief about their slate - a great indicator about how efficient they'll be in their work.

J.S. Gilbert said...

I would think this issue of slating isn't cut and dried. I think if the audition (who ever came up with the term custom demo should be summarily flogged) is from an ad agency or any of a number of different experienced users of talent, the lack of a slate says "newbie" or at best "radio guy".

Because talent are so much more easily identified, many of the people doing the casting may fear that their client will simply snag the talent they like by doing a Google search and finding their web site.

This becomes especially more interesting if the client discovers that of the $1,000 they are paying for voice talent, only $250 is actually going to the actor.

This occurred recently to someone I know.

What would make life so much easier would be a mandatory box for the person posting the audition that simply says Do yo want talent to slate? (begin the audition by stating their name, and often the role they are auditioning for) Yes No additional information (this latter part could be used by someone like me to ask tal;ent to only give their first name or for an ad agency to say Slate and provide agency affiliation if you have an agent.

There, now isn't that easy.


Tansy said...

Great blog article, because I was just wondering this the other day about slating. But I am a little confused as to what kind of slates take 10 seconds. Mine usually run less than 2 seconds, and I tend to slate in the same mode I will be auditioning in, so they can hear my voice print immediately (unless it is for a character voice, in which case I go from me into the character).

Can't wait to see what the talent seekers might say directly about this practice!

Eric Medler said...

Though I have only been a full time voice talent in the age of online casting. I do not believe in slating online auditions. On line auditions are "short attention span" casting situations. All of your information is VISABLE to the client and once they push play you have (IMHO) about 5-10 seconds (if that) to convince them to continue listening to your audition instead of moving on to one of the other 50-200 auditions that were submitted to them from various sources. Fact is that I have been a member of many of these pay audition sites and voice seekers do post on multiple sites and will dismiss any voice talent as soon as they hear something they don't like (read: your 'slate' could be getting you prematurely disqualified from a vo you may be perfect for). I also believe that they stop listening once they find the 1, 2 or 3 that they do like. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about the pay site auditions, I have personally made a good living with them. I am just stating that you only have a precious few seconds to impress and win the audition and in almost all cases, you better be one of the first 30 auditions and on top of your game. No matter if the audition script is 10 words or a thousand words, the potential client is not looking for someone who can become the right voice...Make no mistake, they are listening to your 'audition' as if it were the final product. They do not care what your name is, and frankly, why would they and why should you give a rats ass if they know your name. This is a business for making money to pay for your life. If you get the job from your audition, trust me, they will know your name by the time you get hired and paid. Once that happens, it's your job to be a good business person and follow up with your clients and build your career.
Slating (again...IMHO) is simply an ego boost to the talent, A waste of your potential client's time and may be loosing you jobs. I would venture a guess (though I have no proof) that if you simply sent in your slate as your audition to get a job, you would not get a single one.
Work on acing your audition and **** your slate. If you are the voice they want, you're the voice they want. There are 10's of thousands of 'voice talents' out here. Be good, be fast, be accurate and be a solid professional and your clients will remember your name.

Eric Medler
E. J. Medler Studios LLC

Richard Zempel said...

As both a voice talent and a long time voice seeker/producer, I believe slates are a good idea. Quick, name and take number only. Just as was the practice before online auditions, it is good to have an audio "label" at the head of any audition so subsequent listeners down the line can keep track of who they are listening to, even if the audition is downloaded, edited on to a longer track of many talents' auditions, kept on file, etc. A short 2 sec. slate can't hurt and might certainly help. It's still a good idea.

David said...

I appreciate your points Eric, but I still disagree. I don't slate for my ego - I slate because I want the CD to know who's talking. And like Tansy, my slate takes a couple of seconds. I watch carefully to see if the voice seeker says "no slates" and act accordingly.

I also cast, both online and off, and you never know where the CD is listening to your stuff. The fact that it's available to me in several locations (filename, profile, audition/submission etc), doesn't mean they will be able to see it right then - what if they've accumulated everything and forwarded to their mobile phone (as I do from time to time).

Sorry, but I think it's still useful. Again, respectful of your opinion, and the urgings of the folks here at V123.