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      The Art of the Slate, Part 2

      Personality Questions horror banner

      This post is a follow up to the previous entry about slates titled The Art of the Slate. In that post I discuss the basics of giving a clean, professional slate while still allowing your personality to shine. But what about those slates that ask for answers to specific personality questions? They’re the dreaded “tell us a little about yourself” type of questions that require actors to think on their feet while being funny/charming/approachable/charismatic/professional all in one. These types of questions range from such topics as favorite color to “If you had to choose between being a giraffe or an octopus, which would it be?” Um, what? Or the questions could be a bit more vague, with instructions to “give your name and tell us three things about yourself.”

      "...there are two types of personality questions:

      the kind you can prep

      and the kind you can't."

      So how does one prepare for these types of questions? First, let’s talk about their purpose. The reason these are sometimes included in an actor’s slate instructions are simply for those watching your audition to get a sense of who you are. They are trying to determine if you are someone they want to work with and would be compatible with the others booked on the job. Second, there are two types of personality questions: the kind you can prep and the kind you can’t. Obviously if you are submitting via self-tape you can rehearse your answers to all the questions, which has its pros and cons. Pros: you can ease your nerves about having to think on your feet and deliver a polished yet funny/charming/charismatic answer. Cons: your answer becomes too polished and you lose that sense of personality in your delivery. It’s a bit of a Catch-22. If you are in fact asked to answer personality questions in your self-tape, try not to allow yourself too many takes. You want your answers to feel genuine and not overly rehearsed.

      If you are auditioning in person, the thought of answering personality questions can be a bit daunting, so let’s first focus on the answers you can prepare in advance:

      • Have your “favorites” locked down. These include things such as your favorite color, food, movie/book, etc. You probably won’t get asked these often, which is why if you do it’s easy to get thrown off. If you have answers already prepared for these you’ll find it’s easier to talk about why they’re your favorites, which in turn will allow your personality to come through.
      • Have a short joke prepared. In fact, have two. Every once in a blue moon you might be asked if you know any jokes. This isn’t meant to throw an actor off - it likely means the director likes you and just wants to get a feel for your sense of humor when it’s not scripted on the page. Having a joke or two in your back pocket will keep you calm in this situation and allow you to actually have fun rather than freak out.
      • Identify some fun or interesting facts you can share about yourself. Perhaps you have a unique talent, such as you can hold a handstand for nine full minutes, or you’ve been taking clogging lessons for fifteen years. Maybe all the females in your family are twins, or you’re the first in your family to graduate college. When given the dreaded prompt, “Tell us a little about yourself,” many actors resort to basic info such as “I’m from Milwaukee and I have two dogs.” While that’s fine, it doesn’t really say a lot about the person. If you can highlight some of the unique things that make you you, your audition will be far more memorable.
      • Make note of anything particularly funny or interesting that occurs during the week. Funny observations can often be useful in an audition setting, and are another tool to have in your back pocket.

      For those questions in which the answers are impossible to prepare, such as, “If you were an ice cream flavor, which would you be and why,” it can be easy to get caught up in your head thinking of the “right” answer. The thing is, there is no right answer, which in a way is really freeing. Oftentimes these types of questions are asked simply to catch different facial expressions, particularly if the scene is MOS (without sound). Have fun with these! You honestly can't give an incorrect answer. Directors really do just want to see your personality shine through.

      Preparation, along with knowing why you are being asked these questions in the first place, can help take the awkwardness out of your slate and make for a far more successful audition.

      The Art of the Slate

      "Hello, my name is " nametag

      It’s amazing how the words, “Hi, my name is _____” can become so nerve-wracking and angst-ridden once the camera is rolling. Slates are a vital part of an audition, though many might think of them as more of a necessary evil. So why are slates so difficult? To the chagrin of many, standing still and introducing yourself while exuding charm and trying to appear oh-so-perfect for the role can be an anxiety-inducing challenge. This feeling is magnified when you are trying to self-tape and don’t have the energy from the director/producer/casting associate in the audition room. The good news is slates don’t have to be terrifying, and the more you do them the easier they become.

      There are two schools of thought when it comes to slates. The first is that you should slate as yourself. In other words, introduce yourself as you, not the character you are trying to play. Allow your own personality to come through in those first few seconds before you launch into the scene. The second school of thought is that you should slate in character. So which do you choose? Different casting directors will have different preferences, and sometimes these preferences change depending on the project.

      Sometimes you can determine what kind of slate you should do based on the information you have about the project. If you are doing a general open call as a way to introduce yourself to a casting office, it’s probably a safe bet to go with the first school of thought. Be yourself. You’ve probably heard the phrase “You’re auditioning for the room, not the role.” An open call allows casting directors to meet actors they haven’t worked with yet, and they want to know what it is they’ll get if they call you in for a project. They want to get to know YOU.

      If, however, you’re auditioning for a director or producer who has auditioned you before and already knows you or your work, then slating in character is perfectly acceptable and possibly even preferred. This is especially true if the scene is particularly emotional or dramatic (it would be rather jarring for an actor to walk in and slate with a smile and bubbly personality and then launch into a tearful funeral scene). Use your best judgment. To that note, you also don’t want to scare those that are in the audition room. If the role is an angry, loud-mouthed character who is constantly shouting, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to yell your name right into the director’s face.

      If you’ve done the work and are mentally prepared for the scene before you walk into the audition room, the slate will come naturally. Often, I find the most organic slates come from a combination of the two aforementioned options. If you get yourself into the mindset of the character before you walk into the audition room, you’ll set the right tone in those first few seconds before you begin the scene.