It's safe to say that I have some issues with my own name. First off, I've always liked my sister's name better than mine but that's not really the crux of the problem.
You see, when I don’t use my middle name in between my first and last name, they rhyme. Leslie Nifoussi. That's my married name and believe me, my maiden name is not much better. Oh, and when I do use my middle name, it’s a tongue-twisting sea of “L”s - Leslie Lynn Nifoussi. Leslie Lynn? Mom? Dad? Really??
I probably should have come up with a stage name that I could live with but once I got rolling in my career, I felt like it was too late. Any who, if this blog shows up one day written by Elle Nifoussi, you'll know why.
If you’re just starting out, I’d give some serious thought to a stage name because you will be saying and hearing your own name a lot. A whole lot. Like, a lot, lot. And, you do want your name to be memorable and easy to pronounce.
In fact, this post should have been titled Get a Good Name and then, Get Good at Saying It.
Before each casting, you’ll be asked to slate. That’s when you say your name and height, agency and the role you are reading for.
But it’s more than just blurting out your stats. It’s an introduction. A warm introduction that should feel like it's being accompanied by a warm handshake.
It’s also the casting director and client's first impression of you. You'll either grab their attention or you'll turn them off completely.
If you’re sending in a self-tape, they may or may not watch the rest of your submission based solely on your slate. I’ve even heard of instances where the client is watching the slate on mute and if you’re not animated enough or smiling during your slate, they stop the tape. They've already decided that you're not a good fit and they didn't even get to your stellar performance!
There are a few things to remember when you walk into the casting room, stand on your mark and start your slate.
1. Follow directions.
Listen to what is asked of you and remember it! Slates are always different and sometimes you'll be asked to state your name and height, sometimes name height and age, sometimes name, height, age and profiles...the list goes on. Listen carefully to the instructions, repeat them, if necessary and make sure you include all of the information that's being asked of you.
2. Give a beat between your first and last name.
No need to rush out your first and last name like they're one long word. Let your first name land before you start your last name. Make is clear. Make it memorable. Say it with pride!
3. Consider your body language.
If you are introducing yourself to a crowd of people (and you're concerned about them actually liking you) you'd present yourself in a welcoming way. You wouldn't cross your arms, fidget, roll your ankle, stick your hands in your pocket...in other words, you wouldn't be a schlub. You'd probably stand up straight, look them in the eye, smile. That's exactly the slate body language you should use. Warm, friendly, confident. Your best 'like me' language.
4. End with a Smile.
Once you've completed your slate. Don't look off camera or check your shoelaces or laugh at the sound of your own name. Stand there and smile until you receive further direction. The casting director is most likely going to grab a full body shot of you and if you're moving around, oy vey you're sending out a huge NOVICE alert!
5. Slate in Character.
I've heard some different theories on whether or not you should slate in character, if you are going for a character role. One of the top casting directors in my area says yes, absolutely. If you're playing a doctor, then you a doctor from the minute you step out of your car in the parking lot until you drive away from the casting office. You speak like a doctor, you dress like a doctor. You ARE a DOCTOR.
Bottom line: Don't ignore your slate! Practice it. Engage with the camera. Feel it.
I like that so much better!