Wonderful tips for auditioning effectively for online casting from Guest Blogger, Billie Jo Konze!
What I learned from seeing the voice seeker side of a pay to play site
A director friend of mine, who hires voice talent frequently, comes to me with questions about voice over occasionally. It’s affirming… and, nice to feel helpful! A few months back, I asked him if I might be able to help him with casting sometime, so I could see what the other side was like. Back in my theatre days, I got to watch the casting process a few times, and it was always immensely informative getting to see the patterns. What made an audition good, bad, great, awkward, etc…
My friend replied that he didn’t have any castings coming up, but offered me the option to see previous castings he had done on one popular P2P site.
I learned a TON. And I can’t wait to share it with you!
In case you’re wondering, I asked my friend if it would be okay to write about this, so long as I didn’t share any identifying details about him, the P2P site, or any of the talent whose auditions I listened to, just general takeaways of key trends that I saw.
Are you ready for this???
14 Things I learned from taking a walk on the voice-seeker side…
1 – Even great people have a bad day
There are people who are well-known in this industry, respected talent with CAREERS, whose auditions I listened to in the portal, and who, in the immortal words of Canadian chanteuse Shania Twain, did not impress me much. But I know these people are talented! So what gives? Well, everyone has an off-day. Or phones it in from time to time. So when you go on the P2P sites thinking “I’m still pretty new to the biz, and I don’t stand a chance against all of these awesome people,” you do yourself a disservice. Also, don’t put people on pedestals, or they’ll eventually fall off and hurt you when they land on your head.
And in that same vein…
2 – Decades in the business doesn’t mean anything
I didn’t read all of the proposals, but I did skim through lots of them, and I gotta tell you, there were plenty of people touting how many years they’ve been in the industry. 25 years…35 years… Honestly, a lot of their auditions didn’t necessarily demonstrate it. A voice seeker is going to be more interested in how your audition measures up to the others in the bunch, and not necessarily weigh in how long you’ve been in the biz. Your definition of being “in the biz” might be doing rip and read commercials for your radio station in Butte, Montana, or might be self-producing audio books. If you’ve been in the business for a long time, complacency is a killer. To keep your career thriving, keep on learning.
3 – Quote your rate wisely
The jobs my friend posted asked people to quote a rate. The person with, in my opinion, the best audition of the bunch also quoted the highest rate of everyone auditioning (I think $750). That person knew their value FOR SURE. On the other hand, two people in the bunch super lowballed, and while their auditions weren’t bad, it really turned me off. If you’re charging $200 and everyone else is charging between 350 and 550, it makes me wonder what’s wrong with you. Desperation is a terrible look. Use the GVAA rate guide if you don’t know what to quote. And if you STILL have questions, ask other voice actors.
Out of curiosity, I did ask my friend if price point influenced him one way or the other, and he said personally, he doesn’t look at that at all. He just narrows down to his top choices before sending them on to the client. I have a feeling that there are probably voice seekers out there whose clients have budget top of mind, and may do it differently.
4 – Breathe!
I’ve seen some people high up in the business rant recently about voice actors removing every single breath from their recordings. (I may or may not have been guilty of that in the past myself) After listening through a few hundred auditions, I gotta say, leaving a little bit of breath really does help the audition feel more conversational, more natural, and just easier to listen to. Take out the giant gasps, minimize the volume of intakes if they’re jarring, but for heaven’s sake, let your read breathe!
5 – Keep your slate short
In the past few years, slates have started going the way of the dodo. Our name is in the file name, and casting directors don’t have the time for an additional 5 seconds on 1000 auditions in a day. That’s 83 minutes, or, you know, a lunch break.
Now, that being said, a few people in the bunch I listened to slated well, and it really helped me hear them. But then others just rambled, and it was annoying. If you’re going to slate, keep it short and sweet.
6 – You can’t hide a bad read with great production
While your bad sound quality might cost you a job, your read is what’s going to book you the job. Make sure you focus on that.
7 – Auditions that are too perfect aren’t good
A casting director in an on-camera audition workshop once told me “stop trying to be perfect—we want to see YOU.” I’ve heard it from other coaches as well, and it’s something I continue to work on. But when you hear it yourself, it’s undeniable. Some of the auditions I heard were too polished, and so it was impossible to connect to them emotionally.
8 – AI auditions???? REALLY???
Okay…I’ve seen clients post casting notices on the P2Ps that say “Custom reads only—No AI voices,” but I didn’t think it was really happening. Perhaps I’m wrong, and perhaps a couple of people were just an extreme example of #7’s cautionary tale, but I’m pretty sure a few people were using an AI version of their own voice in order to send off auditions more efficiently. One of these people slated with their own voice right before, though, which is why I question whether it was true. The slate was great! The audition not so much. Either way, whether this person just put on a “professional voice” for the audition script that was really stiff OR they used an AI voice to audition, as a voice seeker by proxy, it turned me off. The contrast between the slate and the audition were just too stark. Definitely not auditioning effectively for online casting
9 – Smile! (But not too much)
Corporate scripts can be terribly boring, and these people are hiring YOU to bring them to life. You know what helps? A smile! A smile brings warmth to your voice and energy to your read. But be careful. There were a handful of auditions in the bunch that sounded less warm and friendly and more manic.
10 – Use your voice
When I first started in voiceover, unlike most theatre people who yell into the mic, I was the opposite. I knew the mic would pick up everything, and so I was tentative and held back. In one of my first big sessions, after a couple of reads, the engineer buzzed in and said “Can you be more on-voice? You’re a bit breathy.”
What he meant was I was expelling too much air on the words, rather than using that air to support them. If you’re on-voice, you’ll have a fuller, more resonant sound.
Breathy is definitely useful at times, but use sparingly.
11 – Don’t be inappropriately sexy
Ladies, this one is mostly for you. I didn’t hear this from any of the guys, though it’s possible it could happen. If you’re voicing a script on corporate food service supplies, they’re probably not going to want a sultry tone. Save it for the liquor commercials and luxury car ads.
12 – Use proper levels
Make sure your sound levels are correct. If you’re too quiet, you’re just not going to sound as good as everyone else.
13 – Submitting a demo instead of a custom read is a crapshoot
Listening through sample after sample, I found it extremely jarring when I got to a talent who submitted a produced demo instead of a custom read.
Indeed, my friend said that he ignores submissions that don’t do a read of the script, because he wants to hear the audio quality of the space, someone’s ability to self-direct, and not be distracted from the read by production on top of the voice. On top of that, he’s comparing someone’s interpretation of the script to others’ interpretations of the script. With a demo, you’re comparing apples to kumquats.
I have friends who swear that they book regularly by just uploading produced demos instead of a custom read, but I caution you that in some cases, you might be turning voice seekers off. And if they say outright, custom reads only, then personally I think it’s just rude to waste their time with your demo.
14 – Develop your technique
90% of the people who I listened to had objectively good voices, but not all of them sounded like human beings. So here’s one tip from my acting school days that will help you: when you are telling a story, emphasizing the right words helps your listener follow along and visualize what you’re saying. The best auditions I listened to, the voice actor hit the operative words and didn’t drop the ends of their lines, so I could follow the thoughts behind the words. You aren’t just reading. You’re not even just speaking. You are conveying ideas.
If you struggle with this, I highly recommend taking a class on Shakespeare. Seriously, learning how to deliver a soliloquy properly will help you hear it better than anything else.
But in the meantime, if you’re not ready to go that far, just start circling the important words, note contrasting words (any binary language is important) and repetition of words or ideas, and make sure that any time you have a list, each item has a different feel, and you’ll be well on your way to having better technique.
I hope these tips were helpful for auditioning effectively for online casting no matter the platform! Thanks to Natasha for letting me share them with you, since she’s a Voice123 star. If you want more, I blog weekly about the vo biz and beyond over at www.billiejokonze.com.