You get an audition and you think wow, I would be perfect, just perfect for this project! You spend time analyzing the role and marking up the script. You record your best take and edit it beautifully. Then you send it off, hoping that the voiceover gods shine down on you and today is your day, your turn to announce the booking. Unfortunately, no matter how much time you spend on putting your best self out there, very little time will likely be spent listening to your voiceover submission. Whether it’s a commercial, a narration, or a video game audition, when a casting agent or a video production team is listening to your read, you only have a few seconds- sometimes three and sometimes 8 to catch their attention. If they like what they hear they keep listening, and if they don’t it’s on to the next one in the pile. As a professional voiceover actor, it is so important to use the audition to catch their attention at the beginning of the read.
The Professional Demo
I often get complimented on my demos, and people say things like, “Wow, did you put that together yourself?” I try not to gasp in horror before I respond that no, my professional commercial demo is my calling card and a professional voiceover actor should NEVER produce their own demo. As we only have precious seconds to seal the deal, we need to make that initial investment so that our best work is heard. Now, when the time comes, we need to be able to perform just as we did on every single demo or we will crash and burn very quickly, but that demo should represent where our ability is at the moment we submit. So if that is what a casting agent or production team has to go by, then they should be confident in their choice based on our demo.
Making the Audition Stand Out
Even though I have talent agents all over the country, the majority of my daily auditions come from pay to play sites. While try to submit in the first 10 or so auditions and have a very solid booking ration, sometimes upwards of 70 people submit for the same job. So, how do you make your read standout? How do you get on the short list and even get noticed? Self direction is really important. When I analyze a script I have to make a choice about the character I am playing, and whether it is a voiceover for a phone message or an eLearning module, I am someone and the person choosing the talent better identify with that character right away.
I think understanding music and notes also helps a bit. Sometimes I listen back and I hear that I started too high or too low. I can hear when the pace needs to be varied and when it is just right. I think the ability to self-access is extremely important in this scenario.
Make Them Want to Keep Listening
If you had to listen to the same script read 80 times, how would you feel? Give them something juicy, interesting, different, enjoyable. Something that makes them stop and say wow, this is awesome. I have friends who are such successful voiceover talents that they have crossed over into casting. They have shared that while they thought the would always listen all the way through, they confess that if the first 5 seconds are bad they are on to the next read. So that’s it, that’s really what you get.
And it Always Comes Back To The Booth…
In the end, you are only as good as you sounds. As most of our jobs are recorded from home, having pristine audio quality is paramount and if you deliver a brilliant read and your studio is clearly not broadcast ready then you will go nowhere. Imagine. these people are not just listening to your audition for your booking. They are looking for voiceovers all day long every day. They know the difference. You need good equipment. A USB mic will never sound like a Neumann TLM 103. It just won’t.
We ALL Keep Training
When our careers hang on split second decisions, this is why ongoing professional development and coaching is so crucial. The best in the business, folks making multiple 6 figures, continue going to conferences and having private coaches for a reason. We need to stand out. Our auditions are the job. They are everything. And if we cannot hear honest assessments of their strengths and weaknesses and then work on improving them, then we have no where to go and become stagnant. The hope for voiceover talent lies in the potential for development. We are never finished and are always evolving and that is why even in 5 seconds we can shine!