casting

No one wants to get sick…

It’s winter time and colds are inevitable. I remember the first time I got sick after becoming a full-time voiceover actor. I was actually working on my first tv credit, a documentary that ultimately ran on Canadian television called “No Running.” I got sick, which is both unusual for me and unusual over the summer. But, working moms know it happens. When you have young kids, they bring us these treats.  It wasn’t just a slight cold, I had a hacking cough and a brutal sore throat. I didn’t sound a little raspy, my voice became unrecognizable overnight.  Besides that I felt terrible, I was panicked about the job that I was so proud to have booked. I immediately reached out to the producer. He was so kind and understanding. I was fortunate that their production schedule gave them the flexibility to wait until I was better, which incidentally was more than a week. Any working mom can tell you that just doing the minimum to feed your kids and have clean laundry is difficult when you have a fever, but keeping a new business going is even more stressful.  I was very relieved and learned a lot from this lesson early on. If you are a voiceover actor and you get sick, it is very important to be honest with your clients while pursuing a path to wellness.

Be Up Front with Those Who Cast Us

Maintaining client relationships is essential to a sustainable voiceover business. So, if you intend to make your clients happy, and you happen to be a little sick, or worse, really sick, you must tell them before accepting a booking. Transparency is essential in all business dealings and video production companies, casting agents, etc. expect us to sound like our demos and auditions. If we sound like someone else, this is a bate and switch. If you test drive a car, you expect to purchase that car. If you pick out a slab of marble, you expect the quarry to give you the exact slab. We are booked based on our read, and if we don’t sound as expected, we should assume they will either recast the spot or wait for us to recover. I lost a radio spot once about two years ago. It was an adorable spot that I would have been perfect for. But such is life and it is far more important that my client had what he needed when he needed it. Don’t try to hide a cold, it never works out.

Healthy Cold Remedies Specifically Voiceover Actors

Assuming that we all maintain a healthy lifestyle regularly, it is still likely that we will get sick every now and then. I am gluten free and dairy free and try to avoid foods that cause inflammation. Still, I do not live in a bubble and especially since both my children and my husband commute by train, if they get sick I am like a sitting duck. So, as soon as I get congested here are my go to tricks:

  • I gargle with warm water and sea salt. My late grandmother told me to do this and I actually find it quite helpful. The salt cleans out bacteria in your mouth and throat.
  • I use Neil Med Sinus rinse. I prefer the squirt bottle to the nettie pot. It is always important to use this with either boiled or distilled water.
  • I drink Golden Voice Tea. I buy this in amazon. I am not typically a tea drinker but find this really opens me up and it is very soothing. I learned about it from Randy Thomas at her conference and have been drinking it ever since.
  • I am obsessed with my Vicks personal steamer. It is the only way to get into your bronchial vessels and really open them up. I suppose you could just boil water, but this directs it to your face and it feels amazing. Just a heads up, don’t walk around with it once it has started boiling, you can get burned. It does warn you of this but in case you are like me and you ignore such labels, now you have been warned twice!

Making Good Use of The Time…

I don’t know about you, but as a small business owner there is never enough time in the day to finish everything I want to pursue. When I do have a cold, I try to audition less and instead focus my energies on marketing and client out reach. This is helpful for two reasons. First, if bookings do come in, my voice is in it’s best possible shape (assuming I am well enough to work). Next, I can do meaningful outreach that often yields results as good as auditioning. The key is that if you do indeed get sick, do not wait, take action on your path to wellness and while you are pursuing intelligent solutions also have faith that your business will continue to flourish.

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!