The Three Tiers of The Voice Over Audition
A Wee Bit Of Change
No matter how we look at it, the voice over auditioning process has gone through a wee bit of change over the years. Dramatically. Well, basically everything went online. And the sheer volume of work continuing to head in this direction has sent one or two tidal waves throughout the industry.
There are times when we take auditioning for granted. We don't realize the work it requires and the realities setting into place. 'Ah, they'll love me. All I gotta do is lay down some money reads and it's a given' Kudos to you for the confidence! Were you also aware that there are a few layers to the process? Essentially it breaks down into three different categories, or what I like to call The Three Tiers of The Voice Over Audition. It's really quite simple.
Whether we like it or not, auditioning from home is the new norm. And it's probably going to be for a while. What's not to like? You're in the convenience and comfort of YOUR own digs with YOUR cozy studio. You make YOUR own schedule. The audition probably has a deadline in a few days. You might immediately send it out, do a little dance and brag about it on Facebook (Oh Glorious Audition!), or put it aside until the last minute, scrambling to get a few reads together, until you realize you misread the deadline and the project has already been cast. Chances are, you're going to want to get it out to your agent ASAP as others will be piling in and you risk not being heard.
Yes, there's a downside to all upsides.
Of course, a major factor in this is 'Will you be heard at all?' It's obviously beyond our control. Most of these are usually the mass Voicebank auditions that almost every single agency in the country is going to pounce on. Not stomping on Voicebank as they're a great way for people to get noticed! More often than not, you may not even be right for the project but your agent had to respond because 'times are difficult.' We might want to reconsider that agency's role in our voice over career.
The problem with the home audition is really the whole gamble of it all. The uncertainty. Yes, auditioning in general is one big gamble. When looking at it more closely though, everything seems to not be in our favor. On our own schedule, it may seem like a real privilege. However, home auditioning locks us into our comfort zones and perpetuates the anal self-director in all of us. For the newbie, this may mean using headphones and getting distracted by the sound of their own voice. Or the pro doesn't trust his or her instincts, does 5 or 6 takes and accidentally winds up in a whirlwind of pointless editing, forgetting completely what the message is. Without someone on the other end directing even the slightest adjustment, we may not increase our chances of booking anything. To me, this confinement stifles any kind of career progress.
At some point, we need to ask ourselves these questions:
Am I really getting the creative feedback I need?
Is auditioning from home helping me or hurting me?
Am I being challenged?
What are the pros/cons?
To have one to not have one. To have ten of them. Agents are our advocates. Some may send us 20 auditions a week, some may send us 20 a year. Either way, they are in one form or another a bridge to potentially getting heard more often and regularly. And sometimes, by a real person. Remember those? Many of us have agencies all over the world, some of which are obviously not down the street. We may not always have the luxury of an in-person audition. It's not terrible, it's not great either. However, if our agency is local and we can just walk in, what's stopping us? Agency auditions can be pretty cool too for a number of reasons. For one, they get us out of the confines of our apartment. Secondly, it's a great way to build a working relationship with someone. And what's more, they're in-the-flesh!
One of my local agencies usually gives me the option to send a few reads from home if I can't make it in for some reason. But I almost always decide to come in when I can. Why? Someone else is hearing me in real time. Telling me what I'm doing right or wrong, or asking me to make the slightest change in tone that could make all the difference in the world. Yes, my agent may be sending my read out into the abyss, but the difference is, I'm not flying solo.
And the downside?
In the rare instance that the audition may be an office cattle call, we might get the sense that they're just too too busy to spend every precious moment with us. It's never personal. They have deadlines---um, like, yesterday? Unlike casting directors, where they seem to have more time to work with us (or at least it feels that way), feeling rushed is inevitable on those days and we might feel our agent is more concerned with getting us in and out of the booth so others can be heard. Yes, that is true because it's our responsibility to be prepared and make their job easier, if we can. We've just gotta go with the flow. Unfortunately this often results in not being challenged. I've definitely heard, "Ok, that's great. See you later!" one too many times. And we just know that just wouldn't fly with a casting director!
In case you didn't know, Casting Directors still exist. They're incredibly hard working women and men, and, despite what Taylor Hackford says, they ARE directors. Although people might say their role in the voice over industry is dwindling, that statement couldn't be any further from the truth.
These days, being sent out on an audition to a casting office doesn't happen as often as I'd like though it is by far my favorite type of audition. To be heard by someone closest to the client, to be challenged by hearing a fresh perspective, is an opportunity for which I am truly grateful. In that moment, casting directors are not only our advocates, but our best friend on the side-lines rooting for you. Ultimately, they want us to succeed and book! I mentioned this before but what is the casting director, if not the second brain of the producer? Casting professionals work closely with the client day in and day out and have tremendous experience in hearing talent from a rather vast and competitive pool. They know first hand what the client likes and loathes. There should be more of them. When we're 'sent out' on an audition, something magical happens. I can't really describe it. It's a moment when another person's opinion matters most- not ours, not our agent's but the client/producer's trusted partner.
We walk into a casting office, sign in, give the copy a few glances (not obsess over it), put it down and smile. Sometimes I have complete confidence in my read and the casting director destroys me. By this I mean the direction could be, "I don't buy it!", "Did you actually read the specs?!", or "You're sounding too methodical- get out of your head!". All true instances. The reality light bulb goes on, "Oh man, that's probably why I'm not booking as much" or "Yeah, I do that don't I?". Other times, I'm nervous beyond belief, struggle through the copy and then in the room, that magic happens and I just get it.
Either way we look at it, being seen by one of the client's trusted partners is positive reinforcement for our careers. Let's be honest here: we don't get that at home where, as far as we're concerned, those three takes showed enough range and variety. There are always areas for improvement. And in reality, the casting director isn't going to send three reads to a client, they're going to send one.....or none.