Getting That First Voice-Over Role
compiled by Heather Kenyon
*this article was originally published in Animation World Magazine, but so good I thought it was worth revisiting here. PLUS it also features Vancouver’s own Lana Carson! Enjoy!
What do casting and voice-over directors look for? How do they choose who they choose? We asked several directors, producers and casting directors for some “do’s” and “don’ts” to help you set yourself aside from the pack and capture that coveted first gig.
As a casting director in animation, I have noted that more than 90% of those trying to get into this field don’t make it. The reasons are varied, but most commonly it’s because:
a. the talent doesn’t understand the character for which they are auditioning.
b. while the talent may have prepared something for the audition, the director learns they have no versatility.
c. they haven’t prepared a “unique” voice (i.e. if we require a witch voice, 9 out of 10 talent sound like the Wicked Witch of the West).
d. they aren’t able to take direction in studio!
What talent should do is make themselves “stick out” at an audition. Be on time, prepared and have several different voices for each character. Versatility and the ability to take direction are the key ingredients! Some voice workshops are great too, just make sure it’s from someone in the business.
Like any casting and production company, at Voicebox, we’re always looking to find unique voices that stick out. But it’s not enough just to have an interesting voice, it’s being able to use it to bring a character to life that will put you in the show!!
Get some professional acting training.
Know your type.
Know your limits and don’t go over them.
Know your strengths and take advantage of them.
Get your demo tape professionally produced.
Use copy that is appropriate for your type.
Set reasonable time limits for your tape.
There is nothing more disappointing than an interesting voice that can’t act.
Be natural. Don’t try too hard.
Come prepared and listen to direction. Did you hear that? Listen to what is being asked of you.
From the Staff of MTV Animation
(New York, NY)
So you want to be a famous voice-over in animation? The sane route would be to first make it “big” in film and/or television, then make sure you and/or your agent are on friendly terms with Eisner or Katzenberg, and let the negotiations begin. A bit daunting you say? Okay, another way to go would be to understand that by simply deleting the word “famous,” and replacing it with “working,” you are already on your way.
Many voice-over actors making a living in animation — whether in a series, movies or commercials — are not known by name outside the industry, but rather within the industry by sheer talent!
Yes, one can make a very good living in animation voiceovers, but first you have to establish yourself by working very hard in the auditions and bookings. The word “working” is defined as “to be alive, active, engaged and employed,” and that is how one should look at every audition. Don’t think of just one way to read the character, think of a few, and be open to the suggestions of the Casting Director or Producer. Sometimes it takes a few people working together to determine the right approach. Your main goal should be to have your name linked with the words “versatile” and “creative.” Those two words are responsible for the majority of casting decisions made by Casting Directors, Producers and Directors.
Remember, be versatile and creative, and most importantly have fun!
Howard Schwartz Recording, Inc.
(New York, NY)
DO…develop a versatile range.
DO…give a fantastic performance on your demo.
DO…get yourself a broadminded agent.
DO…use contacts ruthlessly.
DO…develop a thick skin.
DON’T…give up too easily. An insanely tenacious attitude will usually get you there in the end.
Silver Fox Films
Here are a few tips and tricks for your immanent auditions:
– Bring a lemon and as you step up to the mic, ask for a glass of water. Then, expertly pierce the lemon with your jackknife, squeeze some of its juice into the water and take a professional-looking swig. It’s good for funny voices and makes an impression on the impressionables.
– Pretend to understand everything that you are being told by a myriad of confused directors. Even if the suggestion sounds ridiculous or obscene, just make a broad interpretation and blurt out something. If you act confused, they’ll just grow more confused and frustrated and things will get worse and worse.
– Watch cartoons at home and talk back to the screen in various character voices. Discover some new voices and whip them out at your next session. Make odd noises between takes. People like to hear a plethora of voices coming out of the same little body and maybe you’ll get another part.
– Do what feels good and always try to look like you’re having a great time. Cartoons are supposed to be funny, and a dreary session isn’t.
(New York, NY)
Heather Kenyon is Editor of Animation World Magazine.