You got a voiceover audition. Exciting! You’ve trained for this. Even if you work regularly, you may have an audition, sit down to look at the copy, and… wait, what’s this direction? Here are some specs and direction I received for an audition a few weeks ago. Exact words, but I did clean up the typos—which there are often a lot of.
Male or Female, late 20’s-early 50’s. Could be a little soft and soothing, more serious than fun. Voice should have a bit of depth and weight – low or baritone, nothing high-pitched or squeaky. Clarity is important, as there is wall-to-wall copy. Direction: Read it like a poem. Start off with a little bit of quiet seriousness and a touch of anxiety. It is serious without being entirely dark or foreboding. Then there’s a shift towards optimism towards the end. In general, it should be a straight read without major shifts, good pace without being too fast or too slow.
Confused? You’re not the only one. It’s easy to get confused, get in your head, and try to be everything to everyone. Then you don’t feel like you really gave the audition justice in the process—especially if you have more direction than copy. It happens. I’ve had half a page of direction for one line of copy.
So, what to do first? Recognize it’s the actor’s job to make it work, and after many years of doing this, I can usually break it down pretty well, even with contradictory or confusing direction. While it’s fun to laugh about it with other actors, it can also get you all up in your head instead of, “Okay, this is a fun, but challenging one. Here goes.”
One thing I’ve found helpful is to read the copy first, get my own acting instincts, and then go back and read the direction and specs. For example, if I read the copy and then find out she’s a mom, I might have let go of an instinct I had for her, because “Mom” was the character direction. So, I might keep my gut instinct first, and then say to myself, “And by the way, she’s a mom,” and add that quality on top of it. I also sometimes skim the direction, read the copy and get the feel for it, and then go back and make sure I read the direction clearly.
What if they give a ‘go by’ sample, or a prototype or reference? Unless it’s a sound-a-like audition, they just want the attitude that the particular referred-to actor or character or world leader has. They still want you, or that version of you, not a mimicked caricature or sound-a-like.
Most importantly, every VO Pro will tell you—remember to bring yourself, your point of view. You’re an invited guest at the table. They asked you to audition, and they think you can do it. They need to find someone. Why not you? You’ve got a shot, so make your choices, go for it, and don’t second guess it.
And remember to have fun along the way. They can hear that in your voice too.
Got a question for Kathy about the craft or business of voiceover? Email us your question at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Kathy Grable is an L.A. voice-over prototype with a warmth and sincerity that reminds listeners of a close friend. You’ve heard her in animated shows like Tom & Jerry, Rocket Power, and Futurama and commercials for Pepsi, Disney, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, and as the Baskin-Robbins “Talking Spoon.” Kathy was also the voice double for Nicole Kidman in the hit film Batman Forever. On-camera, she’s been seen in Mike & Molly, Harry’s Law, Last Man Standing, and The Wedding Band on TBS. She’s a sought-after V/O coach, director, and demo producer. When not performing, Kathy co-owns and operates a company that distributes e-books, comics, audio dramas, and her own podcast, In My Voice, with guests from all aspects of the voiceover world. Find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify, or go to https://anchor.fm/kathy-grable0 for all the episodes.