Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

Home Alone: “Why Don’t I Book?”

A talented new voice actor auditions but consistently fails to get called back or book. Why?

Being direct-able is a must for any voice actor. You may have talent, but if you aren’t direct-able, you won’t get called back and you won’t find work.

Laying down a good audition at a casting facility is a team effort. You are directed by a booth operator or casting director. In addition there may be a separate engineer as well ensuring it’s sounding great.  

But what if you are doing all this yourself?

It’s a whole other level of skill- probably one of the most advanced acting skills- to be able to direct yourself in an audition from home or in a setting lacking the feedback or input from a real decision maker (like a show creator or a voice casting director) or engineer.  Many pros can’t do this well. Too many beginners dive into this without realizing what they are getting into or what they are doing.

Here’s the very common problem:

A talented beginning voice actor signs with an agent and sets up their home studio for convenience or necessity (most auditioning is from home these days, anyway). It’s super convenient to fire off the auditions from home. The new voice actor auditions in their home setup, either self-directing or having Mom or Dad or a friend “direct” the audition, while doing the engineering as well. Then they email it in. 

This at-home set up is probably the single biggest obstacle a beginning voice actor has to getting called back or booking a gig. 

Crafting a competitive voice over audition is like trying to stick the landing of a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier in high wind and choppy seas. There’s little room for error and if you miss it even slightly, you’re sunk. Ballpark ain’t gonna cut it. It’s not just about being able to fly the plane– you’ve got to land it too!

Same with a voice over audition.

A voice audition must pretty much hit it “just right.” The decision-making casting person or show runner listening shouldn’t have to apply any imagination to make it fit exactly into the project. Tone, pace, vocal presence and all acting choices must be on point and sound ready to drop right in to the actual show.

When the decision-maker listens through a few hundred auditions, the rapidly conceived verdict is either “perfect” or “delete.” There is no “almost” or “pretty good” or “with some work I think we could get them to it.” They apply no imagination to an “almost” read. It’s either right or not. A few seconds of listening is generally enough to render the verdict.

Nailing an audition on your own is deceptively difficult, partially due to poor directing from a non-decision maker (e.g. you or your parent, or even a clueless casting assistant), or no helpful or relevant feedback at all.

Poor or non-existent direction will result in a tone that’s off, a pace that’s not right or even an acting choice that doesn’t quite hit the mark.You need better ears than yours to give it to you straight: Is this working? Is this good enough? 

Directing yourself solo in an audition is a skill distinct from acting. It many take years to get good at this. Many experienced voice actors can be directed, but some still cannot direct themselves for at-home auditions.

It’s most problematic for beginners. This can result in good voice talent producing consistently non-competitive poor auditions.

All of this could be remedied if the actor were working with either the voice caster or better yet, the show creator, or at least an agency’s booth director (if they are good at directing actors, which not all are).

If you’re not getting callbacks or booking, try a different arrangement. Getting a better pair of ears to help you produce your read might make all the difference. Solicit feedback from your agency, re-do auditions that aren’t your best. 

How about getting your agent or booth director to direct you via Zoom so you can be directed real time from your studio? It’s also possible to hire a pro to be an audition coach- perhaps a working voice actor or a good voice acting teacher. I would prefer someone who is actively working or comes very well recommended. See if it’s helpful. If not, find another instructor or coach.

Keep strengthening your voice acting with workout groups or Zoom classes where you can learn from trying it out in a supportive environment while learning from others as well.

Also: Get feedback from well-placed ears whenever you can. 

© Dee Bradley Baker 2021

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