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

Whom Do You Bring Into the Room?

What you bring along to an audition, and what you leave behind, can make all the difference…

When you enter an audition you bring along a presence, a kind of “spirit” if you will.

There is an energy, a charge, that not only sets up how your acting work is received, but it also lingers after you exit. Though few recognize this, it significantly colors the likelihood of your getting called back and cast.

As a professional creator, you have the ability– I might say even an obligation– to consciously choose what you bring along with you and what you leave them with. This is part of the art of auditioning. 

I think of three classic iconic visiting spirits from Charle Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to illustrate this idea: the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Each spirit arrives tasked with solving the same puzzle, the same problem. But each comes at it from a different angle, though each makes essentially the same point. And only one really makes the callback.

I see a parallel with auditioning here. All actors enter an audition seeking to address the same puzzle (the script) in their own unique way. The main difference is that the casting people choose which spirit(s) to bring back.

So, when you audition, which spirit do you bring along with you? Let’s look at Mr. Dickens’ story:

The Ghost of Christmas Past brought an odd, rather unsettling presence. Its essence was hard to focus on, seeming to shift and morph. It escorted our protagonist Scrooge back to his earlier days, and reignited moments of sadness, abandonment, and loss (bit of a downer, well, except for that one really great party). But when the spirit’s visit was done, Scrooge was left with a disturbing sense of loss, perhaps longing. The ghost had revealed what is wrong, what was off, without bringing resolution or repair (that, it turns out, was for later ghosts).

This spirit is the first of the three images I offer- like an actor who brings an unfocused and disorienting spirit with them to an audition. There is something unsettling that remains after the actor departs, which you may not be able to put your finger on. But this lingering impression is significant for it colors the casting person’s assessment of your work as well as what you bring to the collaboration of a session.

Remember: They hire your work, but they also hire you.

Next, we consider the Ghost of Christmas Present. A jovial, positive presence whose confidence and good cheer was contagious. How could you not want to hang out with this fellow? He radiates great generosity, there is an enticing sense of overflowing fullness, an ability to spontaneously fill a room with everything you could want. He brings a great sense of humor and is no pushover, yet is an all together pleasant chap to have around.

If our second ghost were an audition, you would certainly have positive memories of your time with him which would add him to the short list of ghosts you’d actually like to see back.

This is for me the model of what we aspire to bring to an audition- an appealing confidence that others want to have back again and again.

Finally, we have our third haunted guest, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Not a pleasant fellow. Rather severe and humorless. He makes his point in a rather harrowing manner, maximizing emphasis with a huge helping of dread. Not terribly communicative. All business and that’s it. No pleasantries, engagement or fun at all. After making his point crystal clear, he doesn’t withdraw, he keeps at it- until he vanishes to everyone’s great relief.  

All ghosts took a good run at “auditioning” to make the same point to Scrooge. In VO lingo, we’d say, each gave a “competitive read.”

Now casting director Scrooge has the choice to ask one back. Which would you choose? Clearly he chose ghost #2, even though each spirit was convincing in their own unique way. 

Now, I’m not saying there are only three ways to audition, with two wrongs and one right way. Most auditions have at least a few auditioners that qualify for a callback or booking the gig. Which one gets the call among the good choices and why? As I’ve indicated on other pages, it’s more than just the recorded performance that helps seal the deal.

I want to point out that what you bring along with you to an audition and what you leave them with can add significant weight to the scales of judgement of whether you are called back. I want to further suggest you can have conscious control over this (though many pros I would say do this intuitively). 

Choose to bring along to your audition the energy and spirit that not only solve the audition’s “puzzle” but that everyone would gladly invite back.

© Dee Bradley Baker 2018

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