If you are not sure why you are not getting cast for voiceover work then read this post.
How This Blog Came To Mind
I was reading a post recently from a slightly disillusioned-sounding chap on our Facebook group who was asking whether anyone had got any work from subscription casting websites such as VoicesPro, Voice123, Voices.com etc. The overriding answer on the thread was that there wasn’t much work coming back to the posters. So the question really is why are you not getting cast for voiceover work.
The question is…Why?
I’ve recently had experience with one of these sites from the casting side of the fence, and I thought this blog might help answer that question. If you think about it, there are only two possible reasons as to why people think they are not getting cast for voiceover work when using subscription sites: the subscription sites don’t have enough work on them or aren’t attracting the right clients, or the voices aren’t getting the jobs that are being put forward for them.
Why Getting Cast for Voiceover Work Has Changed
But let’s back-up a bit. Times, they are a-changing as they say, and the old system of agents getting all the work are rapidly dissapearing. I cast now from three places:
First, my list of agents (sic!); this is a great starting place for me as (usually) the agents do have top-drawer talent on their books – it may not be fair that you’re not with an agent, but it’s most definitely a good idea to get one if you can. Agents have up-sides and down-sides though. The up-side from my point of view is that their talent are (usually) very dependable, are experienced, and most of the time are trained. (Agents also tend to be very well connected, and therefore get lots of good work for their voices). The downside is that there is a markup for the agent within the (higher) fee, and that the agents are very slow to move with the times, especially with regard to producing things like gaming reels for their talent etc.
The second place I cast is from my own lists, containing the people who I know are trained in either gaming or tv acting/VO. I’ve already written a separate blog on why training is necessary, but suffice to say, this is a casting list which my company holds, of actors who I know I can trust to get the job done and who I don’t have to train in front of clients.
Thirdly, the subscription model of casting websites – which is what we actually care about in this blog.
Why You Aren’t Getting Cast for Voiceover Work
So for each game/show I do, the casting net does go pretty far and relatively wide. It’s worth bearing this in mind when you haven’t been cast for the 20th job you’ve gone for that month…
How they treat Casting Directors
My experience of working with VoicesPro was that it is a fantastic service and that everything was made very easy for me. So much so that I’ll definitely be casting with them again. This is what you’d expect though – if they didn’t get that bit right, they wouldn’t get any work for their subscribers. They were also pro-active with me in terms of getting work, but then again, you’d expect them to be so – but I thought I’d point it out, in case you think they sit their just thumbing your bank notes!
The game in question, some of you may have seen, was called Tanks (which wasn’t the game’s actual title, but good enough to get over the NDA) and I put out three simple lines of test-copy and a very brief character description.
I received back (from VoicesPro, disregarding the other two casting places) circa 70 submissions for the game. Of those, around 20 people submitted previous demo’s and the other 50 recorded the lines for me. Within that list of 70 actors, over 80% of the people included more than 5 reels showing previous work, other demo’s etc.
Put yourself in my shoes
So before I tell you how I chose the voices, ask yourself this: What do you think I am looking for?! Put yourself in the casting director’s shoes: If you went for that title (and if not, think about your other castings), did you think about what I actually wanted to hear, what I wanted to find and what I have to do with the clips, or did you just think about how to deliver the line?! So what is involved in getting cast for voiceover work?
Well, I’ll tell you. In this case, I was being employed by a client to cast their game for them, and record and produce all the dialogue. I am the casting director, as well as the voice director, but I don’t have 100% final veto on the voices – the games publisher does. In fact, it was a discussion between us of the final shortlist of voices that I had selected. This means….yes…I have to send your clips to the publisher once I’ve shortlisted them, along with your CV proving that you are a credible actor.
What does that mean for me? It means that I have to vouch for you. That means I have to present the absolute cream of the crop so that they publishers are happy that the 25 selected voices can be trusted not to f*** up their £3M investment and 2-years development time, by marring the voice acting.
So for me to vouch for you, I have to be sure that you are the cream of the crop. You may think that I only ever then cast people I know, but in fact, for this title, all of the actors that got the job were unknown to me and cast purely on their casting response.
What did I receive?
Well you would have thought that in order to get to the top of the pile of all those voices, everyone would have recorded the three lines I sent out, but no. 20 voices sent me stock reels, and mostly non-targeted reels, i.e., Galaxy chocolate commercials. And yes, you’d be right in thinking that I put them all straight in the bin.
Why You Aren’t Getting Cast For Voiceover Work – Schoolboy Errors
Then, of the people who did record the lines, and I’m not joking here, around 50% of the people ‘spoke’ the lines into a microphone and that was that. Did that fulfil the brief of a soldier in the army, in mid-battle and in a tank? No. Did it fulfil the brief of placing that character into a game environment, with intensity and dramatic emphasis? No. Guess what I did with them? Yes, I put them in the bin.
So that leaves around 25 voices who were in with a shot. At least 10 of these voices didn’t slate the reels – i.e., “Hugh Edwards, Army Soldier, test lines” – at the start, so I couldn’t tell what their real vs character voices was like. That’s very sloppy and a schoolboy error which is so easily fixed. Three of the recordings had been recorded and (quite obviously) not listened to before being sent, as they were completely unintelligible.
One had 15 seconds of space at the start which would have meant that I would have had to download the clip, and trim it before I sent it to the Publisher – binned – I’m sorry but I’m a casting director, not your own personal sound editor. So this is one of the main reasons for not getting cast for voiceover work.
But still, that said, there were some good performances in there. Of the 25 good performances, I favourited around 10 voices, and that was just because they sounded more appropriate for the job.
Those 10 voices were then compiled with the other shortlisted clips that I had from the Agents lists and our own in-house casting lists. We had a total of 20 shortlisted candidates for 3 roles, out of a total of nearly 200 submissions.
But what about my Showreels?!
But what about Gaming reels, or other showreels/demo-reels that were pre-recorded and sent with the voice clips I hear you ask? A good point. Of the shortlisted clips, I had listened to each of the potential voices other reels as well as the voiced-lines and that did help narrow it down a little. As much as anything, those reels show the ‘Best Of” that voice and what they really can do, as opposed to how they voiced these lines. So to getting cast for voiceover work you need to deliver what is needed.
(If that’s confusing to you it’s because each job is cast differently depending on the job and the brief. Sometimes I listen solely to recorded reels, sometimes I request lines, sometimes it’s a live-casting, sometimes we have voices come to the studio and try-out, sometimes it’s based on something different altogether. In this case, pre-rec’ reels were a backup of the voices recorded clips, to further illustrate the talents of the voice artist.)
The Final Showdown
So the publisher and I sat down and went through the voices. There wasn’t the budget for a live casting, so we went through each set of clips and each person’s CV (if you didn’t have a CV, then your name wasn’t Dave and you weren’t getting in) and made our final choices.
So here’s the crux of what you probably want to know…how did we end up choosing the 3 voices we finally chose? Well, firstly, it’s worth saying that 2 out of the 3 roles came from Voices Pro and one from an Agent. All were based on their clips and their CV.
Each sucessful voice had recorded the lines more than once. In one actor’s recording, he’d done it perfectly and it went like this: “John Doe, Tank Game Test……English…..blah blah blah……American……Blah Blah Blah…..English Harder…Blah Blah Blah….English Mid-Battle High Intensity….Blah Blah Blah…..English Scared….Blah Blah Blah….” – and by the end of that set of lines, which only took about 2 minutes, I just knew that he was not only versitile, and could do the lines with great character delivery, but that he actually ‘got’ what we were trying to do – he’d thought about it, and he actually cared. Getting cast for voiceover work means that you have passion for the job and demonstrate it, you want to do you best and strive to achieve it.
That’s someone you can trust. That’s someone who wasn’t just sifting through the e-learning jobs, the phone recordings, the kids toy scripts and the games demo’s for that day – he actually cared enough to be passionate about it.
Now…I’m sure that many of the unsuccesful voices also cared about it just as much – its just that it didn’t come across in their performance. And I couldn’t then vouch for them. And I couldn’t then send the clips onto the publishers and say categorically “This guy is the one.”
The Good, The Bad and The Yawnworthy
Ask yourself now is that how you conduct your career? Is it really that hard to try and put yourself right in the middle of a scene and convince me that you’re the best actor of your generation?? The three successful candidates showed me just how good they were, and then had great showreels and a CV all ready to go – their ducks were in a nice neat line. Getting cast for voiceover work is competitive so realise that you need to completely professional at every stage.
Working with What You’re Given
And the funny thing is, there were many actors who went for the role who I actually know, and who I actually know are good actors. It’s just that they didn’t put me in a position where, next to the other guys, I just couldn’t not pick them forthose particular characters.
Make it up as you go along
Some people may also complain that there were only 3 lines to work with, and that my character description was way too brief. This however was on purpose, and in fact is a bit of a test to see what you do with nothing. So if you’re in that position, then give three or four different reads and be exciting, calm, flamboyant, dramatic, tense etc with your deliveries. If just makes you look so much better as an actor.
I hope that helps – getting yourself cast is easy really – just make put me in a position where I have to cast you because you’re that good. The people who got cast already did this, at least in this game I did.
I know there are some seasoned actors out there who won’t want to move with the times, and will complain that it’s just not like the old days where a trip to visit the Agent would line them up for the next 6 months of work…but things have moved on – the marketplace is a lot more flooded and diverse, and you have to fight to get yourself heard. I hope these tips help you in getting cast for voiceover work.
Just remember – we are listening…..