Cast Away

The voice-over casting process has really evolved over the last decade.  A few years ago, there were a number of people here in Toronto who could make a living just from being voice casting directors.  They’re a dying breed now.  With the advent of home studios and the ease with which audio files are uploaded/downloaded, e-mailed etc, clients are getting spoiled and seem less likely to pay for a full casting session.  But I think the auditioning process is important.  For my voice talents, I prefer a live audition to doing the MP3 thing because at a live audition, talents are getting real direction from a real live human being and there’s nothing like the thrill of live auditioning to bring out the best in the talent and/or make them want to vomit.

There are still in person castings for projects like a major TV ad campaign, animated series, documentaries or the imaging voice of a television network.   Normally the great thing about auditioning in person is you get a much better sense of what the client wants then if you are just e-mailed a short script that calls for “25-54 years old, pleasant, friendly read” and left to interpret it yourself in your home studio.  This is of course assuming the client even knows what he/she wants.

One of my favourite casting stories, of the non-union variety, was Global Television’s search for a new voice for their entire national network.  I represented the previous voice so on the one hand, I didn’t see the need for a change on their part, but on the other, I knew they were coming to my agency for recommendations.  They sent me the specs for “the new voice” they were looking and I naturally suggested just about everyone on the roster (why limit the options early on I say!).  Between you and me though, the minute I read the casting breakdown the guy I thought of on my roster was Todd Schick. 

When Global got back to me, they asked to see most of the people on my list but not Todd.  I got back to them to confirm names and times and again suggested Todd as well.  They assured me the list they sent was the entire list of names they wanted to audition.  So, the auditions took place over a couple of days and during this time, at least three talents on my roster called to say they thought they had done okay but based on the direction at the casting, they thought Todd really fit the bill.  Soon enough, I heard from Todd himself, wondering why I hadn’t sent him out.  I of course told him the story but said I would try Global one more time.

I got ahold of the Creative Producer we were dealing with and I  mentioned the comments from some of the other talents and my initial feeling that Todd could be the right voice.  He paused and said “Okay, if you can get him down here before end of day, we’ll give him an audition”.  Of course, Todd was more than willing to accomodate…and I’m sure you can guess where this is going.  Todd got the gig!   Mr. Schick just celebrated the 4th anniversary of being the voice of Global Television. 

This isn’t meant to pat myself on the back for being a little persistent. Todd nailed the audition – he deserves all the credit.  But I do like to think of this story, if only to justify the commission I continue to take from Todd’s cheque! 

Would love to hear your favorite casting story, if you have one.  Drop me a line:


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6 Responses to “Cast Away”

  1. Todd Schick Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Hey Roger….

    Very accurate account of events….only you missed the part where I was walking out of the building and the Creative Director asked me:

    “Todd, do you think you can do this Mon-Fri, month after month, year after year…?”

    I replied….

    “Buddy….I can do this s*** in my sleep…”

    LOL! How’s that for swagger….?

    True story.

    To comment on casting in general, I can certainly share some thoughts.

    One thing I have found that has always been a constant is the disparity between what direction is given to the talent by the client or casting director and what is actually chosen or recorded as the final product.

    For instance….a casting call is held and everyone is told to give a natural, laid back read. When you hear the spot being broadcast later….you discover they chose an Old Radio Guy (ORG) who sounded like he was selling used cars….anything but natural and laid back.

    How does this happen? My guess is that a talent gave an “alternate” read during the casting session. I do this all the time. Of course, I’ll listen and take direction given at the start of the session and perform accordingly. Then, I’ll say….

    “You know, from reading this script, I could give you a different read, if you’d like an alternate version, of course.”

    9 times out of 10 they’ll bite. Indeed, I’m sure this is how I nailed the Global gig. They put 6 scripts in front of me – some radio, some to picture. One of the radio scripts was a Simpson’s promo and I went to town on that one – I think I did 3 character voices on one spot.

    Moral of the story….if you have the range and you can comfortably perform an alternate version, then do so – it may be the difference between getting the gig and not – this goes for .mp3 auditions as well.


    Todd Schick

  2. Tim Says:
    March 15th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I heartily agree with Todd. So often the direction given in an audition is so far removed from the actual finished product. I’ll take that “alternate read” advice to the in person auditions. I always do it with home studio recordings.

  3. Ronald T. Robinson Says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I do better right off the demo-reel rather than through casting calls.

    Maybe it’s a personality-deficit-type thingie.

    Further, Todd can demonstrate actual flexibility in his vocal approaches – whatever that is.


  4. Thierry Says:
    April 21st, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Very instructive to hear both comments and vision from Roger and Todd. I wonder guys how will evolve the industry in the next few years, knowing that clients ready to go for a full casting session become almost a rarity. For example, Roger, how will agencies survive? Could we potentially see some kind of conglomerate that would manage a single company with voice-over artists who, prior to that, were on competing agencies roster?

  5. Mitch Krayton Says:
    August 18th, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Auditions are a bit like porn. They know it when they see it. The alternate read during the session is a great tip. Even though we are just supposed to play the notes on the page, every once in a while they like to hear a fresh interpretation (after you give them what they ask for).

    And Roger, glad that you do influence clients on who gets in the booth. I would expect my agent to be my advocate for the best result. Too many agents hear a no and fail to understand how to get to yes.

  6. J.S. Gilbert Says:
    February 19th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Nice to hear stories like this. I love my agents, but for many, it might seem they would fear annoying the client by pushing a talent too much and thus become reduced to order takers.

    An agent I had years ago would go a step further. He had an incredible female talent and would often have her toss in an audition on commercial reads for men only. It’s amazing how many times she would book.

    I learned early on that you either have to be the voice in their head or otherwise get them to change their minds about what that voice should be.

    Since we tend to “phone in” our auditions these days, does it make sense to do 2 reads? I always assumed if they didn’t care for the first they’d just stop it midway and never get to the second.

    I can se this working better if we’re doing an audition live for the client. Just curious.

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