Cast Away 2: It’s okay to ignore Casting Directors (sorry Casting Directors!)

Some thoughts on voiceover auditions…

I have always thought that talents should let the copy dictate their audition. That essentially means more or less ignoring directions they get either in writing or in person, though I realize an in person audition necessitates you walk that fine line between giving the read you think best reflects the writing but also showing that you can take direction from a director.

Too many times though whoever is putting together the Casting either doesn’t know what he or she wants or isn’t always the most articulate about communicating it. Or their directions/descriptions are just flat out confusing.

Casting notes I have received within the last year:

We are looking for a female voice who is kind of sarcastic and is between 20 and 30 years old. Voice reference given is Kathleen Turner. She will be 63 this June.

One casting recently asked for a fairly young male voice and the reference given was Wilfrid Brimley who may have had a long career dating back to his youth but is widely known for being in the movie Cocoon, which had a cast largely made up of senior citizens.

Our guy is between 25 and 35. His voice is familiar. Young, but with a deeper tone. This guy knows his shit. Wise beyond his years. He’s confident but casual. He’s the kind of guy that you listen to because he always has something interesting to say. And when he talks, you don’t feel like he’s preaching to you, you feel like he’s been around the block a few times and he’s speaking from experience. He’s not the usual ad guy VO, he’s fresh. He has gravitas. He sounds accessible and approachable, but also is an authority in his field. If he ever gave a TED talk, you’d definitely want to find a way to get tickets.

The above was for a 6 line corporate video – completely generic script.

Even if there is no voice reference, the age range is either too broad -20-40 – or absurdly narrow. 35-40. Does a 33-year-old sound that much different than a 41-year-old?

Even when they reference famous performers, it’s still isn’t that obvious. Many customer requests come in looking for someone who sounds like Tina Fey. I’m not sure many people would even recognize Tina’s voice unless she was imitating Sarah Palin or something. I think what they really mean is the female part calls for a funny/sarcastic/feisty read. Then they should just say that.

The unfortunate fact is that a lot of casting these days is like a game of broken telephone. There is the actual end client who then hires an ad agency who then hires a producer who then hires the casting director who then reaches out to agents to get home studio auditions. It’s amazing with that chain of command (and so many people involved) that by the time the auditions are turned around, that anyone has the correct language, let alone any other details right about the casting.

So, I always default to the idea that a talent should lead with the read they think best reflects the script. In other words, the read you want to do. Make that your first take on the audition you are submitting remotely or even in person. Then in subsequent takes you can try and interpret whatever direction you have been given but at least you will have led with the one that most likely feels/sounds best.

Oh, and of course I’m sure you already know that if you think you nailed the audition, odds are you’re not getting the gig. If you think it wasn’t your best, you will be probably be the client’s choice. Best to think of auditions as “batting practice”. Just another chance to get behind a mic and keep the chops warm. Try not to think about it the moment you leave the studio or press send on that audio file.

P.S. To clients: No, you’re not getting a Morgan Freeman read.

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One Response to “Cast Away 2: It’s okay to ignore Casting Directors (sorry Casting Directors!)”

  1. Keith Rodgers Says:
    April 3rd, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Bang on Roger!
    Was recently given “Benedict Cumberbatch” for a home audition, so gave them Smaug the Dragon (yes, that was Cumberbatch). Luckily the client (or someone) gave me a second chance: I did it straight and got the job. Lesson learned.

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