How much attention should we give to voiceover audition casting specs?
Voiceover Audition Casting Specs often accompany a casting call for a voiceover job. The notice might come through an agent, a freelancing platform, pay to play site or any other kind of platform. The specifications (such as age, gender & social group or other identifying characteristics) are intended to simplify the casting process. Gender, age, voice type, location, maybe other details like ‘uni-student’ or ‘busy working Mum’ will be specified to try to give the voice talent an idea of what the buyer is hoping to find. The VoiceOver audition casting specs are written to encourage the right ‘voice type’ to submit for the casting. But sometimes they miss the mark entirely.
Heed or ignore the voiceover audition casting specs?
Recently, I booked a lucrative Australian commercial voiceover job. I’ll admit there’s nothing particularly blog post worthy about that as
- I’m an Australian voiceover artist, and
- I do a lot of commercial voiceover jobs and
- commercial jobs can be quite lucrative.
I book these types of voiceover gigs fairly often so this is pretty run of the mill for me.
What I found interesting, however, were the voiceover audition casting specs:
* a female voice aged between 30-35. (Yes – I’m female, but I’m a teeny-weeny bit older than that. 😉 )
* A New South Wales, Australian accent. (Yes – I’m Australian, but I’ve lived all my life in Queensland, which is a different state for those that don’t know Australia well.)
I wasn’t the right fit for these casting specs, but I submitted an audition anyway. And what do you know? I booked it. Little did the people making the casting decision know that I was well outside their preferred age group and did not possess the NSW accent they had specified was necessary in the casting.
I SOUNDED right to them, so they booked me. Simple. Lucky they didn’t ask to see my Driver’s License.
We had a collaborative live directed remote session and the stakeholders were absolutely stoked with the results. One of the creatives present for the recording session even said to me that my work was making the hairs on his arms stand up and his tattoos begin to peel off. In a good way, just to be clear ;).
>> I don’t say this to brag, but to point out that sometimes the voiceover audition casting specs can end up being quite unfitting when you compare them to the person that books the job.
“THE PERFECT VOICE CASTING”
I may not fit the initial concept of the perfect voice casting for this job, but they let their ears decide instead of the information on my Driver’s License. Had that been used to determine my suitability for the role I would have been turned away with a laugh.
Here’s the thing: had I paid strict attention to the voiceover audition casting specs, I would not have bothered to audition. And the clients would have missed out on what they ended up calling the perfect voice casting.
I often book voiceover jobs I don’t ‘fit’ on paper. I learned a good while ago (and am often reminded whenever I book jobs I’m not ‘right’ for) not to put too much weight on casting specs. Because people hear different things in my voice depending on what they’re wanting!
ADVICE TO VOICEOVER ARTISTS
You don’t have to be an exact match!
To the voiceover artists who read this: PLEASE take all casting specs with a grain (if not more) of salt. Buyers don’t always know what they want until they hear it. Sometimes an audition will come out of left field and be so damn good that they themselves will throw the specs out the window. But it won’t be yours unless you throw those specs aside and audition! The important thing is that you give it your all. Go all in. Know yourself (your voice AND your personality) so well that you are able to harness those elements to deliver an audition that is powerful and unapologetically YOU.
ADVICE TO VOICEOVER BUYERS
Consider how you write your VoiceOver audition casting specs
To the voiceover buyers: if you’re ever in a position to write casting specs for a voiceover project, instead of using a limiting age bracket, perhaps consider a stage of life – Try swapping “a mum aged 30-35” with “a woman who sounds like she could be on the verge of, or just starting a family.”
Similarly, instead of “New South Wales accent”, you could try “a relatable sounding Australian who is educated but not posh” or some other way of describing what you want, because your perfect voice may not actually be from NSW.
Instead of female, why not go for ‘femme sounding’ … just suggestions, but you get what I mean, I’m sure.
Try to be more open minded when writing voiceover audition casting specs. And please keep an open ear when listening to auditions and demos. The perfect voice for your project may be sitting outside your very specific, and possibly limiting, casting parameters.