Clients know exactly what they want from your audition. They just don’t know how to communicate that to you in language you both understand.
Getting directions from audition leads that are longer than the copy?
I rest my case.
Your voice will either fit into the sound the end-client has in their head, or it will not.
However, they may never even consider your audition if any number of niggling problems get your audition axed before it even hits their ears. Hence, the following list of basic tips. These are tips gleaned from endless coaching sessions, conference attendance, and real-world trial ‘n’ error.
This checklist is humbly submitted as my own intellectual content. I don’t count myself among the top earners in voiceover land, so maybe you should just ignore this blog…move on and consider taking a course by (fill in the blank) .
What I’m saying is: this is offered with no guarantee of success…more of a “basic necessities” bullet list of pertinent reminders.
READ THE SPECS…OR DON’T. I’ve heard both schools of thought on this one, and there are good arguments on both sides. It just seems to me that if a client throws in a YouTube link for you to hear — and that’s truly what they want — it might not hurt to give it a listen. On the other hand, we all know a good many clients have no idea what they want, ’cause their directions make no sense, or are contradictory. Really good talent, though, have a 6th sense about what a copy demands in terms of a read, and that’s what they give. THAT read will certainly stand out from all the other reads that resemble the YouTube video. Or… follow the next suggestion:
GIVE ONLY ONE CUT…OR TWO…OR THREE. A good rule of thumb I keep hearing is to give the client what they want (The YouTube video read) on the first cut, and then do your OWN take on the copy with the second cut. Got even more creativity? Give a 3rd read in a character voice, or with a different pace. Some directions TELL you how many takes they want. The worst that could happen is that they stop listening after the first cut… but if they keep listening, they may hear just what they want (but didn’t say in the specs) in your 2nd or 3rd read. Just be sure to say how many takes you’re offering in the slate. The only way this will get you in trouble is expressed in the next suggestion:
ALWAYS SLATE (OR NOT). Some clients/agents absolutely demand a slate, and others absolutely demand you DON’T slate. If you can or do slate, this would be the place to say how many cuts you’re offering, along with the other verbiage you like to throw in. Some job leads come with specific instructions for what you should say in the slate. Some give no direction. I DO believe slates should not be long. Slates can or should not be done in character. Slates can or cannot be done by someone else. IF done by someone else, it should or should not be done by a person of the opposite gender. See? This gets confusing…and you’ll see the entire spectrum of behaviors in job listings, which leads to the next suggestion:
READ EVERYTHING IN THE LISTING — TWICE, NO… THREE TIMES. The decision about how many cuts, whether to slate, and whether extra cuts will even be LISTENED-TO are often clearly spelled out in the listing (be it from a P2P, an agent, or a friend). Don’t be too eager to get on with the audition and miss something important like good tips about timing, pacing, and scene descriptions if it’s a TV ad. Every job has a different personality behind it, and you can often get a “feel” for the job through the reading material accompanying the copy… especially as it relates to the next point:
PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO FILE-NAMING CONVENTIONS. Some agents are so rabid about this, that the job lead comes with this clear admonition: “failure to adhere to the exact request for naming this file will result in the audition being tossed out before even being heard”. So just give ’em what they ask for! Amazingly, other clients or agents don’t give a HOOT about what you name your file. Were you one of those problem kids in Jr. High who couldn’t follow directions? Then there are the job leads that come with no file-naming directions whatsoever… which leads me to my next suggestion:
PUT YOUR PHONE NUMBER IN YOUR FILE NAME and for sure your name, but only if there are no other directions for file-naming. So, for instance, an audition for Parker University might be named: Parker_University_Courvoisier_702-610-6288.mp3. You never know, something that simple might just get you the call for the job right then and there. So that brings us to the final stop on our checklist:
DON’T FORGET TO ATTACH THE FILE! This is a universally-common mistake. The agent/booking agent/P2P, etc. is not responsible for, and will not necessarily remind you to do so (although most P2P’s will not let you finish the transaction without first uploading). Just train yourself to attach the file when you first open up a blank email to send…before you write anything, before you address anything, before you add a subject header…ATTACH THE FILE. I know you know this…which makes this particular point moot. So here’s a bonus suggestion:
YOUR REPLY SHOULD BE SHORT, PLEASANT, WITH THANKS. Whoever is receiving the 200 auditions for this job has no time to read lengthy messages. 2-3 short lines MAXIMUM. (1) Make sure you thank them. (2) Make sure you tell them what is attached. (3) Make sure they know who it’s from. (YOU!). You may not even get the chance to do this, as most auditions are uploaded to the cloud with no place to throw-in a comment.
Honorable mention: Check for accuracy! Before clicking ‘Send’, always double-check your work. Listen to your take(s) while reading along with the script. Pay close attention to any omissions, mispronunciations or extra words. This drives some clients crazy! Also, you want to check that the file is not glitchy or corrupt. Be sure that playback is error free.
Honorable mention (2) Play back your audition on an least two different speaker systems. Use different monitors, headphones, or computer speakers. This is a trick I’ve heard from more than one audio engineer. When the prospective client hears your audition, you have no idea what sort of equipment he/she will use. I heard that more than one agent/producer listens to auditions on his car speakers on the way home.
OK, Sparky? If I offered something you haven’t heard before, I’m happy.
If you knew all this stuff, I’m sorry you wasted your time.
If you’re confused, join the crowd. Regardless of my admonitions above, sometimes you just have to figure out what’s appropriate on your own, and hope you hit the mark. There are no hard-n-fast rules…unless there are. 😉