You have your script, now you need someone to read it, convincingly, with insight and quality delivery. Casting voice over talent can be time-consuming and confusing. Especially if it’s not something you do every day. How do you create a spec that encourages great voice over auditions and discourages performances that don’t fit your brief? Let’s go through the Do’s and the Don’ts
Good Direction and Script Preparation Makes All the Difference
DO prepare your voice over script and send it to the voice over artist, your internal roster, an agent or casting site. Provide pronunciation for more challenging words, indicate pauses and words that need to be emphasized.
DO include directions for the voice over artist. Tell us how you want to make your target demographic feel? Uplifted? Concerned? Inspired? Connected? Go beyond saying you are looking for a “real person, conversational” style. That covers 85% of job postings. It’s a market trend. A real person reading may have pauses, “um’s” and “ah’s.” That’s what real people do in real life, we speak messily.
Is that what you really want? If so, tell us if you want it as real as a testimonial, with all the accompanying filler words, we’ll totally go that far. Or if you want it real, but with a little polish, we can do that too.
Casting Voice Over Attitude and More
DO let the artists know what kind of read you want. Often attitude is more important than age, is your market laidback and cool? Or do they trust a more authoritative tone? If you know and can concisely explain your market research, share it. If you have ideas, then share those.
Ask the voice over artist to dig deeper, provide a more emotional feel if that’s what you want, tell them if a more surface-level read is preferred, or let them know you want them to run wild and do what feels right, maybe even providing a couple takes.
DO tell the voice over artists what kind of project they are auditioning for. Audiobooks, video games, dubbing, commercials, eLearning, etc., all require a different skillset (and different pricing) and most voice over artists will have more experience in some areas than others. Some specialize and may turn down projects that aren’t inside their niche.
A Confusing or Vague Brief Equals Confused and Vague Voice Over
Don’t ask for a ‘unique voice,’ because all voices are unique. Rather, specify exactly what you want. Some voice over artists have a cast of voices in their back pocket, they can draw inspiration from Janice from Friends (Maggie Wheeler) to Mabel Pines of Gravity Falls (Kristen Schaal).
Go beyond Morgan Freeman. And know whether what you mean when you say ‘unique’ is actually that you want an authentic read. A delivery that’s different and stands apart. Go for “authentic” or “genuine” instead of “unique” otherwise you might be shocked when you get something truly, er… unique.
DON’T contradict yourself in spec or at least explain the contradiction. “Upbeat, but serious” don;t usually go together. You might need to explain that you want it to start upbeat and become more serious, and even if you have a specific place in mind, where you would like the change to begin. A good tip is to pass the spec to someone else to read and ask them to explain it back to you, to see if you are getting your ideas across on paper.
DON’T let the spec run on for pages and pages. It’s likely to become too much to handle, and it might even be confusing you. Try your best to be clear and concise, you can get into the detail and backstory with your voice over artist once you’ve hired them.
Be Upfront with the Nitty-Gritty When Casting Voice Over
DO get technical. Let the artist know if you have any requirements for how the audio file should be delivered, file naming conventions, etc. it’s easier doing it right the first time round than going back and fixing it the second. If you don’t want a slate, let them know that too.
DO let the voice over artist know about your usage and budget. Verify if it’s for advertising, broadcast, how long do you want to license the work, etc. Unfortunately nailing down the price of voice over can be an enormous task, so how much does it cost to hire a voice over professional?
It will largely depend on the skill level and experience of the artist, the type of usage, and work. The more information you provide in the spec the easier it is for us to cost upfront. That way the voice over artist won’t waste their and your time with an audition if the fit isn’t right.
DO mention if there will be swearing or explicit content.
DO mention political affiliations, whether the company or brand is a charity or considered ‘problematic’. Some voice over artists won’t do certain types of voice over work. That’s their choice, and if you can save yourself some listening time by weeding them out before the audition phase then great.
Provide Necessary Information When Casting Voice Over Talent, Including Non-Negotiables
DO include your non-negotiables in your spec. If you don’t want to be inundated with demo after demo make sure to highlight non-negotiables. It will largely depend on the project but there are likely to be a few of them, such as accents, language spoken, gender, etc.
DO let us know whether you are looking for diversity style=”font-weight: 400;”> only or want to invite diverse actors as well as others – this is important in our community. We support our colleagues and if it’s a spot that is specifically looking for voice actors from diverse backgrounds, those of us in the majority will step aside if you don’t want to hear from us.
DO tell us about your target demographic. Forget the age range of your voice over artist, the important factor is the age of your target demographic. Some of us are 60 and sound 30, and some of us are 25 and sound 50. The voice doesn’t age the same way the rest of us do, and a good voice over artists have a wide performance range. Focus on the age of your target demographic and the voice over artist will know the age range of their voice and audition if they can deliver.
DO include references to voice over and actors you like, but try to be a bit more specific. What do you like about them in particular? The style of delivery, the accent, the pacing, the overall style, etc. (Age is a wonky element in this as not everyone knows the ages of some of the A-listers they mention as references. For example, a recent job asking for a 45-year-old male, but referencing an 84-year old (Morgan Freeman) and a request for a 40-year-old female who sounds like Holly Hunt (who’s 63).
DON’T hide all the most important information at the end of the spec, or in a massive paragraph where the voice over artist eyes might skim past it by accident. It’s not that we aren’t reading the whole thing, but we do a lot of auditions and it can be challenging to keep everything straight.