Setting Yourself Apart with Amanda Sellers & Mike Schurko

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    Success in voice acting is all about setting yourself apart—whether it’s your audition standing out from other submissions, or your masterful delivery that billboards the name of a brand to distinguish it from the rest of the copy in a script. To produce more winning auditions, you have to learn how to juggle the client’s creative direction while taking some risks in your read. 

    In this week’s episode, Stephanie has the pleasure of chatting with Mike Schurko and Amanda Sellers, a husband and wife duo who have collectively lent their voices to brands as ubiquitous as Apple, Twitter, Pepsi, Avon, Verizon, and Nike. As they listen to the reads for a fictitious voice-activated blender, Mike and Amanda offer actionable advice about making your first line powerful, why good mic technique is a must, and why adding music to your auditions is risky business that may detract from your read depending on the end client. 

    About Amanda Sellers 

    Amanda Sellers is a voice actor with over 12 years behind the mic. After a long career as a touring musician and radio DJ, she discovered her passion for voice over and never looked back! She has been nominated for 3 Voice Arts Award and is co-founder of The VoiceOver School, an immersive online digital course that teaches others exactly how she garnered a long, successful career working from her home studio. Amanda has been hired by big brands like Expedia, Facebook, Axe Body Spray, Blistex, Toyota, Walmart, Apple, Victoria’s Secret, Scotia Bank, American Airlines, Avon, and many more. She is based in Vancouver, married to her husband, Mike (business partner, fellow voice actor, and father to her children) and cherishes her biggest accomplishment yet, which are her 2 young boys, Beck (7) and Trace (4). 

    About Mike Schurko

    Mike has been a full-time professional voice actor for over eight years (having been in the industry for over 12) and has worked for numerous companies such as Facebook, Twitter, GoPro, Verizon, Burger King, Chevron, Nordstrom, Home Depot, Enterprise, and Macy’s, to name a few. His niche is a relatable ‘guy next door’ sound that can be fun, friendly, or emotional, but on the flip side, also informational and professional in a more formal setting. He has worked in a wide range of VO genres. He is also an experienced audio engineer with a huge gamut of post-production abilities. He has been teaching students about voice over for over 2 years, and really enjoys the interaction and challenges that come from helping others succeed in their own VO careers!  

    Hosts: Stephanie Ciccarelli, with special guests Amanda Sellers and Mike Schurko.

    Links: 

    Inspired by this episode? Get your practice on with our voice over sample scripts

    Connect with Amanda Sellers and Mike Schurko on their website and Instagram. Hear Amanda’s voice and hear Mike’s voice on Voices.com.

    About Mission Audition: Mission Audition is presented by Voices.com. Produced and engineered by Randy Rektor. Script written by Oliver Skinner.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Hi there. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli. Welcome to Mission Audition. Today, we’ll be going over an internet video advertisement for a fictitious product called the Mashup. Before we get into the auditions, I want to introduce you to our amazing guests. We have Amanda Sellers and Mike Schurko in the studio. Welcome to the two of you.

    Amanda Sellers

    Thank you.

    Mike Skurko

    Thanks for having us, Stephanie.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    I think we have known each other virtually for at least eight years, I would say. Amanda, I know that the relationship’s been a little longer with you because you’ve been on Voices for, how long now?

    Amanda Sellers

    Since 2009.

    Mike Skurko

    11.

    Amanda Sellers

    At least 11 years, I’ve been a member. Could have been 2008.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Oh my gosh. Wow. That is fantastic. That feels like a whole other era in this business, doesn’t it?

    Amanda Sellers

    Absolutely.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    So much has changed since then. That’s great. I know that, Amanda, you are mainly a performer, and that’s kind of how you got into voiceover. Mike, you come from the audio engineering side of things, which is really, really great. The two of you together have a VO school. How about you share a bit more about your school with us now? In addition to the school, we would love to hear your own story.

    Amanda Sellers

    Absolutely.

    Mike Skurko

    Do you want to start with the story or go to the school first?

    Amanda Sellers

    Well, I’ll just pop into the school and why we started it, was I would get messages all the time. “Amanda, how do you get into voiceover? I would love to get into voice acting, but I have no idea where to start.” I literally had an email that I would copy and paste because I would get asked so much. I would copy and paste the email. I always put in voices.com, and the places that I got my start, and building a home studio. Just after all these questions, I thought, “Why don’t we get this online? Why don’t we share with other people?” It felt like after 10, 11 years as a full-time voice actor, it was time to share our wisdom, so that’s kind of the inspiration behind it.

    Mike Skurko

    We actually started with doing in-person seminars because we didn’t really have much of a technical expertise to create a course online or anything like that. We didn’t really know what we were doing. We were just like, “Let’s do this. Let’s get this information out. We feel compelled, so let’s do it.” Eventually it kind of evolved into an online process, which has allowed us to help a lot more people in a really cool, supportive way.

    Amanda Sellers

    I think the most rewarding thing is literally watching someone who, say a stay-at-home mom, always had an inkling to be an actress, now a full-time voice actor, and can barely keep up with her work. It’s really exciting and rewarding to see that we can help people.

    Mike Skurko

    It’s nice to have content that people actually want to hear me say. Normally, I don’t know, I have no reason to share any information. This is something that after over a decade, I would coin us experts just because we’ve kind of learned from so many experiences. To share that and people being interested in it is rewarding and fun, super fun.

    Amanda Sellers

    We got into voiceovers. We met back when I was a radio DJ in Regina, Saskatchewan. That’s right when Mike and I met. I was a DJ. I absolutely loved doing the commercials while I was on the air. It was my favorite thing to do. I would go and do the post production, like the commercials. How can I make this a career? I would start to put up all my commercials together. Then I was like, “Okay. I got to go up to Vancouver and get an agent.”

    Mike Skurko

    Because that was what you really-

    Amanda Sellers

    That was the technical terms of how you-

    Mike Skurko

    Making it.

    Amanda Sellers

    Make it in VO. I remember hearing about online casting sites. Literally, it was in that moment. Mike and I went to the music store. We bought a microphone. Granted, we had no money. I was waitressing. He was working on the oil rigs.

    Mike Skurko

    We had a lifestyle that matched and then some. There’s no extra.

    Amanda Sellers

    We put a microphone on credit. We found out about voices.com. We started auditioning. I would audition for everything that came in.

    Mike Skurko

    Even if it was calling for senior woman, even though you’re clearly young adult, or you could manage to reach that middle-aged tone, it was just everything that came in. We were just… Throw all the spaghetti on the wall and see what stuck.

    Amanda Sellers

    That was good practice back then, too, because I was still finding my voice. I had no idea where I fit in or what was my style. It takes some time to learn. Then we literally just, from there, snowballed. The years went by. We made demos. I got agents. Now it’s just grown so big that it’s crazy. It’s afforded us an amazing life. Now we have a family. During that time, you got into voiceover, too.

    Mike Skurko

    Yes. We met. I was a DHL delivery driver. I was a musician from way back. I was in a bunch of punk rock and metal bands in high school. I was kind of the go-to guy for recording, and producing all this stuff, and mixing. That was my knowledge that I brought to the table. When Amanda wanted to do this, I was like, “Yes. I know how to do it,” but I also used to mix for vocals for a metal track, over compressed. There was so many things that we reached together that was a learning process and a lot of trial and error. Then over the years, there was opportunities where clients would reach out to Amanda and ask her, “Do you have a male VO option?” I was like, “Okay fine. I’ll do this.”

    Mike Skurko

    I had no interest in becoming a voice actor. I was happy on the other side of the glass, so to speak, but then I would go ahead and do these auditions. I’m not much of a vocal performer. I would ask her to leave the apartment. I would edit my headphones. I would tell her to leave. It was just a very shy process, but I also had one of the best voice actors that I knew of to kind of look up to and see how she did it. It was a growing process for me. Then probably, I don’t know, three, four years after building some clienteles that way, I kind of decided to start taking it seriously because I really enjoyed the process. She was really grateful that I would just edit all of her auditions and files.

    Amanda Sellers

    He used to edit everything for me.

    Mike Skurko

    Just slowly but surely, I built clientele, recurring clients, over the years. Now she has to edit her own files. We have our own clients that we have to service. It’s been really rewarding and a great lucrative career. I could see myself doing this until I can’t speak anymore. It’s just a fun career. Here we are.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Wow. Here we are. Oh my goodness. That’s a tremendous story. I think what I love most about it is that you’ve grown together in this voiceover business. There are other couples who do this similarly to you, but I don’t think I’ve ever met one that’s so in sync with what the other… You are literally finishing each other’s sentences. I’m watching you. I know that our listeners can’t see this, but I can literally see in the Zoom. It’s almost like a little bit of a badminton. The volley is going back and forth there. That’s amazing. That is really, really cool. I know that you guys are really humble. You didn’t mention any of the clients that you work for, so I do just want to put a few of those in there for everybody.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Mike, you had gone from being on the other side of the glass kind of guy to being a voice guy. Well, you have companies to your credit such as Facebook, Twitter, GoPro, Verizon, and Nordstrom. That’s pretty cool, I would have to say. Amanda, you also have a lot of great companies that you’ve worked for. I also love that you came from theater. I think that that is a really strong point for you, too. To see companies like Avon, Pepsi, Apple, and Nike… Those are big names. You guys should be really, really proud of working for those brands. They’re known all over the world. In order to be the voice of a brand, you have to be a voice that they trust, but also, just able to get that message across. I’m sure some of this is advertising work that you’ve been doing, commercial, and so on.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    That’s what we’re really going to talk about today, is a video internet advertisement. What I hope for our whole classroom here, our virtual classroom, is that they can get a sense of what you think of these auditions and also, how not only could they be made better, but also where they shine and what someone is doing right because oftentimes on the show, we do talk about where something could improve. I would like, also, for us to think about the things that we might want to emulate today.

    Amanda Sellers

    Absolutely.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Very cool.

    Amanda Sellers

    That sounds like fun.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Wonderful. Okay. After all this, we did not mention the name of your school. What we’re going to do is just give a little plug here. You can talk more at the end. Thevoiceoverschool.com… That’s Amanda and Mike. That’s where they teach. Now if you are wanting to get into the show, because I know that sometimes we’re just so eager to get into the auditions, we will do that in just a moment here. I do want to mention a bit more about the job, so why don’t we talk a bit about that? For this job, we’re looking for a North American, English-speaking male or a female voice. These are voices in the young adult category, that being 18 to 35. This commercial… It follows a girl or a guy next door. I think that’s one of your specialties, Mike, if I’m not mistaken, the guy next door.

    Mike Skurko

    Right in my wheelhouse.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Yes, in your wheelhouse, who is introducing a brand new product and its technical features. We’re really looking for somebody to give a very clear read of this script so that it’s just very straightforward for them. The creative direction is actually to exude spirit and cheerfulness, so everyone be listening for that, spirit and cheerfulness.

    Amanda Sellers

    I love it.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    To tell everybody a little bit about the product itself, the product is called the Mashup. As we know, this is fake. Don’t go Googling it, trying to buy it. Mashup is an all new, voice-activated smart blender. It reads custom recipes out loud. Whoa, cool.

    Mike Skurko

    Wow.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Users can prepare a smoothie or sauce without the need to search for a recipe. The Mashup also features numerous voice-activated blend speeds and settings, and it plays upbeat music to counter that roaring blender sound. It shows somebody going through the motions as they start their day. Everyone knows that I’m not a morning person, so I totally get this person. We won’t go in the script. That’s the talent’s job. Today we have seven auditions, seven great auditions. No doubt there will be something magnificent and also, just something that we can look into improving in each one of these.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    As you know, this is a podcast. It’s all about love, all about making sure that everyone feels really, really great about what they’re doing, but also that they are safe and secure in the knowledge that any feedback that is given, it is all constructive. It is all to make you better. I hope for those listening at home, you’ll be able to learn from what you’re hearing today and apply that into your studio as soon as you do your next audition. All right. Here we go. We’re going to listen to audition number one.

    Audition 1

    What do your mornings look like? What do they sound like? The Mashup is a voice-activated blender that lists off smoothie ingredients so you can kickstart your day with a nutritious burst of flavor. When you’re ready, just ask it to mash up. Now, what do your mornings taste like?

    Mike Skurko

    Fantastic read.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    All right. I was going to say that’s audition number one. What do you think?

    Mike Skurko

    Audition one. Amanda, do you want to take it or do you want me to-

    Amanda Sellers

    Sure. Well, first off, he’s got such a warm, knowledgeable, friendly, and comforting tone. Off the bat, audiobooks came to mind. I feel like he would be just such a nice sound, listening in audiobooks. One thing I think that he could add a little bit more if the note is spirit and cheerfulness, just to maybe billboard some words a little bit. I felt when we got into the word Mashup, since that’s the product, it could have been punched up a little bit more.

    Mike Skurko

    I feel like the emphasis could have been worked on a little bit as far as billboarding the actual product or just hitting some different emphasis words maybe a little differently. That’s just a holistic view of the whole take, but I think his tone was wonderful. Sonically, the audio sounded great, as well, in my ears.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    All right. Well, that’s some good feedback. Amanda, I know you’ve done on-camera, as well. Just thinking, when the talent is looking at a job like this and they know that their voice is going to go alongside the video, then how can the voice artist who is not also on-camera artist help to support the on-camera actor and what they’re doing?

    Amanda Sellers

    Well, I think when you get behind the microphone, it’s a good idea to have a picture of who you’re talking to and just know that you’re telling a story. Especially for something that’s a video, it’s more of a voice-under versus a voiceover. You’re just supporting the picture, and you just really want that authentic connection.

    Mike Skurko

    Especially in a video ad, the producers of the ad spend a lot of time and effort creating this visual story. Generally, the voiceover becomes more of a support in this because everyone’s going to want to see this incredible blender. It can be a little bit more reserved. It doesn’t have to be as showboaty but still emphasized in a way that gets the product features and benefits across, but also allows for the video to kind of speak for itself. I think that he was very conversational. As far as an internal monologue, it felt very comfortable in that sense, but I do think just some emphasis adjustments could have taken that audition to the next level.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    I love it. We got the performance side and the production side talking all at the same time. This is good because we always have to be aware of that. As a voice talent, your voice is an instrument among others, right? It’s essentially like a piece of music. The voice is just one instrument in an entire ensemble. We always have to remember that it’s not just about what the voice is doing because it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Very good. Oh my goodness. So many good things before we even get to audition number two. We must carry on. Audition number two.

    Audition 2

    What do your mornings look like? What do they sound like? The Mashup is a voice-activated blender that lists off smoothie ingredients so you can kickstart your day with a nutritious burst of flavor. When you’re ready, just ask it to mash up. Now, what do your mornings taste like?

    Mike Skurko

    I honestly love the way he emphasizes his words throughout the whole audition. It feels like more of a story, like it’s going somewhere. It’s taking me somewhere. It’s just a nice tone. I feel like it’s bordering on more of an announcer tone versus a conversational, but I do hear his cheerfulness more so at the end. He sounds excited about the product more. There are ways that he could maybe loosen up a little bit as… Pretend as if he’s speaking to a friend, or different things come to mind as far as what to focus on when performing. Overall, I really liked that performance.

    Amanda Sellers

    A really good tip that a friend gave me once that I still use to this day is when you’re doing something that you want to sound conversational, is to pretend that you’re opening up a book, and you’re in a casting room with a whole bunch of other actors. You need to practice your lines, but you have to do it a little bit quiet. I feel like in order to get-

    Mike Skurko

    Little more subdued.

    Amanda Sellers

    A little bit more subdued. I felt he had a really good read, but he could have just… What do your mornings taste like? What do they look like? He could have just maybe just brought it down a little bit. Another tip that can help with that is shrugging your shoulders. What do your mornings look like? Just kind of getting your body into it. Also, another tip is using your hands. It’s always good to be using your body when you’re in the booth and expressing yourself. What do your mornings look like? Then you put one hand up. What do they taste like? Then you put the other hand up.

    Amanda Sellers

    I felt like he was almost going in a really conversational way, but then it just kind of started to go into a little bit more announcery or like it was reading. Again, he had a wonderful tone. He punched the words really nicely. I loved the way that he hit the word Mashup, which is the product. People like to call it, “Billboarding the product.” You don’t want to overemphasize it, or it sounds fake but just a really nice balance there.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    My goodness. Every time I watch you guys talk, I’m like, “This should have been a video podcast.”

    Amanda Sellers

    Oh.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Everything you’re saying… When you were using your hands and shrugging your shoulders there, you could hear the voice move as the body moved. I don’t know. Just everyone should be writing these little tips down because there’s no better way for your voice than to have a free body. You have to be able to move around. I think everyone, or some of you may know, I come from a vocal background with a music degree. My instrument was voice. It’s just kind of like, every single thing that you do, every movement, every little look on your face, every whatever, it’s going to affect how the voice sounds when it comes out. Even just that nice little shoulder roll, or a shrug, or whatever… It gives a whole other elasticity, even, to the voice.

    Amanda Sellers

    Absolutely.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    There’s more freedom. I’m starting to think we need to do some kind of video component or… This would be a lot of fun, I think. Anyway, we are audio right now. That’s what we are. I have nothing else to add to that because you guys just did such a great job of explaining what your points were for audition number two. Just thinking the physicality, that aspect, just wanted to reiterate your points there.

    Amanda Sellers

    I really like the word that you used, elasticity. I think that’s a really good word to keep in mind, too, when you’re recording and just to be free and fluid. Flow… Flow is a good word to imagine, too, with a conversational read like this. Flow… Don’t try to put anything too hard behind it.

    Mike Skurko

    I feel like when most people talk, there’s some sort of motion anyway in real life. All of a sudden, if you’re trying to be completely static and portray the same emotions in connectivity, it just doesn’t work. Even in words, like moving heads, moving shoulders in the middle of words can help you just enunciate things more comfortably and more naturally. I think that that’s a huge difference between sounding like you’re reading and sounding like you’re actually coming up with the idea in the moment and speaking it from your mind or your heart. Great point, getting that body moving.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Absolutely. All right. Well, we are trucking just along here. Audition number three.

    Audition 3

    What do your mornings look like? What do they sound like? The Mashup is a voice-activated blender that lists off smoothie ingredients so you can kickstart your day with a nutritious burst of flavor. When you’re ready, just ask it to mash up. Now, what do your mornings taste like?

    Amanda Sellers

    Okay.

    Mike Skurko

    All right.

    Amanda Sellers

    We have the first one with music. That was the first thing that jumped out to us because the other ones didn’t.

    Mike Skurko

    Me being the audio guy, I would be careful. I don’t know who this audition is going to. I know there are varying opinions on this, but I’ll share with you mine, is just to be careful when choosing an audio file, a music bed, to go with an audition. If it wasn’t requested, you are taking a shot in the dark. You can generally get an idea on the script of what kind of music they could be looking for, but if the read’s good and the music just kind of throws the tone off to what the client is looking for, that could be a point against, or it could also be like, “Wow. He took the time to do this. This really stands out to me.” That’s very much… Will come down to the client’s opinion. It’s a hit or miss. It’s a choice you have to make. He made a choice. I think it was a decent choice, maybe not the best choice. Again, that’s my opinion. What are your thoughts, Amanda?

    Amanda Sellers

    I think that something to keep in mind when you decide to choose music behind an audition is who the end user is. Is it a creative house that doesn’t want to hear music? I feel like if it’s going to a creative house, or a producer, or somebody who is going to be presenting it to someone, I feel like they just want the raw audio.

    Mike Skurko

    Even a talent agent.

    Amanda Sellers

    Or, yes.

    Mike Skurko

    An agency that’s going to be passing it along with a bunch of others.

    Amanda Sellers

    They just want to hear your raw audio. Where I have found success in using music… Stephanie, I don’t know your thoughts on this. Where there could be a good opportunity to use music if it’s the end user… If it’s a mom-and-pop shop, something smaller where you know that it’s not going to be going through a funnel of different people, and you make it easy for them. “You just gave me music. I don’t have to go searching,” depending on what your agreements are, whatever. It can add, or it can take away. It’s a risk. I do believe in taking risks when doing auditions, but it’s a risk that he chose. Another thing with music though that you can use as a benefit is listening to music before you do the read.

    Mike Skurko

    Or even well.

    Amanda Sellers

    Or even well… Not actually use it but just kind of have it in one ear because it can kind of get you in a different mood, which can help.

    Mike Skurko

    I’d say the read itself, I feel like he had a nice metered pace. I felt some spirit, but it also felt a little bit rigid as far as some of the execution. It felt a little bit read. We’re getting really picky here because all these so far are incredible auditions that are, I’d call them, competitive. To really dig in is just… It could have been a little more conversational and maybe more of a story rather than just reading chunks. Again, these are all really good auditions.

    Amanda Sellers

    I think the, “What,” when it first jumped in, the “What do your mornings like?” it just felt maybe a little bit too staccato off the top. He did have a really nice tone. I felt a real guy next door. I did feel cheerfulness and had spirit in it, which I enjoyed.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Oh, those are great points. I’m so glad the two of you find various things within the same audition to speak to. That’s wonderful. My opinion on music and whether it should be used in audition… If it isn’t called for, I’d say that’s probably a no-no only because, and as you pointed out, it is a risk, but it’s also something that was not asked for. Music is very powerful. It has a language. If the instrumentation is wrong, if the meter is wrong… It should be in three-four, not four-four. What are you doing? You don’t really know what the vision is for the rest of the creative. You don’t know.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    I liked what you said there, Amanda, about how, well, you just don’t know who’s on the receiving end of this and who’s going to get that file. I would say 99.9% of the time, they’re going to want that dry, raw voice file because they already have a vision of what they want to do. They’re asking you to do one job. Maybe the music that you’ve chosen doesn’t go with the décor in the kitchen they’re showing the blender in.

    Amanda Sellers

    Absolutely.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Maybe the blender looks like a 1950s retro thing because we can’t see this blender. All we know is that it does the job. Maybe it’s really new looking. I don’t know. Maybe they would have picked something a little bit different. It’s not often that risks get rewarded when they are musical.

    Amanda Sellers

    Yes.

    Mike Skurko

    I do have one option to mitigate that risk potentially, is if you were to make a selection yourself, make this known ahead of time in your proposal. Add a music bit to one take, but then leave the same take raw and unaffected at the end so that… No, this doesn’t match but we can still apply it to our music bed.

    Amanda Sellers

    To me, I just wouldn’t bother. I mean, I would do the audition, and I’d be onto the next one. I wouldn’t be worried about music. That’s just my own personal opinion. I do like to listen to a track before just to kind of get you in that head space.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Yes, I think a couple good points just came to me as you were both speaking here. One would be that if you were to do one take with the music and one take with the dry voice, what I would recommend is that the take with the dry voice goes first because a client may not read your proposal. In fact, the proposal is, by default, closed.

    Mike Skurko

    Right.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    They’d have to open it. Then usually they’re looking… Okay, let’s press play. Let’s see what the quote is. All of that is readily available to the eye. What isn’t available is the preview of what you’re about to do. I do want to say though that sometimes, and it’s rare, but musical risks do actually work. They do, but it is exceptionally rare. Usually those risks only work if the client has already asked and made it a requirement that you include music as part of that audition because they’re expecting it.

    Mike Skurko

    Right.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    That was already something they wanted to hear.

    Mike Skurko

    Right.

    Amanda Sellers

    Right.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Well, I think we have audition number four waiting in the wings. Let’s give it a listen.

    Audition 4

    What do your mornings look like? What do they sound like? The Mashup is a voice-activated blender that lists off smoothie ingredients so you can kickstart your day with a nutritious burst of flavor. When you’re ready, just ask it to mash up. Now what do your mornings taste like?

    Amanda Sellers

    Okay. I think I would suggest a bigger smile on his face. Off the bat, that’s what came to mind. Another thing that can help with getting into the script is doing a lead-in where you say different phrases or something to kind of get you in that mood before you start the script. A lead-in could look like, “Oh hey. Good morning. It’s so great to see you. What do your mornings look like?” Just something that you say before that you edit out before you send it, but that can help aid in the read.

    Mike Skurko

    Personally, I think he was well-metered and paced. I actually liked that closing tone the best. When I first heard this spot, that’s what I heard in my mind. Now, how do your mornings taste like? How do your mornings taste like? I liked the way he closed that, but I feel, overall, there could have just been a little bit more lightness and energy. Otherwise, I think it was a very good read.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    My goodness. I don’t even think I need to talk during this episode at times because you guys just have it covered. I really enjoy hearing all of these auditions. We always have to remember, go back to the script. Go back to the script. I’m going to go back into the script. I’m just going to take a little peek here. What do your mornings like? What do they sound like? The Mashup is a blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s really an engaging conversation between the narrator because it feels like a narrator, right?

    Amanda Sellers

    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    This is not the person making the smoothie.

    Mike Skurko

    Right.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Maybe I had hoped it would be because then you could kind of have fun with who that character is. As we’re thinking about… Okay. Well, this person is clearly trying to engage the person on the other side of the screen, right? Then they’re talking about this Mashup, voice-activated blender. I don’t know. Is this a normal thing? Should people have a voice-activated blender? I know that this is what the script is, and it is what it is. Just wondering because this obviously is a fake product, so say whatever you want. Is the voice actor making this sound too normal? Is this a new vogue kind of… Whoa. Isn’t this wild? I can’t believe you can do this. It seems like this is a technological innovation where people just care about how they start their mornings. I don’t know. Is there something missing here? I don’t know.

    Amanda Sellers

    I love that. I love that suggestion. I think that’s a really good point. Maybe we’re all just taking this way too seriously. What do you think?

    Mike Skurko

    I feel like that might not match with the script notes as far as spirit and cheerfulness. I feel like as far as the audition itself, if you interpreted the script, you could absolutely. I think that’s a way that you could either set yourself apart. It might not be a good choice, but to put risky play to set yourself apart as an audition. Again, I think that the notes on the audition should be a little more supportive of that idea because it’s completely valid. This could be earth-shattering, life-changing technology, but that doesn’t come across in the notes or obviously in the auditions based on the notes. That’s a very cool perspective.

    Amanda Sellers

    I remember working with a casting director once. She had mentioned when she gets auditions, she pops them up all over her screen. She’s literally looking at 50 auditions. After a while, I mean, everyone sounds good. Everyone’s sounding good. What can you do to catch their ear if you’re thinking about the person that you’re auditioning for? I sometimes will look at the microphone and think about that as the person’s ear. I know that sounds weird. How do you want them to interpret it? You want to make them feel like you’re making them look good so when they go, when they present it to their colleagues or their client… “Wow, check out this voice. She made my job easy.”

    Mike Skurko

    Even if it is different than maybe the audition note said, maybe you just made them consider something that they didn’t consider. Again, that is a risk just like music, but it is a way. If you’re getting 100 auditions or 50 auditions that all start the same way, the same way, how do you set yourself apart? That’s an option, but that’s kind of digging deep, and it’s taking a risk.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Wow. Well, I think it’s time to listen to audition number five.

    Audition 5

    What do your mornings look like? What do they sound like? The Mashup is a voice-activated blender that lists off smoothie ingredients so you can kickstart your day with a nutritious burst of flavor. When you’re ready, just ask to mash up. Now what do your mornings taste like?

    Mike Skurko

    Really cool read right off the bat. I felt like it started a little bit rocky and unsure. I feel like she kind of slowly fell into the pocket of the spot. I felt like it got better and better as the read went on. One suggestion I would have for that is to maintain the tone, especially when it’s improving like that, is to go back and do that first line again right after you finish the script just to kind of maintain that continuity and keep that energy up because if you’re starting from cold, from scratch, it’s hard to start with that full advance of emotion and energy sometimes just from a cold start. You could tell she was warming up. I feel like if she would have went back and redid that beginning line again, it could have felt a lot more warm, and natural, and energetic to match the whole audition.

    Amanda Sellers

    That’s something really important to remember when you’re auditioning, is if they have it on their screen and they’re just popping through them, you really want your first line to be powerful and to be in the pocket. That’s a trick that Mike and I do all the time. You do the full read, and then you go back. You do the first couple sentences again, and then pace them at the beginning. Or sometimes you’ll just do a second read, and the whole thing will sound better. She definitely started off maybe not so much in the pocket, but then got into it. I don’t know if it’s just our speaker, but maybe the audio quality wasn’t up to speed.

    Mike Skurko

    Sonically, I heard a little bit of background. I don’t know if it’s a slight reverb, or a tin, or an echo. Obviously, to be really picky, if you’re hiring someone to work from their home studio, you want… That’s very much a part of the audition, is the quality of the audio. It’s still good. It’s still usable, but if I’m going to get really picky, some of the other voice actors have provided higher-quality audio to this point. Overall, with her read, again, I felt it got more and more comfortable. Overall, I think the cheerfulness just wasn’t quite fully there. Again, a good audition, but I think there’s a few things that could have tweaked for next level.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    All great points. I know. I really did like the last sentence, the last phrase that she had, but there was a lot of character in there and a lot of… The first thing I thought was, “Wow. That sounds like a very curious sort of person.” “Now what do your mornings taste like?” She’s like, “Now.” It just seems like she was almost mischievous at that point. It did feel like just… No one else was doing that, I guess, is what I’m trying to say.

    Amanda Sellers

    Absolutely. The last line, she did a wonderful job of-

    Mike Skurko

    Setting herself apart and showing more character.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Absolutely, she did. I know there are two more auditions, so we’re going to keep going. Now let’s listen to audition number six.

    Audition 6

    What do your mornings look like? What do they sound like? The Mashup is a voice-activated blender that lists off smoothie ingredients so you can kickstart your day with a nutritious burst of flavor. When you’re ready, just ask it to mash up. Now what do your mornings taste like?

    Amanda Sellers

    I really like her warmth, her relatability. I felt like there was a good connection. If she would have had the ending that the previous one had, that would have really spiced it up. I thought it was really good. I felt like she had a twinkle in her eye, and just a really nice tone, and good pacing.

    Mike Schurko

    Sonically, I did catch a plosive. I know that’s being super picky. I know that’s something that’s fixable. Overall, I think with her tone and performance, I would have definitely shortlisted her. As someone running a home studio, that’s something that I would want them to be aware of and just be cautious of because that’s me. My specialty is audio quality. Plosives… Maybe because there’s so many things you can do as far as mic technique, just going off access slightly, or using pop filters, or you can get your finger in front of your mouth if you have to say certain plosives. There’s different things you can do. Again, I don’t think it takes away from the quality of the performance. I would still give her a chance, but that’s a concern that I have.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Right. Just for the uneducated in this area, Mike or Amanda, either of you, can you please explain to everyone what a plosive is and why we want to avoid them?

    Mike Schurko

    A plosive is when the air that your mouth creates hits the mic diaphragm directly, and it creates a pop in the audio file, which generally is distorted or super bassy. It just creates a whole lot of mess with the quality of the audio. It takes away from the performance because it’s such an ear sore that takes away-

    Amanda Sellers

    Is it mainly on Ps?

    Mike Schurko

    You can do it on Ps, on Ts, on Ks, anything, Qs, anything that has volume of air coming like puh.

    Amanda Sellers

    Hard consonant.

    Mike Schurko

    Tuh, Qua, Chu… Anything that has that sort of force of air behind it. I guess I don’t have a list of all of them. Anything that kind of holds that kind of quality to it is where you could find a plosive if you’re directed directly at the mic.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    All right. Well, we’ve got one more audition left. I’m starting to get my hands ready to clap for the winner.

    Mike Schurko

    For the drum roll.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    It feels like this has gone by really, really quickly. It’s a great show. It’s that time to play our last audition. Then we will move onto our other business. Randy, please, audition number seven.

    Audition 7

    What do your mornings look like? What do they sound like? The Mashup is a voice-activated blender that lists off smoothie ingredients so you can kickstart your day with a nutritious burst of flavor. When you’re ready, just ask it to mash up. Now, what do your mornings taste like?

    Mike Schurko

    I definitely sense spirit and cheerfulness from her delivery. She has a great tone, a great smile. I feel like it’s a bit stiff as far as the delivery of it. It could be a little more naturally flowing, a little bit more like we talked about, the earlier ones sounding a bit more of a story where you’re taking me somewhere. She performed the spots very nicely, but I feel like there could have been just a next level of conversational aspect to her performance.

    Amanda Sellers

    Yes. I really liked the way that she said, “Kickstart your day with a burst of flavor.” I felt like there’s a lot of color in that. I felt like she really amped that up, but, yes, just a tiny bit announcery. One thing that I used to do is, again, on Google listening to different commercials, and then playing a line of it, and then pausing it, and then repeating that line.

    Mike Schurko

    Almost like emulating.

    Amanda Sellers

    Emulating. Another thing that is a really good trick to do is if she turned the script over and then you just talk about the product in a way that you remember it being, what you remember about the script.

    Mike Schurko

    Then to go on that even further is even line by line. If you were to read it in your mind and then look away from the script, and then read it as if it’s an idea that’s come into your head, and then look back down. Obviously, it takes a little post production to cut that together. I feel like when you’re not reading it, you can hear the difference between not reading and reading when there is that extra tone.

    Amanda Sellers

    Yes. I’ve done that in acting classes where you read the script and then you turn it over. Then you just speak about the product. That’s something that we’ve actually done with our students to get their natural tone because everyone tries to put something on, so let’s just get back to the natural. I get them to talk about their favorite season and don’t-

    Mike Schurko

    They talk about all the seasons and then-

    Amanda Sellers

    All the seasons and what they like about each season. It’s just kind of a trick that I do to try to get them in their natural voice. That’s something that people that are on voices.com… They could do to themselves, is just go behind their microphone and just talk about something that they love. Talk about the seasons. Talk about their favorite birthday party and just hear what they sound like for reading versus just speaking.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Oh my gosh. We are at the very end here. All of these auditions were absolutely amazing. As we know, there can only be one winner. Mike and Amanda-

    Amanda Sellers

    Hold on.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Who is the winner of Mission Audition?

    Mike Schurko

    I will go and preface this with, all of these auditions were really put together. You could tell there was some thought put into them, recorded well. They’re all competitive in my eyes. I think as far as the overall performance, and tone, and the package of everything that we put together, even though there’s one issue that I brought up about it, it’s a fixable issue. I’ll let you say the number.

    Amanda Sellers

    Dun duh duh duh, drum roll. Oh, number six.

    Mike Schurko

    Six, number six.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    All right, Randy. Let’s play audition number six.

    Audition 6

    What do your mornings look like? What do they sound like? The Mashup is a voice-activated blender that lists off smoothie ingredients so you can kickstart your day with a nutritious burst of flavor. When you’re ready, just ask it to mash up. Now what do your mornings taste like?

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Well, thank you for being on the show, Mike and Amanda. It was so wonderful to see you.

    Amanda Sellers

    Oh, it’s so nice to hang out with you, Stephanie. I’d love to do this again.

    Mike Schurko

    It was a pleasure. We should just Zoom and just hang out sometime. Randy, it’d be awesome, too.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Yes. That would be great. I’d love that, too. We’re a happy little crew here. That said, I’m sure there are many people who would love to study with you or perhaps learn more about what they could learn from you. Amanda and Mike, what is the best way for someone to get ahold of you after the show?

    Amanda Sellers

    Absolutely. Going to our website… It’s thevoiceoverschool.com. That’s a wonderful way to get in touch with us. Also, you can email us at hello@thevoiceoverfamily.com. Every month with our students, we have a monthly Zoom meeting. We just support our students in any way where we talk about performance and answer any questions they have. We also have experts that come in and share their knowledge with our students, as well. We have a wonderful Facebook group. Everyone’s really supportive. It’s so much fun.

    Mike Schurko

    From time to time, we’ll actually hold free webinars, as well, for the public, for people who are not in the course to kind of get an idea of who we are, what our experience is like, how we teach, and what kind of things you can learn in the course because we cover everything that you need to do, to do what we did and build a successful career working from home. Voices.com played a integral role in that.

    Amanda Sellers

    Massive, massive part in it. I just love you guys.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Aw. We love you, too. We’re so grateful to have been part of your journey. For anybody who wants to get ahold of Mike Schurko or Amanda Sellers, the way to get there is thevoiceoverschool.com. All right. Yes, thanks again for being here with us. Everyone who’s listening, you know that you can, as always, find the script on the voices.com blog. Just go to voices.com/blog. Be sure to tell friends, family, anyone you think could benefit from this podcast to go, and subscribe, and listen to it for themselves. For voices.com, I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli. We look forward to seeing you in another Mission Audition next time.

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    Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.

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