More than Child’s Play: Inside the World of Child Voice Over with Donovan Weyland

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    Voice acting offers a unique career path, where your chronological age doesn’t necessarily have to reflect your voice age, or the age-range of the work you take on. Audio Engineer, Producer and Coach, Donovan Weyland joins Stephanie and Julianna in the studio, where they discuss the unique attributes of child voices, how to tell authentic child voices apart from the adults who are pretending, and more. They also dive deep into what to expect if you’re a parent of a child who shows voice acting talent, including how to put on your ‘best performance’ in your supportive, parental role.

    Hosts: Stephanie Ciccarelli, Julianna Jones, with special guest, Voice Over Actor and Coach, Donovan Weyland.

    Inspired? Try out this episode’s voice over script: https://www.voices.com/blog/sample-talking-toys-scripts/

    Mission Audition is presented by Voices.com. Produced by Shelley Bulmer, and Engineered by Cameron Pocock; Scripting by Chantelle Henriques.

    About Donovan Weyland

    Donovan Weyland is a nationally-regarded, award-winning audio engineer with over 20 years of experience producing network broadcast and cinematic content. As a Producer, Voice Over Acting Coach, Celebrity VO Specialist, and Senior Audio Engineer/Sound Designer at the legendary Chicago Recording Company, he has earned a reputation for excellence and infectious positive energy.

    Early in his career, he gained valuable experience as a guitarist, drummer, keyboard player, vocalist, and songwriter. After graduating from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, Donovan set out on his never ending search for new and exciting ways to record, produce, and mix audio. Now catapulted into his next exciting phase, he is on the move, developing his audio production business and providing a wide range of services like voice over training, consulting, engineering and sound design production.

    Learn more at: www.donovanweyland.com

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Welcome to Mission Audition. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli.

    Julianna Jones:
    I’m Julianna Jones.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Today on our show, we have a really neat project. We have never had kids, real kids, on the podcast before. Isn’t that cool?

    Julianna Jones:
    I’m so excited. These auditions are so good.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Absolutely. Today, because we have these awesome kids… Well, I must say there are people who aren’t kids, too, but they sound like them. They’re on the show. For the purposes of trying to judge to see if these are authentic, at least, sounding children, we have the amazing Donovan Weyland. He is from Chicago. Hi. How are you doing?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Donovan, this is really cool. Again, you’re on a show here, an episode. We’ve never done anything like this. I just want to have just a full picture here for everybody who’s listening. Can you tell us more about yourself?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Yes.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Your career and why you love doing voice over with this particular group of kids.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Yes. I do have a love for voice over. My background is… I’m a 20-year veteran of being an audio engineer and a sound designer. Somewhere along the way, my area of expertise became voice over. I’ve been coaching and doing voice-over demos for almost that whole 20 years. I do workshops for kids for voice over. I do workshops for adults for voice over. I do one-on-one coaching. I help folks do auditions, as well.

    Julianna Jones:
    Oh, that’s wonderful. What kind of projects have you worked on? Any names?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Yes. I’ve been blessed to work on so many. One of the coolest ones I did was I recorded Oprah for all her parts for the Disney movie, the Princess and the Frog. That’s one of the big projects that I did for Disney. I have recorded so many celebrities: Neil Patrick Harris, Alec Baldwin. I’m very, very lucky.

    Julianna Jones:
    Wow. Oh, that’s so cool.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Was it Boss Baby? Is that the Alec Baldwin one you did?

    Donovan Weyland:
    It’s not. It was for a restaurant chain. We’ve recorded 250 commercials with Alec Baldwin for those. I’ve recorded him for other products, as well. My bread and butter is commercial. We call that “post production” in Chicago.

    Julianna Jones:
    Oh, how cool. I’m really interested to hear your opinions on these kids’ auditions, and especially the audio part. Any tips from someone who’s got your credentials? That would be amazing.

    Donovan Weyland:
    I kind of have a different perspective since a lot of times, I hear the auditions or I’m playing the auditions for my clients. I’ll have the clients who are picking the auditions in the room. It’s usually the writer, usually pairs of art directors and writers. Usually they’re the partnership that is picking them. We’ll jog through them. I’ve noticed kind of what works and what doesn’t work on their end, so I’m seeing it from both sides here.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    We do appreciate that. Whenever anyone can provide perspective, not just from a coaching point of view, as in, “What could I have done differently here to have performed better?” what have you, but actually from the client side. Honestly, that is always the million-dollar question, is why did this person book? What is it about that reader? What are they looking for? Thank you for bringing that set of ears. I know you’ve just got the one set, but thank you for bringing your ears in both capacities, as a coach and a producer, to the studio here today.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    We have boys and girls, male and female voice over here. This is a category which is so much fun. This is a talking toy. I can’t get over it. I love talking toys, but not for my kids. No, don’t give them. No, just kidding. No, no. We have some talking toys in our house. At any rate, we have this wonderful voice over. This is for Pete’s Toys. Again, we’ve made this company up as we always do. It’s a manufacturing company, and it’s about to release a new talking robot for children’s ages five to seven.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    The toy will function more like a smart device and is able to answer questions from the user. It sources their answers from the internet, so not unlike what we see with our various digital assistance, be they Alexa, or Siri, or whatnot, right? Anyway, we’ve got to tell them how to read now. Julianna, what are they supposed to do?

    Julianna Jones:
    Sure thing. The voice should sound childlike, how a seven-year-old child would sound. The voice should be friendly and fun. Although the toy interacts like a smart device, it functions at an approximate age of seven. There are questions the toy will not know the answer to, and that’s okay.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I love that. I love just the… It’s like a little child itself, right, because there’s just so much information out there on the web. Just think. This voice over needs to have that kind of naivete, that, “I’m a child. I actually don’t know the answer to this.” I think that’s exciting because there’s just so much information and not an awful lot of wisdom.

    Donovan Weyland:
    I took it as a robotic peer, somebody who’s not condescending or not above you, is working with you, not directing at you.

    Julianna Jones:
    Learning together.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Yes.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Absolutely. There’s a lot of youngsters in here because you’re looking for a five to seven-year-old audience in a seven-year-old voice, but there are adults, just so you know.

    Julianna Jones:
    See if you can pick them out.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yes, see if you can pick them out if you can. If you can’t, well, either way-

    Julianna Jones:
    We’ve got Donovan here.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yes. Yes. Donovan will be the judge of that. Without further ado, we’re going to run audition number one. We’ve got nine auditions today, so we’re going to have to plow through these. Just know that just like every episode that we do, we so want to help you grow and improve. Anything that we say is meant to be taken with love and respect. We want to see you succeed. All right. Here we go. Here’s audition number one.

    Audition 1:
    Did you say you need help with your math homework? Well, you’re in luck because I’m a math genius. Okay, so long division it is. Let’s start with an easy one: 10 divided by 5.

    Julianna Jones:
    Oh, I really like the script. It’s such a good one. What did you think of the read, Donovan?

    Donovan Weyland:
    It’s such a fun vibe. Totally getting the friendly and upbeat. Remember the specs. Specs are how old they’re supposed to be and the vibe that we’re supposed to be giving. He definitely got the spec of the friendly, fun, and upbeat, but to me, it sounds like he’s 13. I can hear him trying to pitch a little younger, but for me, just a little too old to pull off seven years old. It was so good. It just doesn’t sound like seven for me.

    Julianna Jones:
    Yes. If the demographic is for 13-years-olds, he would have nailed it?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Yes, totally. He sounds like he would be great in animation or a Kellogg’s commercial. I would cast him in a second.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I think that’s great feedback for this audition. I could also tell he was older. I’ve got kids of my own. I’m living in that age group right now, so ears are a little more attuned to it. You know what? I did love the energy. I liked what he was doing. It sounded friendly enough. If I heard a voice like that coming out of my kid’s device, I wouldn’t be weirded out by it.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Right, right.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I might expect it to be slightly younger.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That said, if it’s supposed to be, if it’s geared toward that, and if it’s been pitched to me that way in the packaging, the branding, and so on… That said, an excellent read. We’re moving onto audition number two.

    Audition 2:
    Did you say you need help with your math homework? Well, you’re in luck because I’m a math genius. Okay, so long division, is it? Let’s start with an easy one: 10 divided by 5.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wow.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Super adorable… I thought her laugh was the most believable. Actually, recording kids for so many years, doing a laugh that we all believe in the room is harder than you think. In an audition, she needs to be really proud that she pulled off a laugh that I believed. That was amazing, so cute, so adorable. There’s definitely potential there. I would say she needed to enunciate a little more and maybe even up the friendliness and the fun. I wrote down, “With some direction, there’s massive potential there.”

    Julianna Jones:
    What kind of things can we do to be better enunciators?

    Donovan Weyland:
    It just takes practice. There’s so much media out there to steal the copy for and practice. When I was researching these auditions, I looked up other kid-talking robots. Whatever you’re auditioning for, for me, the first step is research. If you were auditioning for a Kellogg’s commercial, you need to look up Kellogg’s commercials and listen to how the kids did it on those. Then you write it down, and you practice into your microphone until you sound in the ballpark. She’s just young, and it just takes practice.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I like what you said, Donovan, about research. Just bearing in mind here that these are kids auditioning and that their parents are probably the ones that are needing to do that research, or at least to do the initial research. For all of you, parents, who are listening, you’re going to want to think about, “Well, what is this script? What is it asking for that I might submit my child to do? How can I help prepare them better for that?” Pretend you’re talking to me as a parent of somebody who’s doing a voice over, Donovan. My kid’s going to try to go do an audition. How would you help me as that parent to prepare my child?

    Donovan Weyland:
    That’s a great point. Actually, my daughter does voice over, as well. We look it up on the internet together, but it has to be a partnership between the child and the parent. Child can’t just do this on their own. I was just thinking the other day. We did an… Or, she did an audition for a supermarket chain on the East Coast that we don’t have in the Chicago area. We were looking up how to say the tagline. A tagline is something at the end of a commercial. Allstate’s tagline is, “Are you in good hands?” We wanted to do their tagline for this supermarket chain, how they did it.

    Donovan Weyland:
    That was our first step and then to just make sure that we understood the vibe of other work they have done. You can gain a lot. Even if it’s not similar copy, you can gain a lot just by looking at their previous work. There’s a website called iSpot that we use a lot where you can type in whatever product if it’s a commercial and look up their previous work. It has given us so many insights, like okay. They never do anything dramatic. It’s always light and nice, so we know we’re going to stay with that. Now a parent doesn’t need to be a casting director, or a writer, or a producer for their kid, but getting them in the ballpark is kind of their job.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wow. For those of us who forgot our pens and paper for that last website URL you just gave out, could you share that one more time?

    Donovan Weyland:
    ISpot… We use that a lot now. If you’re going to look up a commercial, you can just type in a product, like Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. You have to type in the current year. Never, ever, ever practice old work. Advertising, commercial work changes so quick like fashions, like with shoes. The rate that it changes, that you never want to practice something that was happening last year.

    Donovan Weyland:
    In my first step of research, I type in the product name. I type in commercial. Then I type in the year. Then I click videos. Now even if they’ve only done radio work, it’s amazing. You will still find things on YouTube or iSpot that is radio spots, and they’ll just have a static image on there. They’ll still play you the radio. Getting that vibe, getting their previous work in your head is massively helpful.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    No, that’s a great tip, especially for commercial because there is so much voice-over work in commercial. At the end of the day, everyone’s looking for a way to have an advantage, frankly. If you’re listening to this podcast, you have heard it from Donovan. You know where to go if you want to be having a better handle on what those trends are.

    Julianna Jones:
    Oh, especially when it comes to kids and doing auditions, commercials are such a short thing. Kids have short attention spans, but also, you can’t work them too hard. They’re just little. Commercials and kids go hand in hand together. If you need any help getting into that, I definitely would suggest looking at Donovan or making sure that your profile is set up so that your kids are receiving good commercial auditions.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Sweet.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Such lucrative work, so much work being done with kids. You’re right. Those short pieces are custom-made for children. My daughter was on a spot recently that they showed it in a movie theater.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh wow.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Now I’m not going to say what product it was, but my oldest son… I’m a sound designer. I’m lucky. My work is shown on TV on a regular basis. The movie theater thing with my daughter… Ella came up. My oldest son, who is 20, leaned over to me and said, “Dad, is it me or is Ella’s stuff being shown more often than yours is?”

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh my.

    Donovan Weyland:
    You stinker.

    Julianna Jones:
    Competition.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yes, that’ll be a neat conversation around the dinner table for you.

    Julianna Jones:
    Yes.

    Donovan Weyland:
    I know.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, we have our third auditioner coming up. Just curious to see what this voice artist has brought.

    Audition 3:
    Did you say you need help with your math homework? Well, you’re in luck because I’m a math genius. Okay, so long division, is it? Let’s start with an easy one: 10 divided by 5.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wow. I think that he sounded like he was from a… I could see him in an animated series. That little voice… When I heard his voice, I’m like, “I could totally see that coming out of a character’s mouth.” This character happens to be a robot. Very believable, very cute.

    Donovan Weyland:
    So charming, so natural. I wrote down all just massively positive things. You’re right. Sounds like animation. I pictured the little robot when I heard his voice. Just made a little character come to life for me in my own head. That’s the fun part of voice over. We always record the voice over first in animation, and they animate to the voice. I could just picture a talking robot coming to life. Just like with all kids, I bet we’d have to direct him to be a little faster. It’s common with a lot of children when they do their auditions, to do it a little bit slower. If I could give just an overreaching, global bit of advice for parents and kids, to just maybe pick up the pace just a little bit in their auditions because we want to take every advantage we can get. I love this one so much.

    Julianna Jones:
    It’s a really actionable and easy tip, too.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yes. You can hear the joy in their voices, too. This is fun. Voice over is fun. The kids love it. Sometimes you lose that sense of… An adult is really enjoying themselves because it’s like, oh, into autopilot, going to do another audition, right? We can totally pick that up. With these auditions, everything has just been so enjoyable to listen to.

    Julianna Jones:
    So pure.

    Donovan Weyland:
    That’s a great point. I believed his little laugh. Voice over should be fun. This is still showbiz. It’s still entertainment. When I’m recording a child and the room erupts in laughter or we all are smiling, I always pick that take because what makes us laugh and smile in the control room is going to make everybody laugh and smile. This is not supposed to be drudgery or work. It’s not even supposed to be like work. It’s supposed to create a fun reaction in everybody. This last audition… It nailed it for me.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, whenever your work becomes something that you really don’t want to do, it’s probably time to either reevaluate if that’s still your passion or get super passionate about it and fall in love with it all over again so that you can have that joy because when you’re in a room by yourself, frankly, a lot doing voiceover, the last thing you want to do is feel that you are unmotivated to be there or that you would rather be somewhere else because that doesn’t do justice to anybody, to the client, to you, to that script, to the audience.

    Julianna Jones:
    That’s one of the joys of working for yourself, is that you work when you’re motivated, and hopefully every time you sit down, you feel that motivation.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    All right. Childlike wonder. Okay. Let’s go. We’re going to hear audition number four.

    Audition 4:
    Did you say you need help with your math homework? Well, you’re in luck because I’m a math genius. Okay, long division, is it? Let’s start with an easy one: 10 divided by 5.

    Donovan Weyland:
    So cute, so natural. Remember what I said about taking every advantage you could get. Sometimes when I’m doing the playback for my clients, if an audition is a little quiet, unfortunately, a lot of folks equate volume with quality. What I do in sound design and audio, we call that the loudness war. You’ll be listening, and all of a sudden, a commercial’s way too loud. You’re like, “Why is this so loud?” Because we’re all on a loudness competition because our clients, the advertising agencies, equate our louder commercials with better quality, okay?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Keeping in mind the loudness war, it also applies to commercials. If you’re too far from the mic, or if you don’t know how to optimize your audio once you send it… I’m not saying anyone needs to be an audio engineer to do good auditions. It sounded a little quiet to me. I feel like that would put this child at a disadvantage. Sounded so cute but maybe a little too young. The enunciation could have been a little clearer and just a little louder for me.

    Julianna Jones:
    It sounded like he did a good job with his pace from your previous comment though.

    Donovan Weyland:
    He did do good job with pace. It was faster than some of the other auditions. I call it the Goldilocks zone. You can’t be too fast because then we don’t understand what you’re saying. There was a little bit of that in this last one, but it can’t be too slow because then it kind of sounds like it’s in slow motion. Has to be just right.

    Julianna Jones:
    Yes. You don’t keep the attention when it’s too slow. Well, in your comment about loudness, that rings true across child and adult auditions. It’s something that we constantly are telling talent who aren’t booking work. It’s just simply that your auditions aren’t loud enough. To all the parents out there, if you’re wondering if your kids’ auditions are loud enough, remember that as a premium member, you get consultations with our audio engineer. If you need access to that, reach out to our support team and then we’ll put you in touch with the right person.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Great point.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    The loudness wars… That’s what I was just catching on.

    Donovan Weyland:
    I know.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s my little sound bite from you there. It’s absolutely true. They’re either a make or break based on the audio at times. Sometimes you don’t even know why something didn’t move ahead. It’s like, “Well… ” At the end of the day, if you’re actually to turn over that rock, it was because your audio… There’s just something not right with it.

    Donovan Weyland:
    You’ve got to be close enough to the mic to make, what is called, the proximity effect happen, which is where that little bit of bass jumps up, but you can’t be so close that you’re distorting it. Right now, I’m talking on a mic, and I’m watching my levels. I’ve got to be close enough so you hear that little bit of resonance which gives us the little bit of chills. We like it, but then it can’t be so close that you’re in the red. That last one was just a little too far and wasn’t getting that fun vibe where the mic picks up the meat of your voice.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    If we go back to an episode that we did earlier with Cameron, our talent success specialist, he does talk about this mic proximity thing that you’re mentioning right now. Make sure you go back to Mission Audition into our archives and find those episodes. I think they’re episodes four and five. Those are the common audio mistakes and how to avoid them, sort of idea. Absolutely. Having proper mic technique and understanding what proximity means, and if you’re on or off access, or what’s going on… This is language that you need to adopt into your own workflow. Now we have audition number five.

    Audition 5:
    Did you say you needed help with your math homework? Well, you’re in luck because I’m a math genius. Okay, so long division, is it? Let’s start with an easy one: 10 divided by 5.

    Julianna Jones:
    I loved her personality.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yes, delightful little voice. There was a lot of spunk though. I do admit. That one was like, “Well, I… “

    Julianna Jones:
    Got your attention.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Woo. Okay, got some attitude. That made her stand out, honestly. This voice artist definitely stood out. Wow.

    Julianna Jones:
    What do you think, Donovan?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Again, thinking back to the specs, what are we auditioning for? That, to me, sounded like a great commercial audition, tons of personality. Sounded really like a real kid. Now I know the robot is supposed to sound like a real kid, but that big pitch jump on the word, “I’m… ” I wrote down a note about that. It might have been just a little too much for this, but super cute, adorable personality. “This child,” I wrote down, “Could be great with some direction,” but here’s the thing. Now remember, it’s usually writers who are picking it. Some writers might not see the potential and might not pick this child because of that big “I’m” thing.

    Donovan Weyland:
    It’s amazing the things that they pick on in auditions and the reasons that they don’t choose people. I’ve heard such silly things like, “Oh, I didn’t like how they said that ‘I’m.'” Well, you can direct people to not do that, but a lot of times, they’ll have so many people to get through. It’s disheartening sometimes. You want to take every little advantage you can, and maybe listen back, and think, “Okay. Maybe that was just a little too much personality on the word ‘I’m.'” Maybe even that out. I wrote down, “Really good. Could be great.”

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Sometimes there are reasons why a client will go with someone over someone else. It can be these tiny little things. If you put the emphasis somewhere where they don’t want it to be, they’re not going to tell you. I think that that’s kind of the struggle, too, Donovan, right? It’s not the client’s job to tell you what you did wrong. If I’m sitting here listening and thinking, “Well, I wouldn’t have known that.” I don’t have the self-awareness as an artist or whatnot. How do you get that? Where does that feedback come from if you can’t talk to the client?

    Donovan Weyland:
    That is the voice-over artist trip. You’ve heard the phrase, “the artistic trip.” The voice-over artist trip is not an easy journey. It’s a very, I call it, an insular discipline. Children have it easier because they have their parents, but adult voice overs… They’re always second-guessing. They’re always thinking, “This is it. Am I doing too much?” Or, “Am I not doing enough?” Again, you have to start listening to other work that is happening outside of your little room, your little bubble. It comes from research.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Also, I got to recommend you meeting your peers, you talking with other people who are doing auditions. There’s a whole community happening here in Chicago through workshops and Facebook groups. Stop being alone. Start talking to each other. Start listening to each other’s auditions. You’ll start to get a better sense of, “Okay. It seems like I was always too quiet.” Or, “It seems like I always give too much personality.” If you don’t have an audition that day, you need to pretend you do. You need to create a situation, sort of like this where it’s like a fictional situation. You have to create that for yourself for that day because nobody ever got great at anything unless they did it every day.

    Julianna Jones:
    Actually, Cameron and I are talent success specialists. He uses this story quite often. I’m sure it’ll be fine if I share it. His songwriting teacher asks, “Who considers themself a songwriter?” Multiple hands went up. Then the teacher asked, “Who writes songs every day?” Maybe one hand, out of all of those hands, went up. That’s exactly the same analogy. It’s that if you want to be a voice-over actor, you have to do this every day. There’s nothing like practicing perfect. It’s book work.

    Donovan Weyland:
    The people who are winning the jobs, they are practicing every day. You better believe it. The people who win the auditions here in Chicago, they live and breathe this stuff. They know every commercial. They know the names of people. They know what advertising agency does what. They can speak the advertising speak with the clients. It’s like a lifestyle choice.

    Julianna Jones:
    Absolutely.

    Donovan Weyland:
    If you’re not that serious, someone’s going to step in who is that serious.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh my goodness. Those town in Chicago… Are they ever on it?

    Donovan Weyland:
    We are an advertising town. That is Chicago’s thing. All the major advertising agencies… All of the world all have their headquarters within a four-block radius of the studio I worked at for 20 years. That’s Chicago’s bread and butter.

    Julianna Jones:
    Serious business. Hi. I have a question. When you’re coaching kids, do their parents participate in the sessions?

    Donovan Weyland:
    I ask for them not to, personally. Kids are wonderful mimics. Children are wonderfully fearless. When they look over at their parents, there’s a little bit of eye-contact coaching happening.

    Julianna Jones:
    Ah.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Just like… I’m very lucky. My three children… Other people tell me, “Oh, they’re so lovely. They’re so well-behaved.” I love hearing that. Just like all kids, with me, they’re sassy. They can get into a little bit of trouble. They’re a little bit different with their parents around than they are with just some other adults. It becomes more professional, as well, but then you have to be with them during the audition. Just from an artistic standpoint, I would say, try to take a step back, or if you do feel the need to be in the control room, position yourself in the room so that your child can’t see your eyes, or maybe read a magazine in there. Then maybe they’ll start to assimilate to the folks who are directing them.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Those are great tips. As a parent, I also relate to that. What we need to always remember is that trust is key. Whenever you’re working with anyone, but especially when you have children, some of the most vulnerable people in this whole world, you have to be able to trust the people who are working with them, and obviously, as a parent, to be present. If you have any kind of concern or that’s just what you do, never feel bad about that. There will come a time, I think, as they get older and you build that relationship with a producer, or a director, or a coach, or a teacher, where you don’t have to be helicopter parent. That trust is there. You can let go. Maybe sit and read your book or play some game on your phone. Kids will behave differently when they think they’re being watched by their parents. It’s always looking over their shoulder to see if Mom or Dad approve.

    Donovan Weyland:
    The best directing I have ever seen by someone was a guy named Chris with an advertising agency. His trick was he would always go into the recording booth with the child and sort of coach them instead of pressing the talk-back button. The talk-back button is how we can hear in the recording booth, hear the people in the control room. He sort of would take that technical element away and just speak to them, and then just ask the engineer to always be recording. This was just such a joy to watch where they are just reacting in a much more natural way instead of… “Take 76. Now do three in a row.” That’s a very unnatural construct, even for adults.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    When people are comfortable, they do their best work. You have to remember that if someone is uncomfortable, then it will come through in the voice. It’ll appear as some kind of… I want to say tension. Maybe some kind of tension might start building in either the throat, or the hand, or wherever it starts to build. We all do our best work when we feel safe.

    Donovan Weyland:
    We have a phrase in audio, “The tape don’t lie.” Now I know we don’t use tape anymore, but if there’s a good feeling in the session, somehow it comes through. If there’s tension in that session, you’ll notice it. Even regular people will notice it. They’ll be like, “I guess it’s good, but there’s something I can’t put my finger on that makes me uncomfortable or that I don’t like.” Guess who we’re making commercials and all this stuff for? Regular people. Not us, technical people, not casting directors, not writers, not folks who are on the other side, or professionals… We’re making it for all the regular people. You put that good vibe in the session, they’ll be like, “I like this. I don’t know why, but I like it.”

    Julianna Jones:
    It’s tangible. Absolutely.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    All right. Well, that was an awesome little sidebar. We’re going to move onto audition number six.

    Audition 6:
    Did you say you need help with your math homework? Well, you’re in luck because I’m a math genius. Okay, so long division, is it? Let’s start with an easy one: 10 divided by 5.

    Julianna Jones:
    I’m sure everyone who’s listening can now easily tell who’s a kid and who’s an adult. What are your thoughts on adults auditioning for kids’ jobs and this read in general?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Well, first, let me talk about this read. Super upbeat, which is definitely… That was one of the words in the specs, upbeat. For me, personally, it was maybe just a little too upbeat. Some of those pitch-ups at the ends of sentences are a surefire way to give away the fact that it’s an adult and not a kid because kids don’t do that at the ends of sentences. If I could give a bit of advice for adults, if you’re always pitching up at the ends of those sentences, that’s a dead giveaway for me, anyway, and I think for most people, that that’s not really a child. It sounded a little unnatural, always going up at the end of those.

    Donovan Weyland:
    I could hear this person doing animation, absolutely. Personally, I don’t think it’s right for the talking robot. It didn’t feel like a peer for me, but then that kind of leads me to talking about adults doing voice over that is supposed to be for a child. Now a project like this, if we are truly honest about this talking robot project, the writers and the producers would be actually keeping in mind that they would have so much material to record. There would be so many lines that they would have to cover that maybe casting an adult is the better way to go because you can only have a child work so many hours.

    Donovan Weyland:
    That’s why in animation, we usually cast adults because then we can have them work a full eight-hour day, and we can go into overtime. SAG-AFTRA rules… There’s a very specific amount of time that children can only work. Just like with everything, we are always dealing with deadlines. If this project was really real, there would be a pretty big concern about casting an actual child. Now it would be the artistic balance of… We love that it’s a child; we need to do the work and finish the deadline. It’s sort of, who wins? The writer or the producer. I liked it, but there was a couple dead giveaways for me.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yes. Just thinking back to something you just said, Donovan. If this were simply a toy, I’m thinking, “Go back to the Teddy Ruxpin toy in the 1980s, the stuffed bear that talked.” Think about how many lines that that voice-over artist would have recorded.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Right.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I don’t know. Maybe five, six, seven, eight prompts, maybe. I don’t know. If it were a toy of that nature where it didn’t have an endless stream of things it could say because it could be asked any number of questions and have to come back with an answer, if it were a finite number of lines, then a child’s voice may just do.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Absolutely, 100%.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Okay. Well, that said, I think we can move onto audition number seven.

    Auditionee 7:
    Did you say you need help with your math homework? Well, you’re in luck because I’m a math genius. Okay, so long division, is it? Let’s start with an easy one: 10 divided by 5.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I think I smell another adult. What I was going to say other than-

    Julianna Jones:
    Kid with a mortgage.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That thing that just came out of my head… Yes, that’s a Pat Fraley line. We’re going to have to send him a note. Kid with a mortgage… Have you ever heard of that? Yes? Someone sounds too old to be a child but they’re trying to be one.

    Julianna Jones:
    Stephanie said that to me earlier, and I would die to say it. I love it.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard Pat Fraley say. Anyway, that said, I did feel that this voice was a bit too old. I know we’re going to be talking about the particular read. Donovan, how can someone more authentically sound like a child? Because there’s bones there. I’m sure that she could make it work if she had some more technique. What is it that people need to do to actually sound like a child?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Study and practice. The greatest example ever is Bart Simpson. That’s Nancy Cartwright. Nancy Cartwright didn’t start sounding like a child instantly and didn’t just have it innately in her. She listens to children. Your greatest tool as a voice-over artist or as a singer is your ear. Steamrolling and just doing the take without the knowledge of the person that you’re supposed to be channeling is not the right way to go. It sounds cliché, but getting in touch with your child-like tendencies in your own head… That comes from being around children. There’s no substitute.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Nancy Cartwright… I think she said that she based Bart on a little boy that she knew. She was trying to channel him specifically. Get specific. If you have a daughter or a son, try to channel them. If you have a niece or a nephew… The more specific you make things, always the more believable. This take… Actually, I really liked this take. It was definitely an adult, but she did not fall into the pitfalls of the pitching up at the end or pitching up too much.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Honestly, if the writers and the directors of a project like this, they might pick someone like this because it sounds in the ballpark. I think they would know, with some direction, we could maybe tweak the youngness just a little bit here or there. This sounds very professional. This audition… I wrote down, “I bet this person actually does do animation. It was nice, and clear, and upbeat, and relaxed, and didn’t sound forced.” Yes, it sounded just a little too old, but I feel like with a little direction, maybe they would have the power to tweak it.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Another question just occurred to me as you were speaking there, Donovan. It was like, okay, you can have a voice artist who’s clearly an adult speaking as a child. That can be cool because they can do it. Do you think that the audience who’s hearing it cares that this is an adult who sounds like a child? If they found out that it was an adult or it sounded too adulty, would that bother them?

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    We’ve seen many different characters over the years. Voice by children and always voice by… Dora is a perfect example. Not live-action Dora, not the one that’s just out now. I don’t know much about that, but what I do know is that when we have the animated version… I think there’s been three Doras by this point. They all had a childlike quality to their voices. In the Arthur series, Arthur was replaced a couple times, as well, just to try to keep that same age. We knew that those were legitimately tweens, or young teenagers, or what have you. For the listener at home, for someone who’s watching, just how important is it that that voice actually sound more childlike, or do they even care? Do they know?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Well, I think if it takes them out of it, then that means they know. Just even questioning it as an audience, that’s why we test everything. In Chicago, there’s a whole cottage industry of what we call “focus groups.” That would be apparent instantly with a feedback that we would get back from focus groups. If they even questioned that, that means that they’re being taken out of the story, or they’re being taken out of the commercial. Or, if we’re presenting the robot, it’s a distraction. It does matter. I don’t think it matters if they found out. I think it matters if they can tell.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    If an adult can do it very convincingly, there’s a ton of adults who book and do really well. Nancy Cartwright is a great example because she’s been 10 years old for, how long now? 25 years?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Yes.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    One thing I have learned from talking to voice artists who are older than their characters are about how they’ve managed to maintain that is that they find where that character lives in their head. If I were to go back to the Arthur series, and you have got Muffy Crosswire. That’s Melissa Altro. Anyway, she’s been Muffy since she was a tween, basically.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Yes, 25, 30.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    She is still Muffy. She is still Muffy today. How on earth do you keep that voice? You’ve grown up. You’re not that kid anymore. The show is however old now. She knows where Muffy lives. I think that that’s what matters, is that she can locate that voice, and the placement, and how she’s going to do the read, and probably has a way to get into that voice, a phrase or something she says. I don’t know. There are ways to access that and to remember it, but it is a lot of muscle memory and just understanding where that might live in your head.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Stephanie, I couldn’t agree more. My favorite example is the great Tara Strong. Tara Strong is just one of the greats of voice over, animation, just in the history of the craft. She is Batgirl. She’s Harlequin. She’s Rugrats. She was so many. When you see her get into that character, she has those mnemonic devices where it’s a phrase she always uses to get into that character. It sort of kick-starts her into that. Then she physically becomes it. There’s no holding her back. That’s why they film her when she is recording. They animate even her facial expressions and her gestures. They put that in there because she is fully possessed by that character. That’s what you’re up against, is people who are absolutely channeling that character. Half of it is talent and practicing. The other half is just you’re obsessed.

    Julianna Jones:
    Hard work, yes.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, you take on an element of that character. I don’t know. There’s always a bit of the actor that goes into whatever it is that they’re doing. It’s not like you can completely detach yourself from who you are when you’re in a role. Absolutely, yes. Tara’s done a lot of great work. Probably Powerpuff Girls, My Little Ponies… Her IMDb is probably a mile long.

    Donovan Weyland:
    It’s ridiculous.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Absolutely. Well, all good ideas because I know there are adults who are regular listeners of this program. If you’re ever trying to get into that voice-over space, or doing a child, or a teen, or a tween type voice, then this episode is awesome for you. You’ve got some homework. You know that a lot of it is just listening. I think a lot of it does, also… Correct me if I’m wrong, Donovan. You’re more the expert here. A lot of it does have to do with physiology and what your voice type just is.

    Donovan Weyland:
    What you were born with.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    If you can actually… Yes, what you’re born with and what you can sound like.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Definitely, we’re so lucky in this day and age because I’m old. I remember when there was no YouTube. You have such an array of advantages now. You can look up on YouTube, Frank Welker, who’s a great voice over and who has been doing this for 40 years. Still, can channel a teenage Fred from Scooby-Doo. Tara Strong… Just two or three days ago, I just watched a little mini documentary about both of them on YouTube with my kids just for fun. Look that stuff up. Look at the greats. You start at the top. Go to the top, and then let that be your bar. Try to work towards that. If you fall just a little short, then you hopefully are still in the great category.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s awesome. Oh my gosh. So many awesome tips. If you are not writing notes down during this episode, you should be. Go back. Listen again. Maybe we’ll get you a transcript. I don’t know. Anyway, this is just so good. What I love about it, Donovan, is that this is truth, but it’s also actionable stuff that people can do right now. Go read something. Practice every day. Create your own auditions. Listen to people. Absolutely. All right. Well, I think we’re going to play our audition number eight now.

    Auditionee 8:
    Did you say you need help with your math homework? Well, you’re in luck because I’m a math genius. Okay, so long division, is it? Let’s start with an easy one: 10 divided by 5.

    Julianna Jones:
    What a sweet little angel. What a great audition. I really loved it. That’s maybe from a not-so-technical point of view. What did you think?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Yes, so cute, so natural. I wrote down just, “Such a friendly kid that I can picture that this kid is just friendly as she is.” There was some enunciation issues. I feel like if I was a writer choosing, I feel like over the course of a long haul, we might not be able to get what we need for a bunch of lines for a talking robot, but I bet if it was for a commercial for one or two lines or for radio, I’d bet we could get what we wanted.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Everything is about finding the right person for the right job. This audition has a wonderful quality to it. I dig it, but it might not be right for something that is talking to you over the course of an hour. She just might not be ready for this type of role. She definitely sounds like the right age. This is a difficult one because we want them to sound like they’re seven years old, but a seven-year-old sounds like a seven-year-old. They have those natural, poor enunciations sometimes in the middle of sentences. You truly can’t push them too far because they don’t even sort of know what they’re saying. They’re almost not really directable yet. They’re still at the beginning of their craft.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yes. I was just thinking back again to how you said that the parent is very much involved in the development of a child’s career, and it is a career. A number of these children on the program today are actually the children of voice actors who are members of voices.com.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Same thing here in Chicago… A lot of the kids who win auditions here, I recognize their last name instantly. I’m sorry. It is a leg up. Mom or Dad already has a microphone. Mom and Dad already understands the process. Mom or Dad already has an agent. You have a ton of advantages. You know what? So what? Take the advantages. A writer is not going to pick you because of your last name. That’s why we’re doing these blind. A writer is not going to pick because you have a pedigree. Writer’s going to pick you because you are correct for that role. Take every advantage that you can get. Nothing is cheating.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    No, absolutely. Thank you, Donovan. We have one more audition. We’re going to listen to that now. This is audition number nine.

    Auditionee 9:
    Did you say you need help with your math homework? Well, you’re in luck because I’m a math genius. Okay, so long division, is it? Let’s start with an easy one: 10 divided by 5.

    Julianna Jones:
    I really liked this read. How do you get someone to laugh genuinely, especially a kid?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Yes, we did just talk about that. That’s funny. I believed everything about this read except for the laugh. I remember… This was when my kids were little. My two boys are grown. There was never enough legitimate laughs in my sound effect library as a sound designer, so I would always be trying to record them laughing. My kids’ laughing are in movies, TV shows, commercials that everybody has seen and heard because I would just keep mics around them, and then I would put it into projects when I could. Legitimate laugh… super difficult to pull off even for an adult. The rest of that read was exactly in the wheelhouse.

    Julianna Jones:
    So good.

    Donovan Weyland:
    That we were looking for. It was friendly. It was funny. It was upbeat. This child sounds like a seven-year-old. He is definitely just a regular kid. He doesn’t sound like a theater, dramatic kid. It was a little fast. Remember we talked about they’re either too fast or they’re either too slow. This one was a little fast, but I think with some direction, this could completely work. I might choose this kid. We could do a second audition and direct them.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    You mentioned theater kid just now. What is the difference between what this child did and what a theater kid might do?

    Donovan Weyland:
    That’s advertising talk for, “They overact,” and they’ve definitely been in theater work. Live theater… I call it the opposite of voice over because in live theater, you’re supposed to be aiming to the back row. That means everything you do is super exaggerated: your voice, your gestures, your character, to make sure that it reads all the way to the back row. Now if it was a Venn diagram, there is some crossover from theater acting to voice-over acting. We have to believe you. You have to be channeling the character. You have to do your research. Of course, there is crossover, but in voice over, you’re talking to one person, and they’re right in front of your face. This did not sound like a theater kid. This sounded like a real kid. The natural charm… It’s all right there. That’s right in the wheelhouse for me. That’s in the zone for me.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s awesome. That is literally our last audition. There are no more. That said, Donovan, it’s time to pick a winner. What do you think?

    Donovan Weyland:
    The one I got to pick is, for sure, number three. So charm, so natural… It sounds like it’s already there. Sounds like it was directed by someone who is working on this robot project. The only thing was just that it needed just that little bit of speed. That seems like a very easy tweak to make to an actor or even just to a regular kid who’s not an actor, to just be just slightly faster. I’m underlining a real kid, so charming, so natural, exactly like someone you want teaching you math.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wonderful. Well, congratulations, auditioner number three. Why don’t we roll that audition, just so we all remember who we’re talking about?

    Audition 3:
    Did you say you need help with your math homework? Well, you’re in luck because I’m a math genius. Okay, so long division, is it? Let’s start with an easy one: 10 divided by 5.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Very engaging. I love that. You have such a gift here, Donovan. Obviously, to be able to evaluate auditions and to have the ears that you do, the golden ears of producer and a sound designer, is awesome. Thank you for bringing those to the table. Thank you, also, though for bringing the ears of a parent and also of a friend. I think that this is really, really fantastic. Now if anyone wants to study with you, how can they get ahold of you? If they have kids and they want to sign them up for your workshops in Chicago, how do they do that?

    Donovan Weyland:
    Look me up at donovanweyland, D-O-N-O-V-A-N, and Weyland, W-E-Y-L-A-N-D. Pretty easy to find. Or, you can reach me at my Gmail, which is just my name, DonovanWeyland@gmail.com.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s awesome. You’re also in our coaches directory, too. There’s another way. If you go to voices.com/coaches, you can find the contact info that Donovan just gave you there. Hopefully, you can start your journey with a really great start. Thank you so much, Donovan. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you here.

    Donovan Weyland:
    Thank you so much. Seriously, it was great to be here. I appreciate you having me on.

    Julianna Jones:
    If anyone needs a demo produced, ask Donovan.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    For real.

    Donovan Weyland:
    I do love what I do.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Great. Well, that’s the episode. Thank you again for listening to Mission Audition. The scripts that you’ve heard on today’s show, just like every other show, are available on our blog. That’s voices.com/blog. Have fun with that. Also, if you want to catch past episodes and find out what on earth we were talking when we had that mic proximity and all of that, just go back. I think that there are about eight or nine episodes at this point that you can just really enjoy and have a good time with that. Until we talk to you next, I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli.

    Julianna Jones:
    I’m Julianna Jones. We hope you guys have the best time taking these tips into your studio. Have so much fun with these auditions. Happy audition.

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