Has auditioning from a home studio saved your voice-over career? Voice artist Lisa Brandt shares tips that will help you to send in great submissions when auditioning using online casting sites. From your microphone to client relations, to deciding which auditions to put your voice out there for, make the best impression possible by following Lisa’s tested and true tips.
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Your Instructor This Week:
Lisa Brandt is a veteran broadcaster and voice artist.
She’s the author of three books and writes a Sun Media column on home decor trends titled House Proud.
She has also taught radio broadcasting at the college level, rides a motorcycle, refinishes furniture, takes drum lessons and lives by Betty White’s motto:
“You can’t hit a moving target!”
Welcome to Voice Over Experts, brought to you by Voices.com the number one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform and succeed from the privacy of your own home, and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else. Now for our special guest.
Lisa Brandt: Hello there, I’m Lisa Brandt; I’ve been doing voice work for decades, in fact radio was my background. Because I was doing radio and television commercials, I got pretty adept at maybe one or two good reads early in my career but when I got to Toronto, I was really challenged by some top-notch producers that made me, forced me how to really use my voice more like an instrument.
Radio stations, as you may or may not know, turn out huge volumes of spots and they don’t usually have a lot of time for super-creative out-of-the-box types of production. That’s not to put down producers; there are amazing producers in the industry, but a lot of times they’ve got so much stuff piled on them that it’s more of a case of getting them out and getting them on the air. There’s no time to mess around with somebody who can’t get the read right pretty much on the first or second take and that goes now, of course not just for radio, but so many other industries are using voice. They want it done now and they want it right the first time.
Today I’m going to talk about auditions. Auditioning from a home studio basically saved my voice over career. I hated impersonal auditioning so much – I know a lot of people do, but I would really suffer before an audition to the point that I just simply stopped doing it and picked up whatever work I could do through networking or other ways until I set up a home studio and I happened to have a really good mic I’ve had for ages, an Electro-Voice RE20, but if it died tomorrow, I would get a Yeti and plug it into my laptop.
The first tip I have is pretty basic but it’s very true. Know how to use your microphone. Is it directional? Does it have settings and switches? If so, what do they do and how do they do make you sound? Play around with it, figure it out and if this doesn’t sound like fun to you, I think you need to question whether you’re in the right business because you need to know the sweet spot in your microphone.
Tip number two. Do a custom audition. Now if you’re just throwing a pre-recorded demo at everything, part of me wants to tell you to keep doing that because the chance you’ll even get heard is kind of miniscule and that gives someone like me a better shot at the job. If you are getting jobs by just throwing regular demos out and not doing custom auditions, imagine how well you could do if you did it properly. The client chose their words carefully in their script; they edited, they re-edited – this is their baby and they want to hear you bring it to life. If you’re not willing to put in two minutes, three minutes, five minutes – whatever it is to make a custom audition for them, they, by and large, are not going to even bother with you. And nor should they; you’re disrespecting them as an engager.
Tip number three. Treat the audition like a first impression. When you walk into a room and meet people for the first time, you make eye contact, you shake their hand, try and remember their name – the audition is the first time the client is going to hear you, so don’t give them a Debbie Downer [slate] even – be cheerful and be clear. Part of this process is about relationships. Sometimes you’ll have an ongoing dialogue with this person and they want to know that you’re someone they want in their team. Make sure that slate is recorded at the same level as the rest of your audition or you’ll either blast them out of their chair or make them have to stop and listen again and it really gets annoying. Imagine that they’re there and they’re listening to dozens and dozens of these – it can get to be a pain in a neck after a while.
Use the motto, tip number four, that we use in the news game; be fast but be right. Speed is very important but it’s worthless if your audition isn’t done well. So take out your breath, make sure the levels are decent and consistent – don’t leave in any mistakes and think well, it’s only an audition, because the rest of us who are booking jobs are making sure we’re getting it right and you’ll be left behind. If the client says [you’ll read to 30] and they want the whole read, do it in 30 or don’t even do it.
Don’t tell them the script is too long or give them any excuses; I’ve had 45 second scripts come in that were supposed to be 30 and there was no way I could do it, so I gave them 20 seconds of the spot. Now when it came time to record it was pretty clear the script was too long and they trimmed it. There are ways to get around it without lecturing or suggesting to someone that they don’t know what they’re doing. Pay close attention to the info that’s on the page to guide your interpretation.
They’ll choose adjectives to describe the kind of read they want and, if they don’t, that means they’re counting on you to figure it out for them. So give it some thought. Lots of times a client doesn’t know what they want until they hear it and this is your chance to give them something a little bit different, a little bit more you, and to put your whole self into it.
Tip number five. Make it special, make it stand out. And I know what you’re saying because I’ve said this too; I’m selling cars or I’m talking about insulin pumps or something dry or straightforward, how do I make that stand out? Well that’s for you to figure out. It might be something you say in your greeting to them, in the text, which also I suggest keeping brief. They don’t need an entire history of you because they kind that elsewhere in your bio on the website, on your page. Maybe it’s something as simple as a little roll in your voice or a little sexy moment on the end of a word. Whatever it is, do something a little different, but not off the mark.
I’ve heard this over and over again that when a client gets a whole bunch of auditions, they will have about 30%, one-third that’s just junk, just that it’s bad sound, there’s background noise, there’s that mic technique, there’s mispronunciations, whatever – care hasn’t been taken. Then there’s the middle third that’s good, they do a pretty good job, pretty regular, average, typical read kind of job. And then there’s the other third that make it to the final count, if they’re lucky they get that many – often there aren’t even that many. You want to be in that top third.
So you don’t want to have anything that stands out in a bad way, sound, rattling, lip noises – as my friend Bob calls it cat food – none of that stuff. But you still want to stand out enough so that you’re memorable. I’m not for a minute suggesting that you put a sound effect in the middle of a straight read commercial, or do anything crazy – just find your own way to make it your own read. And part of making it your own and making it stand out is knowing which auditions to do and which ones to pass up. If your profile’s filled out correctly, you should be getting auditions that are quite tailored to what you can do but every once in a while some still come through that just aren’t in your wheelhouse.
I know if I see an audition, for example, for an upbeat powerful read and it’s also open to men, depending on what the subject matter is, I might not even bother with that one. Only because a man is going to do a more powerful read than I am, although I do a fairly good powerful read, and the same with upbeat. You know I can do an upbeat read as well but is – am I the best at it? Are there people on here who are a lot better than me at that particular read – I believe there are. So I would rather spend my time doing something that’s more tailored to my best abilities than to just throw an audition out there just because it came to me and it’s an opportunity.
Giving it your best also means knowing what you do best and what you have the best chance of booking. I don’t delete a lot of auditions without doing them but, when I do it, I do it with thoughtfulness and with a real clear understanding of what my abilities are and where my limitations are.
Anyway, I hope some of this has helped you, maybe just been a little bit of a refresher to get you back on course when it comes to doing your auditions. I have only one regret about being a part of voices.com and that is that I didn’t do it sooner.
I wish you good luck, not too much luck, but good luck -we are competitors after all. Thanks so much for listening, I’m Lisa Brandt.
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