Friday, July 15, 2016

How to audition for online projects (7 tips)

The world had better watch out, because you're the best voice actor since Haberkorn and you've got the chops to prove it! You begin slinging around auditions like a monkey slings its poo. Everybody gets to have a piece of you! Three weeks, tops, and the voice over industry will bend its collective knee to you!

Except then you realize all those auditions you flung around aren't turning into jobs, and the voice over industry is instead staring awkwardly at you out of the corner of its collective eye. Is it at all possible you did something wrong?

Well first, understand - rarely will you actually get what you auditioned for. That's not unusual. It is entirely possible, however, to decrease your chances of getting cast by sabotaging your own auditions, and furthermore, you may be surprised just how many hopeful voice actors are doing it.

I think this is the point where I turn dramatically to the camera, wide-eyed, and gasp, "Could YOU be doing it, too!?"

Specifically, I'm talking about auditions for "online projects" - YouTube animations, indie games, fan dubs and the like, auditions that you record and send in from home. There's a lot more to bear in mind when auditioning in person, and considering my current residence is Underarock, Indiana, I've yet to achieve that joy. That being said, a lot of these tips can be applied to any audition you send from home.

#1: Don't just do it all in one take. Better yet, do multiple takes in between hitting Record and Stop. This allows you to more easily choose the take(s) you think represent you best, and it gives you something to fall back on if you realize the take you originally wanted to use is unusable (i.e. the sound of a plane flying overhead during that reading). Too many auditioners (auditionees? Ah, who cares) send in the first thing that pops out of their mouth, apparently not realizing that (at least without a lot of preparation and experience) the first take usually isn't the one anyone wants. Even if you only wind up sending one take, give yourself multiple options. Edit out the ones you don't want and send what you think works best.

Also, multiple takes of a line that sounds obviously done in one go simply comes across as unprofessional, like the character being auditioned for had to back up and repeat himself for whatever reason, rather than having alternate versions of his line precisely organized for the listener's convenience. It would be worth your time to learn how to blend takes together so they sound like the aforementioned "alternate versions" and not just you saying the line three times in a row.

#2: DON'T INCLUDE YOUR MISTAKES. When you submit an audition that involves you goofing a line and audibly going back to redo it, this is what you are doing to your audition.

All voice actors flub lines occasionally. Everyone knows this. But always remember that your audition is like a short, miniature demo - it represents your ability, and any single flaw, no matter how small you think it is, is magnified ten- or a hundred-fold. Neglecting to edit out your mistakes says, "No, in fact, I am not professional enough to show you the best of me."

#3: Read the submission guidelines like your f#%*ing life depends on them. Pretend that buried somewhere within all the technical mumbo-jumbo about "MP3s" and "slating" is a password that will power down the bomb strapped to the inside of your skull. It doesn't matter how "boring" you think all that stuff is - HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A WATERMELON EXPLODE? THAT COULD BE YOUR FACE.

You may think it's no big deal to send an AIFF when they request a WAV - it gets the job done either way, right? Usually, though, it matters tremendously to whoever's casting because it shows you can research your job and follow directions. If they say do only one take, DON'T DO MORE THAN ONE TAKE. If they say not to attach your demo, DON'T ATTACH YOUR DEMO. If they tell you to slate your name and character, you say your name and character and nothing else. Examine everything, from the submission guidelines to the character descriptions, to make sure absolutely everything is the way it should be. You don't want your awesome audition instantly tossed aside because you forgot to name it properly.

#4: Don't submit an audition with unwanted background noise. Your audition for the dark emperor of death and agony may have been killer, but your cat mewling in the background sort of killed immersion. Turn off the air conditioner, tell your siblings to shut up for a second, and don't submit anything that has plosives or the sound of you accidentally pimp-handing your microphone when you started getting into character.

#5: Don't add sound effects or music, or alter your voice's pitch. Remember, your audition represents your natural ability. Whoever's casting wants to hear what YOU sound like, what YOU can bring to the project, not what your voice run through three filters and a Dragon Ball Z song sounds like. Trust me, they're already running those things through their head when they listen to it. Casting directors want a voice that sounds natural and believable, and the editing you ran your voice through usually shows the higher or lower in pitch you go.

I have seen people cast for roles they modified their voices for, and sometimes it does work out. But the rule of thumb is...don't do it. It generally comes across as unprofessional, and the more "official" the role you're auditioning for (i.e. one that pays), the higher your chances of slighting the casting director and not getting cast.

#6: If you don't like your audition, don't send it in. For better or worse, I'm a perfectionist, which is honestly why I usually don't listen to my own audiobooks (or sometimes even characters) - all I hear is what I could have done better. Still, there's a difference between being your own headache (a perfectionist) and just settling for a flawed audition. I'm sure opinions here will differ depending on who you ask, but I'm of the persuasion that sending no audition is better than sending a subpar one. If you have genuine doubts about your performance (not just perfectionistic nitpicking), don't send it in. Redo it if you must, but don't risk damaging your reputation or standing with a potential client by submitting an audition you don't think represents you or the character well.

#7: Ask yourself, "How can I make this audition MINE?" This is a much deeper point and I'm not going to get much into it here, but in short, make bold choices that aren't in the script. Casting directors often hear the exact same delivery from any ten or twenty or fifty voice actors auditioning for the same role, and it can be a breath of fresh air to hear one that breaks the mold and does something unexpected that still fits the character.

There is, of course, a difference between a "bold choice" and a stupid one. You could give your audition for Lord Killstuff a powerful opera tenor, but more than likely you'll just be discreetly laughed at and ignored if Lord Killstuff is meant to be dark and serious. (I mean, with that name, maybe not, but who knows. It's a metaphor.) What you can do, however, is lead with a maniacal laugh, or give him a stuttering problem if you know he has self-esteem issues, or scream the second half of the line if he has violent mood-swings.

Analyze the line before you audition and ask yourself the titular question: "How can I make this audition mine?" Even if you're not cast for that role, the client may remember your interesting choice and contact you for another character, or another job even. A great audition that sounds just like all the other great auditions often doesn't get remembered. I've made that mistake plenty of times before. Find a way to break out and make the character yours.

Has anything on this list resonated with you? Recognize anything you've done, or something someone else you know has done? Comment down below (I appreciate the comments on my other social media branches, but it means more here), spread the word around, and subscribe by entering your email in that little field below the article (or near the top right of the page). Stick around for more, because believe you me, there will be more.

See you next Friday!

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