Category Archives: Voice Over Coaching

8 Elements That Make You a Top-Notch VO Professional According to a Casting Director

Written by Terry Berland for Backstage Industry Expert Advise

There are voiceover breakdown opportunities going out every day with hundreds of voiceover actors vying for each role. Only one person will book the job. As a casting director, I’m thrilled to have many great top-notch professional VO actors I can call on to audition. It’s important to be the best and leave a good impression in an audition so that you’ll be invited back for other projects you might be right for.

So, are you one of the best? Here is a list of elements you need to have to be top-notch.

1. Know how to analyze copy and give yourself direction.
In addition to the written direction that you’re given, it’s important to know how to pick apart a script to see what it’s saying. Being able to identify transitions to compare one thing to another and convey the difference between a problem to a solution is key.

2. Know how to act with your voice.
You have to know how to make choices and execute your choices. It’s not about just reading words well. You actually have to act with your voice to sound connected to the message that you’re conveying.  

3. Be good at following written directions.
Many of your auditions will be home reads. You’ll be given very specific directions to keep your home read uniform to the organization of a casting session. Take the directions seriously. For instance, you might be told how many takes, how to slate your name, and which takes to put on the same wave file.

4. Don’t over-direct your auditions.
On all your home read auditions you have to know how to direct yourself. Be aware, if you’re over editing your final audition submission, your read will be “doctored up” and will not truthfully reflect ability.  

5. Know how to be directed by a session director.
When you’re booked, it’s expected that you have the ability to be directed quickly with complex nuances. The studio costs are high and the writer, art director, or producer directing you have a certain amount of time put aside for the booking. If you can’t take direction, they will not want to use you again. If you cause them to go over-time, it will be very costly. 

6. Have a great demo reel.
Your reel should reflect your best work and have the right energy with quick, smooth transitions. It must start strong and end strong. Don’t include any mediocre reads.  

7. Show up to be remembered in a positive way.
If you’re picked to come into a casting director’s office to audition, show up with confidence. Know how to take direction and be happy that you’re part of a selected group. Be on time, as the casting sessions are scheduled specifically for time to direct you. Be in a good mood and be nice to everyone.

8. Be flexible and communicate clearly regarding avails, bookings, and conflicts.
Avails can change several times. There are many reasons for this which usually have to do with coordinating client and studio availability. When accepting an avail, take it seriously. The good thing about VO is that you can make several recordings in one day. TV bookings usually take two hours and radio one and a half hours per spot. Many times when I’m giving out avails, I’m informed someone else has the talent on avail for the same day. That does not mean you’ll lose the job. We then start honing the time down to morning or afternoon with the intentional outcome for the talent to have both bookings on the same day.

Steps To A Long, Strong, Successful Voiceover Career

Written by Backstage Industry Expert Terry Berland, CSA, for Backstage.

I see many talent transition from on camera, theatre, film, comedy and Improv into a VO career. The voiceover field is wide open with many opportunities. If you are going to do it, do it right.   Here are the elements it takes for a long, strong voiceover career.

The Beginner

Learn the Basic Foundational techniques.
You have to learn how to take direction from someone else and give direction to yourself. Some typical directions are to sound bright, friendly, serious, compassionate, strong, warm, trustworthy, and thoughtful.

Find your strengths. Start recognizing what your strengths are. You might be more of the announcer, non-announcer, personality driven or long format story-telling type.

Learn how to analyze a piece of copy. Each piece of copy will give you information on what is being asked for of your voice. For instance, if the spot indicates there is bright bouncy music playing in the background, you know your read will need to be bright. If the scene takes place in a romantically lit restaurant, with close-up shots, that would be telling you your voice should be directed to sound intimate.

Intermediate

After you get to know your voice, how to direct it and take direction from someone else, you are into the intermediate phase of your abilities.

Learn the nuances of how to execute the copy. After knowing basic direction, you are ready to notice and execute nuanced changes in each sentence. You are also ready to notice and execute sentences that are being used for transitions. For instance after laying out facts, there would be a call to action.

Experiment and experience different venues. Know the difference between radio and TV reads. In radio your voice is painting the picture, whereas in television your voice is supporting the picture. Experience promo, announcer, narration, and voicing to picture and music.

Start to know your voice print
Your voice print is your voice personality. If the sound of your voice is naturally full of character, don’t try to prefect doing serious spots that calls for gravitas

Advanced

Now that you know your strengths, how to analyze a piece of copy and how to take direction it is the time to move past technique.

Step Up To The Mic Beyond Technique
It’s time to embrace the read. Now that you can recognize what the spot is asking of your voice, and you feel confident about your reads, you can embrace the responsibility of fully adding your voice to the branding of the spot.

Brand yourself
Discover visuals and colors that match the look and feel of your voice. This is a process; take your time with it. In my advanced workshop I have talent each week collect visuals that match the feel of their voice. It’s good to do this with a professional and others in the group for feedback and reactions. For instance if your voice is bright and cheery your colors might be bright yellow and orange and your visuals might be people bouncing on trampolines.

Make a demo
Don’t rush into your demo. You will save a lot of money making a demo after you know your voice and know how to take direction. There is no career longevity in being called in to audition or booking a job from an over-edited good demo and then not being able to come through being given direction.

Create a website
Create a simple website using your branding. The more presence you have on the internet the more likely you are to be found in any searches.

Now you have all the tools to gain agent interest and good self-submissions. Now good luck and go out and “break a lip”.

If you want to sharpen up on your voice-over technique, follow this link to Terry Berland’s Voice-Over workshops.