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Voiceover Audition Protocol

Question: I've been a stage and film actor for many years, and have just started learning the art and craft of voice acting. I've heard from a number of people that the protocol for live auditioning is different from stage and on-camera. Is it that much different, and how so?
-Jamie H., W. Hollywood, CA

Voice Cat: Jamie, once you start auditioning for voice work, you'll find that there are a lot of things to keep in mind, and a number of things to do to prepare yourself, both physically and emotionally, for this process. Here are a few tips:

DO:

- Practice facial exercises and vocalizing in the car on the way.

- If it's a live audition, arrive at least 20 minutes early to de-stress, warm up, check your call time, go over any directions, and mark, rehearse and time your copy.

- Rehearse your copy standing up and speaking at the volume you'll be speaking in the booth. If it's a partner read, find your partner and rehearse. If your partner's not there, try to find someone else who's waiting for their partner and rehearse with them.

- Bring your marked copy into the booth with you, put on your headphones, and keep rehearsing the copy until the engineer is ready for a level. Remember to take your copy with you when you're done.

- Be spontaneous, sincere, attentive, friendly and willing to adapt.

- Listen to yourself. Are you believable?

- Redirect nervous energy into constructive performance. Keep breathing and focus on performing.

- Be confident in your abilities. Remember, you were invited to be there.

- Ask questions about pronunciation of proper nouns, anything that affects your performance.

- Ask for more or less gain in your headphones, if necessary.

- Make the copy your own. Add your personality and individual "spin."

- Listen to the producer's directions carefully, and be sure to incorporate them into your next take.

- Keep track of your expenses-the IRS requires detailed records.

- Thank the casting agent or director and engineer when you leave.

- Leave a current demo if appropriate, with your cell phone and/or pager number.

- Leave quickly and quietly-a professional exit.

- Have water in the booth at all times.

- Listen to any instruction the engineer might have for you regarding the microphone.

- After you're home from the audition, get names and addresses for your mailing list for follow-up thank you and holiday cards.

- If the audition is not live, and you have to send in an mp3 file from your home studio, make sure you follow directions explicitly in terms naming files, slating, recording settings, directions, etc. If you don't follow these guidelines exactly, your audition, and the time you took to record and edit and send it, will be thrown away.

DON'T:

- Dawdle. Be ready to read quickly.

- Gab with other actors until after the audition-concentrate and focus on your job.

- Touch any equipment (the music stand is okay). Let the engineer or producer make mic adjustments.

- Argue about direction. Ever.

- Be afraid to make suggestions if the copy is awkward, but don't be surprised if they're not accepted.

- Worry about making a mistake. That's what pick-ups are for. But don't make too many mistakes, either. Omitting words, reversing words, replacing words or swallowing important words should not be an issue.

- Call after the audition to ask who booked the job. If you didn't get called, you didn't book it.

- Criticize your own performance during the audition. And don't make excuses for a poor performance. If you're compelled to do a post mortem, do it in the car after you're done.

- Ask for advice or critique of your work-this isn't the time or the place.

- Ask if you can audition again-this is your only chance.

- Bring an active cell phone or pager into the booth. Let it roll over to voice mail.

- Start acting until a beat after the slate, whether your own or the engineer's.

- Ask for a playback of a particular take or the final, accepted take (s).

- Cough or sneeze into the mic.

- Say "Testing, one, two, three" when asked to give a level. Read your copy at the volume you'll be reading the spot.

- Expect to do more than one or two takes. Any more is a gift.

- Wear noisy clothing or jewelry. Also, don't wear strong aftershave or perfume.

- Yell or scream into the mic. You can approximate volume without yelling. If your copy calls for real shouting, turn your head away slightly. And work with the engineer so that he/she can get a level.

- Be afraid to ad lib, but if directed to read the copy "as is," do so.

By Marc Cashman
Article printed with permission from iActingStudios.com and Rick La Fond. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. - iActing Studios is a premiere provider of Online Acting Classes. They feature hundreds of hours of in-depth classes; hosted by professional instructors and coaches who've taugh some of Hollywood's most famous A-listers.