What makes you stand out?

What do you think makes you stand out? We work in such a subjective industry. Whether it is for an agent or a P2P, we spend a considerable amount of time auditioning for jobs. There are so many people who have differing opinions on the best way to increase your chances of booking work or being shortlisted: Churn and burn your auditions. Don’t waste too much time thinking about the recording. Some say spend no more than 5 minutes on each audition. Don’t pay attention to the specs. Just read the script and go with your gut. If the spec asks for conversational, natural, then you should adlib to make it feel real. Others say never disrespect the script writer!

Let’s get one thing straight. If there was a secret sauce it would have got out by now as us voice actors are such a friendly bunch!

So, what the hell should we do? First – don’t overthink it! What we do for a living is not rocket science. In truth, the more you over analyze a script, the worse it tends to turn out in my opinion. I remember when I first started and would mark up my script. Breaths, adjectives, emphasis and more. My script looked like a mad scientists’ blueprints! In the end, it just made me sound too methodical and meh! Now, not a single annotation can be found on most of my scripts. And the difference it makes in my auditions is clear to me AND my booking ratio. If you’ve read my other blogs, you know how much I like data driven evidence. Geez, I’m such a geek!

Look at it from the client’s perspective. Recently, I had a great conversation with one of my coaches. They were explaining how they go through the process of working through auditions when they are casting for a spot. If they had, say 100 auditions, they would listen to ONLY the first sentence of all submissions (unless there was a naming error in the file – that gets an automatic disqualification!). This would allow them to discard 80% of the auditions and only 20 would move on to have the whole audition listened to. What great insight. They let me know that it is was very apparent in the first sentence if the voice actor understood what was needed from the script. And that’s the key. The 80% that were discarded all sounded the same. They followed the spec and didn’t use any imagination.

Make a choice and believe in it. Take the following script I auditioned for recently. The first sentence was “The ocean is vast, powerful, filled with life”. Specs were epic storyteller, genuine and articulate. And I think the epic storyteller spec gets a lot of people in trouble. Many of us have the same type of read in our heads when we hear the term storyteller. So, if we apply the casting director’s mentality, it is easy to see why 80% won’t stand out. Make conscious choices about who you are speaking to. This first sentence will sound vastly different if you imagine you are talking to a group of 3rd graders compared to room of recently graduated marine biologists. Take a moment to try that out, I’ll be here when you get back! Now, you can build on that choice. Let’s say you chose to imagine the marine biologists as your audience. Build on that. What instigated you to say that first sentence? This is a very important choice. Did someone ask you “how do you feel about the ocean?” or “what made you want to be a micro-biologist?”. Setting up a scene and making choices like this can make a huge difference to your read.

Listen to those who know what they are talking about. I don’t make any of my advice up. I am still very new to this as I am only in my 4th year of voice over. What I do know is that paying for a coach to learn amazing insights like I have mentioned today is invaluable. I have coached with 5 people throughout my 4 years and they have all added something to my “secret sauce”. And that’s a pretty good analogy. Your performances should be like making a recipe. You can stick to the ingredients exactly as the recipe lists or you can add a little “extra” from knowledge you have learned in the kitchen along the way. It will just make it taste that much better. Shit, why did I mention food. Now I’m hungry and must go raid the pantry! McVities Chocolate HobNobs are calling my name!