Auditioning: A Love/Hate Relationship
Auditioning: the up-and-coming VO artist’s bread and butter. I tend to wear a lot of different hats now that I’m starting my own business—marketing director, networking manager, public relations officer, quality assurance administrator, bookkeeper, and, of course, voice talent, among other things. I can put all my time and energy into these various roles, building an impressive, professional-looking framework, but if I’m not auditioning, none of the rest of it matters.
Not only is auditioning one of the most obvious and important parts of a VO artist’s job, but it can also be one of the most intimidating—especially if you’re new to it! “How hard can auditioning be?” you might ask, “Isn’t it just reading a script and sending off the finished product?” Well, yes, but more importantly, NO!
On the technical level, yes, auditions are, rather simply, a recording of a script that gets submitted to the client. But even at its most basic, producing a quality audition requires a whole lot more than just reading.
First, let’s consider the fact that we have to actually go about finding things to audition for. When you’re new to the game, there aren’t clients blowing up your inbox just because you changed your job status on Facebook and LinkedIn to “Voice Actor.” I have no prior experience or history established to extend as credibility. There isn’t a huge backlog of my previous projects for interested clients to sift through to see if I’m a good fit for their project. Yes, I’ve put together a couple of demos and posted examples of the few gigs I’ve managed to land at this point to give people an idea of what I can do, but at the end of the day, I’m still the one scouring various online platforms and networking with individuals trying to drum up work.
Next, once I’ve found an audition opportunity (something that I feel has quality to it, aligns with my integrity, and will be worth the time I might spend on the project, not to mention compensate me fairly for it), I have to actually put together the audition. Here’s where the “reading” comes in. Reading doesn’t really express what we do adequately, though. Anyone can read a few lines of text. Reading doesn’t inherently breathe life and engagement into a paragraph. Allow me to let you in on a little not-so-secret secret: voice actors are actors. As an actor, I need to do more than just read the words on the page; I need to convey the heart, emotion, and life of the text as well. This is true for all the subgenres of voiceover, and each of them has its own unique tones, pacing, structure, etc. that I need to be familiar with. And, unlike TV, film, and stage actors who can use body language and facial expressions to help round out their performance, voice actors have to do it all with their voices. Go ahead and take a moment to appreciate that little revelation.
And that’s just the performance part of the audition! After that, I still have to edit and master the audio to the clients’ specifications (this often includes researching voice references and nitty-gritty instructions like what to name the audio file) and submit it in a timely fashion.
Then, after all that, I do it again. And again. And again. And again and again and again. When it comes down to it, auditioning is a numbers game. The more you audition, the more likely you are to land a job. But, as with most things in life, there are no guarantees. Oftentimes, I will submit dozens of auditions in a week and never hear back from a single one—and, yes, that sucks. It’s hard to go through all the work of preparing and submitting an audition and not receive anything in return. It’s daunting to take the risk of putting yourself out there, allowing others to judge if you measure up to what they’re looking for—and oftentimes not measuring up to what they’re looking for. In a season when the flow seems to have dried up and everything is ebb, ebb, ebb, it can be difficult to keep showing up and doing the work.
Showing up is the only way to see a change, though. Putting in the time and effort, working through the fear and anxiety, learning from mistakes, further developing my craft and skills—over time, these daily practices build up and help me become a better version of myself, both as a voice actor and simply as a human being. Regardless of if I get a gig or not, the audition process helps instill confidence in myself and my abilities. It helps me grow and expand my limits. It teaches me how to deal with disappointment without losing hope altogether. And, every once in a while, it brings an opportunity to lend my voice to something a client holds near and dear to their hearts, breathing life into it for others to experience and enjoy.
Auditioning is hard. No matter how much you do it, no matter how streamlined the process becomes, auditioning takes time, energy, talent, and grit. I won’t lie—I look forward to the days when I’m more established and, hopefully, will have enough work coming from repeat clients or recommendations that I don’t have to audition quite so much. Until then, though, I choose to show up. I choose to do the work. I choose to take the risk.
Ok, enough rambling. Time to get back in the booth.