BOSS Voces: Audition Tips

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Auditions are a voice actor’s work day in and day out. Anne & Pilar understand how important auditions are and how much time goes into crafting one that will catch the attention of casting directors. They discuss spending time with your copy, researching the product, adding smile to your slate, respecting the concept, and more…to get you auditioning like a total #VOBOSS.

Transcript

>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a BOSS, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.

Pilar: Hola, BOSS Voces. Bienvenidos al podcast con Anne Ganguzza y Pilar Uribe.

Anne: Hey everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I'm your host Anne Ganguzza, and I am with my very special guest cohost Pilar Uribe. Pilar, how are you today?

Pilar: I'm exhausted.

Anne: You know what, I am too. And I have a question for you in regards to that, why?

Pilar: Yes?

Anne: Why Pilar?

Pilar: Why am I exhausted? Funny you should ask that, Anne, funny you should ask that. I was up until all hours doing my auditions.

Anne: Oh man. Why is it that every agent I know sends auditions at like 5:00 or 6:00 PM, when at the end of the day I am literally, I'm done. I'm like, I'm exhausted, my performance, and that's a big thing, Pilar, for me. I've got to have energy enough for performance and thought and acting, and I'm exhausted at the end of the day. And I'm like, oh no, because there's a decision, right? Do I do it at night when I'm tired and I've got to rev myself up or do I wait in the morning where I know I'm really good, but then my voice is like this, it's very low. Perhaps I can't get back down there again.

Pilar: Yes. This is really true. It's kind of six of one, half dozen of the other. I really look at auditions as it's, it's work.

Anne: Yes, it is work.

Pilar: You know, auditions are what we do. It is the work. A good friend of mine said audition is the work and acting is what I get to do once in a while.

Anne: It's our job.

Pilar: Auditions are the job. Exactly. And so I like to look at auditions as sometimes I go, oh yeah, right, time to make the donuts, time to do the auditions. But other times I really like to look at them as an adventure.

Anne: Yeah, like a puzzle. That's me. It's a challenge.

Pilar: What is the adventure? Where's the story that I'm going on? And this may sound odd, but I have learned so much about people and about different themes just from auditions. Because when they tell you, okay, go here on, look on YouTube. Here's this reference, look at this. And then you look at it and you go, oh, wow. I didn't know about this product. I didn't know this woman had done this. Some of the images that they send you are so heart-wrenching and, and I just go, wow. I would never have known that if I hadn't auditioned. So I always try to look at the positive. [sings] "You gotta accentuate the positive." And um, yeah. I know everything is a song for me. It's really ridiculous. It's just what it is. It's a song or it's a jingle.

Anne: Right? I think of you now every time I climb in my studio and I'm singing, and I'm like, yeah, I bet Pilar's singing right now. She's singing the audition. But --

Pilar: Yeah, pretty much.

Anne: -- I always like to go at auditions with a strategy, right?

Pilar: Yeah.

Anne: I try to do something that I think that nobody else will do because in my head immediately, right, when I read the script, I'm hearing something that maybe I've heard on television before. I've heard a melody. And again, I want to make sure that I'm selected for the job. I want to get the gig. So I want to really figure out how I can be unique in that audition. And that's what most people say, what's a good strategy for auditioning, well, bring yourself to the party, do something unique, because casting directors and by the way, for anybody who's never cast before, I strongly encourage it. If you guys have an accountability group or you work out with peers, run your own casting. Because that will help you to understand what casting directors go through. I literally -- only takes one, one example, one test where you're listening to maybe a couple, even 20. Even if you just listen to like 20 auditions in a row for the same piece of copy, you're gonna find things that stand out to you and things that don't.

Pilar: It's so interesting because I had the opportunity, I had to cast, uh, something, but it wasn't for a voice at all. It was for some artwork. And I was very specific, very specific in the directions. And I had this one person who basically fought me every step of the way, because we could have that interaction, which you don't usually have when you're doing voiceover auditions. But he would ask me questions and I would answer them. And every time -- I would say, this is what I need, I need one sketch. And then he would go off on a tangent and present 10. And I was like, did you not read the directions? This is what I want --

Anne: But no.

Pilar: But no, exactly. And so it's -- I think the one thing that I learned from casting is casting directors, they are looking for you. They are looking for your voice, and it may not be in this particular audition or in the next one or in the next one or in the next one. But they are looking for you. So you need to present your best work and think of that.

Anne: And impress them.

Pilar: And impress them. Not by trying to please them, because that's another big trap that people fall into that I've fallen, fallen into so many times.

Anne: What a good point.

Pilar: It's not about what do they want? You know, it's like when they say we're looking for a Scarlett Johansson or Sigourney Weaver type, which I get all the time --

Anne: Yup, yup, me too.

Pilar: -- they're not looking for Scarlett Johansson. They're not looking for Sigourney. It's for an essence.

Anne: Right.

Pilar: So watch her movies, watch their movies, listen to them. You don't need to ape them. You don't need to try to copy them exactly. But listen for their attitude. And you have to develop that attitude when you go into the booth to record. Now, everyone has a different strategy, right? Like some people print the auditions. Some people just underline, they bold. Some people just do it. Boom. They just go ahead and they go and they read, and they read a couple of times. Whatever it is that your process is, you want to try different things. You know? So you want to maybe read it a few times or maybe walk around with it. And I think in an earlier episode we mentioned singing.

Anne: Of course, sing it to get you into a different frame of mind.

Pilar: Exactly. Or do it like in workouts. When I do animation workouts, our teacher will say, okay, do it as if you were Cruella de Vil. And it's completely opposite, you know, and you're doing like the straight commercial copy for Charles Schwab. But when you get out of yourself --

Anne: As Cruella.

Pilar: -- as Cruella, and then all of a sudden, you dive into the copy again, and it's a completely different read.

Anne: Going back to the one point, which I think is almost possibly more important than, than your voice, and that is following directions.

Pilar: Yes. Oh my God, yes.

Anne: I wanted to revisit that. I wanted to add some commentary to that, understanding that I do some casting myself and also work with students. And so I have a number of people that I'm working with at any given time, so that when there are instructions on how to do something and perhaps where to put the audition, how to name the audition, and then there's a naming convention. Oh my goodness. That is so, so important because here's what happens if you're not following directions. First of all, I can't find your file. And if I can't find your file, I'll spend all that time, if I'm with you as a student, searching for that file, and that's your time that you've paid me for. So number one, you're kind of digging into your own time, if I cannot find the file that I've asked you to present.

And also if it's not named correctly, it's not going to show up correctly in my computer. So again, I'll be hunting for something and taking up time that you have paid me for during our session. And/or if I'm casting, you've just taken up my time. And just at that point, because I've already asked you to do something, and you didn't follow directions, then I really have -- I've got a taste, kind of not a good taste in my mouth of you as an actor. Right?

Pilar: Yeah, there's more of a possibility you're going to ignore the, the audition. Oh my God, fine. Whatever.

Anne: I'll toss it right out the door. Sometimes it really depends because I could have 200 people, 300 people vying for that. And the people that have not followed directions, right, if I can't get to that audition quickly enough, or if I've specifically asked for something, and you've not been able to show that you can follow directions, well then how do I know you're going to be able to be directed? And that is, I want to say one of the biggest things. I think when we're auditioning for our agents and we're doing the job of auditioning, we're imagining what it sounds like, and we're trying to please, like you were mentioning before. We're trying to please the director is, this is what it should sound like. But in reality, we have to showcase so much more than that. We have to showcase our acting ability because what you hear in the commercial, when it finally runs, may not be what you auditioned with. And trust me, I think more casting directors are looking for the actor and not the sound that's in your head that you're mimicking.

Pilar: Yup, yup, right.

Anne: So they want to see that you can act and whether or not they direct you to that same audition in the final spot, if you get it, that's neither here nor there really. So -- and I heard a very well-known agent the other day that said, what you hear on TV is not necessarily what got you the job.

Pilar: And something else, I mean, my agents are relentless when they say this, and they get this from the casting directors. I've been out here for almost three years now. And it amazes me that I still see the same language, which means people are not following directions. So when they say do not slate, we don't want anything. Don't start talking about yourself. I'm like, are you kidding me? You're sitting there talking about where you're from and you're trying to sit there and interact with the people who are going to hear it. Right?

Anne: That's people trying to make things unique. Right?

Pilar: Yes.

Anne: So, yeah. So you've got to be careful, when all of the good advice is make yourself unique, that doesn't mean making yourself unique when you're not following directions. If people say, please don't slate, don't slate. That's not going to make you unique if you slate. So follow those directions. And then when it comes to the actual copy, then yes, I would say, be creative, bring yourself to the party and showcase your acting skills. Because a good casting director is going to be able to hear that like from note one, from the very first word. They're going to be able to tell if you're a great actor.

And that is something that is attractive because when it comes time to actually laying down the spot, I mean, if you're lucky, they'll use your audition. But if they decide they want to lay down the spot later on and live direct you, they know that that's going to be a thing that they can do with you. They can direct you, you can be directable. So that is super important and follow all of those instructions. And you know what? Don't, don't follow the instructions because that way I'll have a better chance, right? That's the way I think, you know what, fine. You don't want to follow directions. Cool. Then my audition gets listened to and yours doesn't, so.

Pilar: And here's something that's really interesting -- exactly -- that I learned actually recently, when they say, be creative again, you label. You slate or you don't slate. Within the boundaries of the competition itself, when you're auditioning, you can go ahead and be creative, but here's something -- there's a caveat to that. There might be like ums and ahs. You know, you, you can do something straight for your first take and then do a second take. And you want to be careful that one is different from the other, because you don't want to send them almost the exact same take. 'Cause then they're like, well, what's the difference? So if you have something that you think you can offer to them that is going to make them slow down and go, oh, okay. She can do this now. Or he can do this. Great. If you don't, just give them one take.

I took a class the other day with a SAG-AFTRA foundation, SAG-AFTRA union members listening to this. There's some great free webinars. I heard this voice actor who's also casting director talk about -- he asked us, okay, who is the person who makes the decision? And there was a bunch of categories and the agent, the casting director, the producer. Nobody got the answer right, which was that the copywriter is the one who makes the decisions. Now that is open to interpretation. But I thought that that was really interesting.

Anne: Oh, that's very interesting. Well, the copywriter is hired to write that voice in his head. Right?

Pilar: Exactly.

Anne: Represent the brand. And so I've always agreed. If you can get yourself into the copywriter's head and understand where they were, and you can figure that out and audition with that in mind, because it's going to fit nicely into the spot. 'Cause sometimes, you know, the spot, you know, has the video been completed. And the last thing they're doing is putting in the voice. Is there a scratch track already there? We don't know these things. Sometimes we have a storyboard. Sometimes we don't. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten an audition where there's absolutely nothing with it. There's no storyboard. I look at it and go, my goodness. What is that even about? And that's where your, your initial investigation into the brand, if you know what it is, can really help. Google is your friend, and that can really help you to understand the brand and how they are selling to their current clients, their potential clients. So that can help give you an idea.

But I love that, like, who is it that hires you? Because that's such an interesting perspective because is it the copywriter who wrote the piece of copy? Is it the casting director, right, who is casting the project, or is it the client? So let's send in our audition, right, to our agent. The agent then shortlists us or not. Right? I don't know. It depends. You don't necessarily know if that audition got sent out to five of you or maybe 250, although sometimes that's easy to tell with certain agents where it seems like it's a big cattle call. But sometimes your agent and, and I'm sure, depending on the agent, if they know you very well, they're going to send it out to just a few people that they know would be great. So they've already in a way cast, right, your agent. And even if they cast the net far and wide, when they get those auditions back, they're listening to them, they might shortlist and then give that list to the client to make a decision.

Pilar: Right. It could be interesting to know who it is that makes the decision. But really the reason I said that is because you have to respect the copy. Whether it's good or whether it's bad, whoever wrote it or whether -- that's your opinion. Somebody wrote that and somebody was hired professionally to professionally write that, and you have to respect their words.

Anne: And every word is there for a reason.

Pilar: Exactly. Because these people have worked on that thing for months and months and months and months.

Anne: And look at us, coming in our studio for like maybe a minute, looking at the copy, and then making a decision as to what it means.

Pilar: Exactly and saying, oh yeah, I'm going to change this because I don't really like that. It's like, no, no, that's not our job.

Anne: Or not even that is to interpret it, but to take some time. I know people that just come in and they're like, okay, I got it. They read it. And they haven't taken any time to really digest the copy or to even try to analyze and see what's the idea, are there innuendos, is there like a double entendre? You know, what is it actually talking about? What does the visual look like at this time? And even if you don't know, and you never do know, if you make some assumptions and try to really analyze it a little bit more than just a few seconds, that's going to really help change your read.

Pilar: Yeah. Because the voice is going to give a life to what you're seeing if it's a TV spot, for example. If it's radio, your voice is everything. Your voice has to be able to portray all these things. It's our job as voice actors to really take the time and note, what is the story we're telling? What is the beginning, middle and end? Because every piece of copy really, it's like a little one act play. And it, whether it's 15 seconds or it's a 10-page narration, there is a story. And it's our job to sift through that and to make our decisions, how to navigate that. And also by the way, the audition that you're given is usually not the audition that you're going to be doing. Sometimes it's going to be the copy, but sometimes it's not going to be the final thing. 'Cause it'll go through a whole bunch of other rewrites and by the time you get to actually record it.

And so a lot of the times, if you're not careful, you can fall into traps. There are crumbs showing you the way. But if you sit there and you say, oh yeah, I'm just going to do the copy. I'm going to get into the booth and just read it, and it'll be great, you're going to fall into those traps. So that's another reason why we have to take our time with the copy, underline, try a different ways, see where the meanings are, see where those little trapdoors are.

Anne: Tell me about the traps, expand on those traps. Like you just want to fall into a particular melody of what you think it should sound like versus there's actually a meaning behind the few words --

Pilar: Yes.

Anne: -- right, that you haven't bothered to really investigate or to analyze.

Pilar: Exactly.

Anne: Okay.

Pilar: So I have a Spanish audition coming up, and I have to have an accent where it's sort of the equivalent of like a Southern accent.

Anne: Interesting. Let's actually talk about that because I mean, obviously as a bilingual voiceover actor, there's lots of different opportunities that you have, if it's going to be English speaking or Spanish speaking, or maybe it's going to be cast for both. Let's talk a little bit about your auditioning techniques for that. Are the casting specs always for, I need a Spanish talent or are they more like we need an English that has a Spanish accent? Or what are you finding in the casting specs, first of all, that call for bilingual talent?

Pilar: You know, it varies. Most of the times it's divided. So you're either going to get Spanish or you're going to get, here's the Spanish copy. But once in a while you will get a bilingual audition. So it's the copy in English and in Spanish.

Anne: So you would get cast for the same thing in both languages, right?

Pilar: Yep, yep, absolutely. And that doesn't happen very often, but it's happening more and more that a client wants to hear the same voice in both languages. And I don't know if this happens to all bilingual voice artists, but it's, it's just really funny. It's a totally different sensibility, when you read a commercial in English and you read the words in Spanish, it just is, the musicality is different. The rhythm is different, the attitude is different. And I can't really explain why that is. I just know it.

Anne: Well, you have to know the culture, I think, right?

Pilar: Yes, yes.

Anne: I mean, to be a, an effective bilingual talent, right? There has to be some native speaking there or growing up in a particular region or whatever other language that is. I would imagine more and more casting directors are looking for native speakers so that they can probably know that about the demographic.

Pilar: Yeah, because you would think that a translation would be the same, but it's not the same thing. So you really have to kind of get into the character of this person who speaks Spanish versus the person who speaks English. And it's just a little, kind of a little switch, but there's a flavor to each piece of copy. So you have to bring your personality, even if it's in a different language to that copy.

Anne: I would imagine that if they're having you do both English and Spanish, there might be some timing issues just because of the language difference. Like let's say it's a 30-second spot or something like that. And they're trying to have the same message, but yet the translation usually it takes a whole lot longer than an English version, let's say. And so do you run into issues like that where they have to re-write the copy or cut some of the copy for the other language or both languages?

Pilar: Well, that's not my job --

Anne: Right.

Pilar: -- to do that. So I try to stay away from that. I used to be very, very concerned about the timing 'cause I'd be like, oh my gosh, this is -- because Spanish, it always takes three words to say the same thing in English, uh, for one word. So now I don't really worry about that as much. And if I go over, I go over, and again, it's just an audition.

Anne: Right.

Pilar: If they're being very specific, which I have had as well, you have to fit it into 30 seconds, I try to speed it up as much as possible before I sound like a chipmunk. And then I'll, you know, because I mean, sometimes I do and it's just kind of crazy. And I'll just tell my agent.

Anne: That's like me in automotive. Right? Because they always throw in like so many more words than I can do in this 15 or 30-second. And so --

Pilar: Especially the legal, especially the legal.

Anne: Well, by the time you get all the words in there, you have no room for emotion or nuance, you know, and it's just --

Pilar: Or breath.

Anne: Or breath, exactly. So you're pretty much just like, blablblabla, you know, and that's it, which is always crazy to me. But so for the majority then let's say if your auditions, you're getting them in maybe English with an accent, or you're getting just a particular style of Spanish that you're auditioning for?

Pilar: You know, I get everything. And it's really funny. 'Cause when I go and I do spots, because I've, I've done, let's say back to back English spot and Spanish spot. So then we'll be recording. We'll do the English spot, we'll do the Spanish spot and then they'll come back and they'll say, can you do the English spot with a little bit of an accent? And I'm like, really? And I'm like, okay, great, sure. You want that? It kind of depends. So if they ask for it, I do give them a little bit of an accent because you know, my mother has an accent. Pretty much all my relatives have accents. So I can just go to that little voice bank for that.

Anne: So are you slating in an accent or in Spanish?

Pilar: Only when the, the entire copy is in Spanish do I slate as Pilar Uribe, instead of Pilar You-ribe. When it's obviously something that they want some Spanish for -- like, I do a lot of work for spots that speak English, but they have sprinklings of, of words. So they need somebody who knows how to say those words in Spanish. So I'll always slate in my just, you know, Pilar Uribe. But for a Spanish speaking audition where only Spanish is spoken, I do say my name in Spanish.

'Cause I know that the person listening is, if they're not a native speaker, they speak it fluently.

Anne: Right, right, right.

Pilar: So they're going to understand what I'm saying. 'Cause if I say Pilar Uribe, most of the people are going to go, huh?

Anne: Right, right. Actually, when I used to work at, um, in radio at NPR in Miami, they would say, no, no, we want you to speak. We want you to say your name the way you say it. And I was like, oh, okay. That's kind of a switch, because I always say, you know, if I try to say Pi-lar Uribe, people still don't get it. So I always just say, Pilar You-ribe. And I get Mylar, people call me Laura. And you know, it's not a common word, Pilar, but for auditions, yeah. You can get away with saying your name. And in fact, when you slate, something that I like to do is I like to smile a little bit and do a slight shrug of my shoulders. So I go, so one way, for example, I'll say my name one way, Pilar Uribe, two Pilar Uribe, Pilar Uribe. So I just smiled a little bit and I shrugged my shoulders and that completely changes the attitude.

Anne: Yep, sure does. Sure does.

Pilar: Especially when you're doing a serious commercial copy or narration or a video game, it just kind of gives them, it shows them a little split second personality.

Anne: A little bit of your personality. Yep, exactly. And I think that's important. It's the first words that they hear, so.

Pilar: Yeah.

Anne: Those are great tips, Pilar. Wow. We could probably go on about auditioning for like a whole other episode.

Pilar: We could.

Anne: Yeah, we could. Great tips. Thanks so much. Fantastic, BOSSes. So next time you audition, make sure you give it a little bit of time before you rush in there and start voicing everything. Do some research, give a shrug, have a little bit of a smile in your slate. Make sure you follow those directions. BOSSes, I'd like to give a great, big shout-out to a brand new sponsor, 100 Voices Who Care. This is a chance to use your voice to make an immediate difference and give back to the communities that give to you. You can find out more by visiting 100voiceswhocare.org.

Pilar: Ooh, I'm going to check that out. 100voiceswhocare.org.

Anne: Yup. So this is a great way to make a difference without having to make a huge commitment. So you guys, check it out, make sure to check that out. Also big shout out to sponsor ipDTL. You too can connect a network like a BOSS. Find out more at ipdtl.com. You guys, have an amazing week. Go forth and do all the wonderful auditions, and we'll see you next week. Thanks so much. Bye.

Pilar: Hasta la vista, BOSSes.

>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at voboss.com and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to coast connectivity via ipDTL.

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