What’s the best way to make a bold first impression with a voice over audition?
— Robert Barclay (@bertiebarclay) September 10, 2019
I wouldn’t really say you have to make a bold impression – just do what’s right for the role and story. If you go in with a crazy accent and desperately try to use your entire range, you’ll undoubtedly stand out from the rest of the auditionees, but for the wrong reason. Your main priority should be serving the material.
It’s useful to do research on the director and voice-over company, so you have a good idea of their work. Different productions have different styles, with some favouring a more ‘cartoonish’ feel, while others go for more natural and underplayed. Listen to other audiobooks and audio dramas they’ve done before auditioning.
Then there’s the challenge of getting a voice-over agent. Just like any agent, these can be difficult to secure, and getting one of them to sit still and listen to your reel can be hard. If you have a contact for the organisation, email them first. Or if any of your friends are represented by an agent, get them to give you the direct contact email (so your email isn’t lost forever in the never-ending backlog of emails sent to info@…).
Your voice reel should contain a variety of pieces – one using your natural accent (this is where you’ll get most work), and others showing your versatility. Usually, you’ll need one piece of narration (reading a descriptive piece in your natural voice), a couple of short acting speeches, an advert (if you have one – or get one put together) and a small number of comedy voices (these are becoming popular on reels).
Of course, there are many showreel companies who will do your voice reel for £200 upwards. However, if you don’t have the budget, it’s possible to put your own together using a microphone and a MacBook, editing it together using GarageBand (a colleague tells me it’s easier than it seems).
Another way actors now supplement their income is by having their own home recording studios – giving them freedom to record when they want. These can range from a big soundproofed studio in a basement to a little box where the actor pops their head in to record (a friend recently made a studio from three cardboard boxes – he’s the Caractacus Potts of the voice-over world, dear). Add a little microphone and a recording device, and your voice could become as iconic as Stephen Fry’s.
There are now sites online where actors can submit recordings of themselves reading a section of a book. The publishing house and author then choose someone to narrate the entire story. It’s a great way of making some good money, and allows you to be in charge of the recording.
Voice-over work can be an excellent earner. But always remember not to shout too loud, don’t rattle any paper, try not to move too wildly (the microphone will pick it up), and always check the edit before submitting – no one wants to hear you farting, burping and sweating between takes, dear.