Voice Over Auditions. There’s a debate in the voice acting community: what should you do when you’re faced with a voice acting audition script you don’t like? Should you record that VO audition, or take a pass? Where should you draw the line? In this article I’ll be sharing my philosophy on the topic, along with a few principles that help me decide when to say “no” to a voice over audition.
The More VO Auditions the Better!
If you’re just starting your career and you’ve found a way to get auditions regularly, congratulations! Whether it’s through pay-to-play VO sites or a voice acting agent (or multiple VO agents), if you’re new, I recommend recording as many auditions as possible. Auditions are like on-the-job training—they provide valuable building blocks for your VO career.
Auditioning to Learn the Craft of Voice Acting
When you audition, you’re not just practicing performance skills. Auditions teach you:
- How to incorporate clients’ directions in your performances;
- How to edit;
- How to recognize repeating themes in different types of projects (clients often request similar things);
- What you can deliver on;
- Where you need more practice;
- And you also learn about budgets and bids, and start to get a “pulse” of the marketplace.
These skills are all extremely valuable in building a foundation for a voice acting career.
Why Don’t I Like the VO Script?
Auditions are great learning opportunities. That said, sooner or later you will run into scripts you don’t like. I’m going to help you assess the various reasons why you might not like a VO script. Understanding these reasons will help you decide if you should—or shouldn’t—move forward with a script you don’t like.
Reason 1: I’m Scared of the VO Script
One reason you might not like a voice acting script is because it scares you. This is more common in the animation and video games sector, where you can encounter things you’ve never done before (possibly never even heard before!). You’ll read the script and say to yourself, “Oh my god, I have no idea how to tackle this.” You feel like a fish out of water—you’re afraid that if you accept it, you’ll end up making a fool of yourself.
When you find yourself in this situation, my advice is to hire a voice acting coach. Get pointers from someone on the outside who can help you experiment with the script—it’ll take you further than you think you can go. Often, when those of us in the creative field are scared of material, it’s because we have something to learn from it. I believe that when we tackle those things, we uncover some little, hidden treasures that will be useful throughout our career.
Reason 2: The VO Script is Boring
Another reason you might not like a script is because it’s mediocre and/or boring. I’m talking about scripts that aren’t great—they’re not terrible but they just don’t excite you. They’re probably not very well written either.
This is more common in the corporate sector, especially with scripts coming from smaller businesses. Think about it: there are so many businesses out there and all of them need an online presence. They don’t all have the resources to have great marketing departments—or even a person who’s decent at writing scripts. The truth is, if you’re going to be a voice actor, it’s unrealistic to think you’re only going to deal with great voice-over scripts, and that you’re going to love them all. You’re not.
Your job as the narrator or voice actor is to make the script as great as it can be. You must elevate it from its current state to something that serves the purpose it was intended for. When you’re dealing with a boring script, improve it. The more you experiment with scripts, the better you’ll become at it. And then when a great script comes along, you’ll be able to elevate that great script even higher—and have a good chance of booking the gig. So, my advice is to set your ego aside and figure out what you can do to improve and serve the script.
Reason 3: It’s Bad… Really Bad
The third reason you might not like a script is because it’s so badly written that you have no faith in the people who created it. I understand this feeling—we all have standards (well, most of us do, anyway!). When I run into a script that’s written this poorly, it makes me wonder, “Who are these people who couldn’t be bothered to hire someone to take a second look at this?” This is a script I won’t consider recording an audition for. That’s below my standards. I won’t even go there because I know working on this script or working with this client is going to be problematic.
Reason 4: It Just Doesn’t Jive With Me!
Trust your gut. Sometimes it’s just a gut feeling that you shouldn’t record it. The script may not feel right for you, or maybe you aren’t comfortable with the subject matter. Perhaps you can’t even explain why you don’t want to record it right now. When your gut is telling you, “This isn’t for me, I don’t feel good about this,” I think you should listen.
So, when the script is really bad, or isn’t right for you, take a pass. I know this can be a sensitive issue. The script might be coming from your agent, or a client, and you don’t want to upset them. Say thank you for the opportunity, and explain that you don’t feel it’s right for you, or that you’re not a fit for the job. Keep it short and honest. Despite popular belief and understandable anxieties (it’s not easy out there for us freelancers), passing on a script is perfectly acceptable whether you’re a seasoned voice actor or a budding VO talent. . Don’t let anyone pressure you into recording something you’re not comfortable with. Even though you’re just starting out, you can decide what VO work you will accept and what VO work you won’t. Overtime, your experience will be more refined and your business more targeted.
Balance Is Crucial
Now, if you say “no” to everything, you’re going to severely limit your learning experience and your professional development. Learn instead to recognize when:
- You’re scared of the script;
- A script just isn’t as well written or exciting as you’d like;
- A script truly doesn’t meet your standards, or ethics, and your gut is putting up red flags.
Learn to do what feels right for you. As a voice actor you have the right to set that standard and find that balance for yourself.
Saying “No” to Avoid Burning Bridges
Sometimes, saying “no” to an audition is vital. Why? You don’t want to get into a situation where you record it, then book the VO job—only to realize later that you need to pull out of it. It would have been better to stay away from the get-go. Once you’re in, getting out can be challenging, and you can burn a lot of bridges on the way. For one, it puts your agent in the embarrassing spot of having to pull out of the job, which makes them look unprofessional (and they lose the income). The client, who thought they were done with voice casting, now needs to look for someone else. No one wants to head into production only to find out they have to look for voice talent again. It can cause serious delays and considerable budget issues. It’s much better to think ahead and avoid those VO auditions altogether.
In the end, when you’re unsure about a VO audition, I invite you to think about the reasons you don’t want to record it. This will help you develop your own standard and philosophy for navigating the many voiceover opportunities you’ll encounter as a voice actor and narrator. So, is this next audition worth your time?
To learn more ways to improve your voice over career, read Part 3 of the Get Clever series, Running Your Voiceover Business.