A Harsh Perspective From a VO Casting Director
In the Urban Dictionary, when something or someone is referred to as “Off the Page” it means that there is no equal. They are unique and cannot be listed on any page.
But this ain’t that! This is us, long-time Casting Directors with thousands of projects under our belts, BEGGING for talent to get their words off the page.
We have racked our brains trying to figure out why people cannot do this and here’s what we came up with:
They like the sound of their own voice but don’t care what they are saying.
They are concerned with the sound of their own voice but don’t care what they are saying.
They have not identified with anything they are talking about.
They haven’t processed what they are saying, so they rely on their "reading out loud" skills.
Aren’t you kind of sick of seeing the words “Non-Announcer”? We know we are, but when we send out a casting, we have to put it. And yet, despite our efforts and overdoing the specs, we are sent back auditions that blow our minds. And not always in a good way.
We ask for a Grandfatherly type speaking to his grandkids about the good ol’ days. We get a perfect sound for the new Ford F150.
We ask for a Doctor to talk about what her hospital is doing to fight cancer. We get some sexed-up female who gives a whole new meaning to Otolaryngology.
It’s like the specs weren’t even considered. So we’ve created a process. Now, we aren’t all trained actors, so that’s where a VO Coach will assist, but we are the ones who call in the talent, pull the talent off our audition submission if they don’t cut it, and make recommendations to our clients – you know, the Ad people. Pretty important stuff.
1. Before you read the copy out loud, just read it to yourself.
2. Do it again.
3. Now, read it out loud and flat so you familiarize yourself with the words. Don’t look at specs.
4. Do it again.
5. Now read the specs.
6. Identify with the specs. If we ask for a light Mid-Western female sound with calm edge, don’t assign that to your voice or we’ll get somewhere between Fargo and Montreal. Instead, who is this woman? A modern stay-at-home mom with teenagers, or a Boss-Lady who doesn’t like what her elected officials are doing to the schools? Really get to know the character.
7. Who are you talking to and why do they need this? Pick a skeptic friend you know but don’t drill down so hard that it sounds aggro.
8. Go in with that character and the attitude and just talk to that person. Do you.
It seems simple enough and it surely isn’t the most magical of techniques that can be taught, but it is truly what we see missing.
You need to learn to act. One of our staff here mentioned that the greatest marathon he ever ran was when he was doing yoga. In other words, he learned to stretch his muscles an entirely different way than what his legs were used to and he went into the race with an advantage. So, rather than relying on your dulcet tones, you should work on embodying the character, trying to get into our casting heads, and delivering something that comes from you authentically.
9. Now, listen back and ask yourself, “Did I get off the page?”