Business of VO: Casting

with Liz Atherton

As a voice talent, you are doing due diligence to record your audition(s), upload it in time, and give it your best shot. But . . . do you really understand the nuances of casting? Take a listen as VO Boss founder and host, Anne Ganguzza, and guest host, Liz Atherton, break down the casting process all the while giving you tips and tricks to get your audition heard! Special thanks to ipDTL for their great connection, and to Dave Crockett, owner of Weho Audio Studios (, for allowing Liz the use of his fantastic studio!


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1.  As VO, it is so important for us to fully understand all aspects of the job in which we work.

  2. The Casting Process – from product to talent

  3. Lots of things get cast, but let’s focus on commercials.

  4. A company has a product they need to advertise.

  5. A company then hires an ad agency to put together a campaign.

  6. The ad agency either does the casting themselves and/or they hire a casting director to do a search.

  7. The casting director puts together specs to find the talent to best match the needs of the agency and includes copy for prospective talent to record as an audition.

  8. The casting director shares the audition via any number of avenues: casting sites and/or directly to agents and/or directly to talent and/or any number of ways.

  9. Talent get audition specs, record an mp3, and then submit it for consideration.

  10. What is going on in the brain of the agent when they are sending out an audition to talent?

  11. Auditions is a numbers game – improve your odds by getting your audition in first!

  12. Auditions are submitted to Casting.

  13. Casting begins the task of listening and recommending to the client.

  14. Auditions are often listened to in waves – your position matters.

  15. Imagine being the engineer listening to the auditions… it’s daunting!

  16. Be in the head of the person casting the project – record from that perspective!

  17. Slate at the end if you can – but only if the specs deem otherwise.

  18. From an agent’s perspective – whatever they submit to casting is a reflection of the agency – make your agent proud!

  19. Yes, agents do sometimes shorten the due date – there are reasons!

  20. Agents are some competitive beasts!

  21. Rates disclosure – let’s discuss!

  22. If the client has the money to spend, they will – try to understand this – it may help the concerns that talent have with rates.

Final Notes

  1. GVAA is a great place to see fair rates.

  2. “A client decided to go in a different direction” is usually a legitimate answer.

  3. Stick around for the outtakes – really!

  4. Always get your auditions in as fast as you can.

  5. Always give an audition that is 100%!

  6. Give two takes on separate files if it’s allowed – make them VERY different!

  7. Do NOT contact casting EVER unless you received the audition directly from them.

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Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

  1. Find out about

  2. Thanks to Dave Crockett and WeHo Studios for letting Liz record at your amazing studio

  3. Recorded on ipDTL

  4. Awesome editing by Carl Bahner

Full Episode Transcript

>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premier 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.

Anne: Hey everyone, welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anna Ganguzza, along with special guest cohost queen bee Liz Atherton. Hey Liz!

Liz: Hey Anne! It gets me every time you say that.

[both laugh]

Liz: That’s awesome. The queen bee, oh my word. [laugh]

Anne: The queen bee, Liz. Ok, Liz.

Liz: That’s just so funny. I’m ready.

Anne: I got questions for you. Ok?

Liz: Do it.

Anne: As a voice talent, I’m pretty used to just, you know, getting a script, and going in my booth, and recording and then submitting the files to my client. But I don’t know much more. I mean I’ve not been involved in the casting process. And I think that as voice talents, it’s so important for us to understand what’s involved in all aspects of the job in which we work. I know that you have a lot of experience in casting, and I thought we could maybe talk about the many sides of casting today.

Liz: Let’s do it, let’s do it. So when a project comes your way, it’s already been in the pike for a while. Right? So you’ve got a client at an ad agency who says I want to go create, I want to buy some advertising and I want to put a splash out there for my project. Then you’ve got people in there that write the copy. Then you get it all ready, then it goes to casting. It depends on how big the project is, but usually they’ll seek out several casting directors, they’ll get one, they’ll bond with that casting director, and they’re off. That casting director, their job then is to take the words of what the producer or the person at the ad agency is looking for and translate that into something to find the right voice for them. Right?

Anne: Can I just interject?

Liz: Yeah.

Anne: Before it gets to the ad agency, there’s got to be a company, right, that has a product?

Liz: Right, correct.

Anne: That then reaches out to an ad agency.

Liz: Correct.

Anne: So typically the purpose – I’m going just a step back further too because again, I come at it from more of a, not just commercial, but you know, all different genres, so I want to make sure that I’m understanding the process. So the client will contact the ad agency, but typically it’s for a commercial that would be broadcast? Is that correct?

Liz: Correct. So the things that get cast typically are commercials. Well, actually all aspects of voiceover, they can look out and do a search, but also movies, animation, promos, all of those kinds of things, different areas that voiceover can be cast, right? And depending on the budget is when they engage the services of a casting director. So the small budgeted things, they might go, stay in-house at an ad agency, but still, the steps are still pretty much the same. So they have the copy, and they have in their mind what kind of voice they’re looking for the copy, then they pick a snippet of that copy, and if you don’t know what copy is, copy is the piece of a script that you’re going to be reading for the audition. Sometimes they’ll just book these things off of demos, but we’re going through the whole process. So they send out an audition via email or through one of the pay-to-plays or through the casting directors, through the talent agents, and then that gets to the agent, and the agent says these people, I want these people to audition for it. They turn around and send that out, that copy to their talent. The talent record the audition. And Anne, that’s where it usually is in your boat. Unless you have already been hired, right? At this point you then get the copy from your agent.

Anne: Let me ask you about that. When I get copy from my agent, I guess you really have to kind of understand your agent, right? Do we know that that copy is going to everyone on the roster or is it just going to certain people on the roster, or do you think today agents are really sitting there and thinking about, ok, I really feel that Anne would be good for this, and I’m going to send it out to her and maybe five other people? What’s going on in the brain of the agent at that time when it gets sent?

Liz: Who the heck is going to book this thing? [LAUGHTER]

Anne: OK. That’s an honest answer. I get that. I like that.

Liz: And it’s a numbers game. So in terms of what’s going on in the agents’ mind, one, they want to get it out to their actors just as soon as possible. I mean, the second that copy presents itself, they want to hit a button that says boom, I’ve send that out to my talent now so that my talent can have it first in, first out. Because imagine, Anne, you’ve got 10 agencies that have been invited for a project, and they’ve each got 100 actors, right, and let’s just say 50 of them, and they’re the ones that’re going to audition. So now you’ve got 50 times 10, and you’ve got 500 potential people competing for that one spot. Well, that engineer, whoever the casting director is, you would like to think that they’re going to listen through all 500 of them. And I’m sure that they would tell you they do. But if it were me [laughs] you know, what’s in the first 30 listens, I had 12 great choices? Right, what if?

Anne: Then it becomes overwhelming.

Liz: Exactly.

Anne: It’s an overwhelming choice.

Liz: It is. You send those 12 off to your client. You say “will any of these do?” And listen, I’m not speaking for any casting directors, not trying to get anybody angry. I’m just – it’s just human nature.

Anne: Sure, absolutely.

Liz: So as an agent, my goal was to get those auditions back into the ears just as soon as possible.

Anne: Quicker.

Liz: Quicker.

Anne: And to get that shortlist quicker. And actually, yeah. I think that it’s important to note. I always think we as talent should go through our own casting process and go ahead and just – there should be – actually, this should be a really cool project for us, Liz. I’m gonna have a class, where you just send out the audition. And then each one of us could be the casting director and listen to 200 auditions, one right after the other, because then I think they’ll really experience what it’s like.

Liz: That’s a great idea!

Anne: And after about the 12th one, your ears kind of start to bleed, or maybe not, or they just start hearing the same thing. And we hear it over and over again when we take these classes, that casting directors want to hear something different. But I think truly in order for talent to really get that, I mean it’s one thing to hear that, but it’s another thing to actually experience it. So I think it would be a great class or even great practice if any of you BOSSes out there, just go ahead and listen to an audition or 200 pieces of copy and see what happens to you after about, what, after about, let’s see, you know, take number, let’s see –

Liz: 12.

Anne: I don’t know, 12, and just see where, where does your head go? You know what I mean? Does it start to just kind of become white noise after a while? And then, you know, are you looking at your text? What’s happening when you’re trying to listen to this? You’re human. Right? Casting directors are human.

Liz: I always tell people that.

Anne: That’s so important to understand. Yeah.

Liz: I always tell people that. Listen, when you’re recording that audition, imagine being the engineer hearing it. And you know, seriously, you should record from the perspective of the engineer.

Anne: Yep, Yep.

Liz: Because you know, you are up against a multitude of people. Maybe not always but probably 99% of the time. And so you know, people ask me, should I produce my auditions, should I embellish it, should I send it dry, should I take the clicks out? Listen, you should do whatever you think you need to do to make that person listen to it the right way.

Anne: I always try to think, I want to be in the head of the person that like is casting this because right, you have a voice in your head. If you’re going to cast something, you have a voice in your head. You have the idea of what you want it to sound like, right, or what you’re looking for. Maybe you don’t have a complete idea, but you have a general idea of the voice you’re looking for. The closer you can get in your voiceover audition to that voice in their head, and there’s a lot of like, there’s got to be a lot of thought going into that. I think you’ve really got to try to think about it a little bit more to get yourself in the head of the casting director and maybe get yourself into like their ears.

Liz: I think you absolutely do. That’s why I always used to suggest if the agent would let you to submit two separate files. Because think about it, Anne. The engineer listening, that casting director listening, and you might say, ”hey, this is Liz, two takes.” Right? So they might listen for the second one. But what if they don’t? What if they thought the first one sucked? Next!

Anne: And then they listen to your second one. But it’s not the same file.

Liz: Right! And then they’re like oo, they might think it’s somebody different. And I always used to tell my people too to slate at the end, if you’re going to slate. I mean, I started the no slate 20 years ago. I was telling my actors, don’t slate. Go right into your read.

Anne: It wastes time.

Liz: It wastes time and what if they don’t like your speaking voice that you slate in? I mean, you know, remember they’ve got 200 files to get through. It just takes a nudge, just a nudge to say next, next.

Anne: All right, so I kind of took us a little bit off track, but I thought it was important to kind of get our BOSS, BOSS listeners into the minds of the casting director. So w