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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 what’s next? They’re listening to the auditions.

Liz: Right. So then they’re going to narrow it down. They’re going to pick, they’re going to narrow it down to, I don’t know, 10, 15. It depends.

Anne: Is this the casting director or the agent, or does the agent do some of the work first before they pass it off to the casting director?

Liz: A good agent does. Listen, I don’t want to say that agents that don’t do it aren’t good, because it just depends. You know, if you’ve sent that out to your five steadies, and you know every single time you get a solid audition, are you going to sit and listen through that one? Probably not. But if you’ve got new people on your roster, or you’ve made it a big, large send to a lot of your roster, you have to listen through some of it. Because if you do not, people send up some crazy stuff.

Anne: [laughs]

Liz: People send up some crazy stuff, or sometimes they don’t even check their audio file, and it stinks. You’re like, seriously? Are you not paying attention to what’s going up? Because as an agent, whatever you send over to the casting director is reflective of your agency.

Anne: Sure. Agent horror stories. I can imagine.

Liz: Yes.

Anne: Like agent horror stories of auditions that have come in that you don’t even realize what got sent in.

Liz: Just some of ‘em’re funny, I’m just saying. So yes, there’s like a pre-casting at the agent level, and then it gets to the casting director, and they’ve got several agencies they’re listening from, right. So you know, that’s what I’m saying. First in counts. Again if your agency is on top of things or you’re on top of things, whatever the case may be and you’re first one that they’re getting to listen to, you have a real good advantage. So then they –

Anne: Question, question.

Liz: Go ahead.

Anne: So then when there’s a date, when you get the audition, right, from your agent, with a date on it, do the agents sometimes change the date so that they can get their people in first?

Liz: Heck yeah.

Anne: Ok, I just wanted to know!

Liz: I promise you, all of them do. I’m sure they do. Well, I don’t know, Anne. What do you think?

Anne: Well, it’s interesting because I will see different dates when they’re due. We’ve discussed this in a previous podcast, where I have the same audition come in from a couple of different agents –

Liz: Right.

Anne: And the due date will be different. So it’s always interesting. I don’t, you know, I don’t really know unless I’m talking to my agent, if they’re doing a little bit of shortlisting themselves before they send it off, and that’s why that’s date is changed.

Liz: They’re changing the date because they want them in so they can send them up. We used to cut ours to 24 hours.

Anne: Oh interesting, ok.

Liz: I mean, I don’t care if I had a week. We would cut them to 24 hours.

Anne: No, that makes sense. That makes sense.

Liz: And here’s the thing. If somebody had one come in late, would we send it in? Of course, if it was good. You know, we always honor the actor, but you know, it’s just human nature. These people that’re –

Anne: You’re trying to get the job, trying to get the gig.

Liz: Yes, yes!

Anne: That makes sense. And it’s funny because sometimes my agent doesn’t give me 24 hours. And I’m like, oh man. Like literally I got to turn this thing around like quickly.

Liz: Thank your agent.

Anne: That makes sense.

Liz: We’re some competitive beasts, man. We want –

Anne: We think talent’re competitive, but yeah, agents –

Liz: Nooo!

Anne: That’s pretty awesome. I mean it’s great to have somebody fight for you.

Liz: Absolutely. Anyway, so it gets down to a short list of actors to listen to, then it goes to the client from the casting perspective, and the clients listen to that 12 or so that the casting director has narrowed it to, and if they don’t like any of them, remember that casting director’s got 300 more to choose from. So – [LAUGHTER]

Anne: Let me ask you a question, because sometimes from my agent, I used to be able to see price, you know, what the gig was listed for. Sometimes I don’t see that anymore. It’ll just be the audition that comes in, and it won’t be like what it’s paying. I’m wondering as to how that evolved and changed over the years.

Liz: Well listen. That just depends on your agent, right? If you trust your agent, and it comes through without a rate, then you got to know your agent either doesn’t know the rate yet, or if the rate does come in, and it’s too low, you’ve wasted an audition time, but you don’t want it to go up anyway.

Anne: Sometimes you won’t know the rate, you’ll just send out the audition first, is that true?

Liz: Once in a blue moon. Because for us to do that, we’re wasting a lot of people’s time if it stinks.

So we really want to know what the rate is.

Anne: If you’re familiar with the client and you’ve worked with them before, I can imagine that you would more likely just send it out without knowing the bottom line price after that. Now let me ask you a question. Can the talent come back and say this is, you know what, this is a little – what if they’re on the short list, or let’s say they get selected for the gig, can the talent try to renegotiate, or is that not good practice? Is that not good – looked upon as professional?

Liz: Oh you mean change the rate?

Anne: Yeah.

Liz: No, that –

Anne: Just out of curiosity.

Liz: I don’t know that I’ve seen a lot of that. Say, yes, I know I’m on the short list, I’ll do it for you for $600, or they’ll do it for you for $800, no. And I probably wouldn’t endorse that from any of mine.

Because you know, again, through other podcasts you and I’ve talked about, you really want to protect the rates as much as you can. If they’ve got the money to spend, you know –

Anne: They would.

Liz: They would.

Anne: Let’s – wait, let’s say that again. Because I think a lot of talent don’t understand that because there are some gigs that come in, and they’re on the low side, but I think that the agent has gotten the best rate that they can, and that the client really may not have the budget that you think is fair and just.

Liz: Correct.

Anne: It does happen way, and I think too many of us jump the gun and get all upset on our high and mighty horse, that rate is not what we think is justified. But I think a lot of times if you have an agent working for you, you have to really trust the agent, that they’re getting the best price for you, and if not, they’re going to pass on it.

Liz: Right, and honest-to-goodness, Anne, a lot of those rates are set in stone before they ever get to the agent. Because remember, a lot of the projects come to agents and come to multiple agents. Right? So I’ll be very honest, I’ve had casting directors call me beforehand and discuss rates with me, and ask me what I think is a fair rate, and I will tell them a fair rate. I tell them all the time. I would suspect a lot of agents do that all the time, because the casting director does not know the right rate either. And that’s why even on my website, I would always say check GVAA. I know we talked about this in another podcast, but you know, check what your rates are. If they’re going to pay the rate, negotiating with a lower rate is really not the right answer. It’s just not the right answer.

Anne: Sure, sure.

Liz: You know, don’t be – go ahead.

Anne: No, I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I was just thinking in terms of rates, in regard to like the fair rate, I think that if enough of GVAA rates go, and enough people are, you know, asking for those rates, it will then become a market price. I think our rates are driven by market demand and market price. This is typically what you pay for this particular product or this particular voice. And I think the more that we can stand by rate guides, and get those out there, and have agents negotiating based on the same sort of guide, it really does help lift us all up into more fair rates rather than, you know, go down into the bottom of the gutter and who is going to be the lowest.

Liz: Correct.

Anne: I do believe that we can, we can kind of turn this around, maybe not turn it around, but we can definitely hold our own when it comes to negotiating fair rates, especially if we all work together, so.

Liz: I totally agree with you, but just keep in mind that in terms of the casting process, by the time you, especially through the agents, but even through you otherwise, by the time you see that project, and if there’s a rate on there, more than likely, the chances of changing the rate are small. They’re small. You probably won’t get that luxury.

Anne: No, I was just curious about that because I had actually heard a story about that where, because it was a specific talent, they were trying to negotiate a better rate because they wanted a specific person or the client had requested a specific person.

Liz: That happens, yeah, for sure, but that’s different, especially if they – you could ask for a specific talent of mine, that talent just got more expensive, I guarantee you.

Anne: Aha. Good, good. I get that. All right. Good to know.

Liz: Yeah, yeah for sure.

Anne: Good to know.

Liz: But anyway, so it’s a little bit of iterative, and then they select their client, and then they book them, and then from there it goes to the studio.

Anne: So ok –

Liz: I kind of took us back to the casting process.

Anne: Well good. Now in regard to the casting process, tell me, are there any secrets to the story that we hear, “oh, the client decided to go in a different direction?”

Liz: Yeah, they do that.

Anne: What does that really mean? Does it really, the client is going a different direction, like what types of things happen that make the client go in a different direction so we can understand that a little bit better? I know that maybe there’s not we can do about that, but I’m just curious –

Liz: No.

Anne: We don’t ever hear that, or no, you don’t.

Liz: No. No, the uncle walked in and had a great voice. [laughs] You know, we’ll go another direction. My sister’s boyfriend is going to break up with her if he doesn’t get to do it. I mean, you know, sometimes, when they go in a different direction, perhaps their top three choices are three completely different voices, and two of the decision-makers really liked person A, and the other decision-maker really liked person 3 or C. And they negotiated between them which would be the best one. And so person A may have been said, you’re on the shortlist and I think you’re really going to get it, and then they decided to go another direction. They went with person C. I do think it’s legitimate. I know it sounds kind of bummy, but I do believe it’s just way of saying, we’ve –

Anne: No, that makes sense.

Liz: We had three choices.

Anne: We had multiple people.

Liz: There always are.

Anne: Multiple people in the decision. Ok. That’s good to know because sometimes in my limited knowledge of the process, that I think there’s one person making the decision, but you’re right. That’s silly for me to think that. There’re multiple people usually deciding.

Liz: You’ve got the casting director, who is, you know, a smart ad agency will listen to their casting director, because the casting director does this day in and day out and can really help. So they’re going to have their favorites that they liked for this read, and then you’re going to have several decision-makers typically on the other side, and they all have to agree, and that really is just they narrow it down and then they change their mind.

Anne: Liz, that was really great. It shed a lot of light on the casting process, and I think that we can all be better voice talent and better businesspeople for that. Thank you so much for clarifying all of those questions that I had.

Liz: My pleasure.

Anne: Great big shout-out to our sponsor, IpDTL. You too can connect and network like a boss like Liz and I are. Find out more at You guys have a great week, and we’ll see you next week.

Liz: Thanks, Anne. Take care, everybody.

Anne: All right, bye-bye.

>> 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 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.


Anne: I’d like to talk to you – oh my God, who is calling me? Who is that? It’s an 800 number. I didn’t realize it would come through my iPad. Ok, we’ll start –

Liz: It’s like, “hey, Anne. Hey Anne, how’re you? I’m your 1-800 number.”

Anne: [sings ring tone] I’m going to wait, I’m going to decline it here. Let’s see, that should stop. Ok. Now that we know that can happen, so we’re going to start from the beginning.