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Business of VO – Inside the Casting Process

You’re behind the mic every day. But have you ever thought about what happens AFTER you hit that send button? In this episode, Anne and Gabby talk about the ins and outs of the casting process. Gabby talks about her experience as a former voice over casting agent and gives you all the dirty little details about what agents AND clients are looking for in casting the perfect voice.


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. The more you reverse engineer the process, the better chance you have of booking the job

  2. You don’t have to answer every audition

  3. Play into your wheelhouse. What resonates with you?

  4. The language in the script can give you cues on what the client is looking for

  5. Casting is part psychology and part demographics

  6. Right, wrong or indifferent, stereotypes are the basis for advertising

  7. Are you a good representation of this spot or are you going to be offensive?

  8. Have integrity in your performances

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

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VO: Today’s voiceover talent is more than just a pretty voice. Today’s voiceover talent has to be a boss, a VO BOSS. Set yourself up with business owner strategies and success with your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with some of the strongest voices in our industry. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS.

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Anne: OK, now, let’s get on with today’s episode. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my VO BOSS bestie, Gabby Nistico. Hey, Gabby.

Anne: Hi, Anne!

Anne: You know, Gabby, I think that it’s so important for us as voiceover talent to really understand all aspects of the industry. I think it would be a good idea to talk today about the casting process. What do you think?

Gabby: Oh yeah, I love that. I mean, the same way we’re running a business, casting is the other side of the coin, right? I mean the people who are looking to cast a role, they’re conducting their business. They are using this as a vehicle typically for their advertising or marketing or promotion efforts. And it, it has its own intricacies, right? I mean like, we know ours, but –

Anne: For sure.

Gabby: But looking at someone else’s needs can make a big difference in terms of who books and who doesn’t.

Anne: I think it’s important to note that casting directors have a job, but before they have that job, they have a client. And that client has a product that they’re trying, typically trying to sell, or they’re trying to expand the brand. And so, a lot of the direction or the needs come directly from the client, who then talk about their needs or communicate their needs to the casting director about how they want to sell a product. And I think that the more we can understand that whole aspect of the industry, the better we can serve the client, or the casting director, with our voices, to be able to, to help elevate that brand, or sell the product, or whatever it is.

Gabby: When I worked in advertising, we had something really cool. Our sales department had a CNA, which is a client needs analysis, that was filled out and discussed with every single advertiser who was coming to us. And man, it would get into some really cool stuff, like things that I don’t think voice actors necessarily think about. So questions on a client’s CNA for casting would be things like, who’s your competitor?

Anne: Right.

Gabby: What’s the average age of your buyer or your ideal buyer? Literally I always tell people, it’s a full demographics breakdown.

Anne: Oh yeah.

Gabby: It’s everything from age, race, ethnicity, gender, education —

Anne: Income, yeah.

Gabby: Income, yeah —

Anne: Hobbies.

Gabby: All those factors. Yeah. And by the time you’re done, you, you basically have a really clear picture of the person they’re trying to attract.

Anne: And also the person that they’re trying to attract, typically they’re going to want to — and these days, because we are educated consumers, and I say this over and over and over again — they want to have typically a voice that speaks that language to that audience, and they can –

Gabby: Totally.

Anne: They can completely, you know, identify with. So you know, if you’re talking about selling, I don’t know, cleaning products, you know, it might be to a, you know, a mom or a household member that does cleaning. So that’s important to know.

Gabby: It’s always about relevance, and it’s about authenticity. And who’s going to be the most credible person to speak to the group of people that I’m trying to reach? And that’s huge. Um and there’s so many defining characteristics there. Now, where I think this applies in the booth, and as a voice actor is, the more we take the time to sort of reverse engineer the process, if we’re looking at a script, if we’re given specs — and we all know this. Sometimes the specs aren’t super complete. Right?

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: There’s a lot of lack in detail.

Anne: Exactly.

Gabby: It’s wise for us to really stop and go, “do I fit the bill? Do one of my character voices, does one of my characters fit the bill? You know, am I going to be able to be a credible, believable person for this casting, and for this audience?” And so that’s huge. Like I, I always find it funny because my, my students ask me this a lot. And I don’t, I don’t know if you get asked the same question. You know, I’m always telling them, “don’t, don’t feel obligated to do everything. Don’t feel like you have to answer every single audition.” And they, they look at me of course, and they go, “well, what don’t you answer?”

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: [sighs]

Anne: Oh my gosh, there, there’s quite a bit that I don’t answer.

Gabby: I stay away from anything that is too nurturing, too caring.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: Too much a mom, like literally, compassion. If I see the word “compassionate” –

Anne: Oh my goodness.

Gabby: In specs, I run away.

Anne: Gabby, Gabby, I’m so glad that you said that. I just had a conversation this morning, seriously, with one of my students. And I’m talking about, and I think that anybody that’s a listener here — I’m just going to get a little bit personal again — knows that I’m a cancer survivor. Some people may think that that makes me compassionate and that I can speak that language.

Gabby: [laughs]

Anne: So my story is this, and it, and it’s very interesting because my student that I was talking to about this was also a cancer survivor. And we were like, “oh my gosh, yes. This is exactly it.” So as we are progressing through our journey, right, in recovery, and we’re both thankfully, we’re all, we’re both good, when you’re talking about finding compassion, it depends on what level and at what point you’re talking compassion to, you know, the client. So let’s say the client is a hospital, and they want to make you feel good about their services, and that they have the latest in technology that can help you to battle your disease. And, and so if you were to talk to me, and try to get me to do that at any point during my journey, I would be like, “look, just, you know” — ’cause I had to like take a stand and be like, “come on, all right, we are going to forge forward. And we are going to like” — there is no compassion here. Grow up, and let’s just get the job done, and let’s do it.

Gabby: Cut the crap, and let’s kick this thing in the ass. Yeah.

Anne: Exactly. And so that’s not the compassionate voice that you need —

Gabby: mm-hmm.

Anne: When you are first encountering a diagnosis like that. And so, it’s so funny –

Gabby: Isn’t it funny?

Anne: Because I had another student who did a spot, a cancer spot, and was amazing.

The compassion in her voice was just incredible. But yet, if you ask me to do that, I probably could not get there. Because I personally don’t feel that way. [laughs]

Gabby: But I believe that right there, does — it doesn’t matter how great an actor we are or aren’t.

Anne: Right.

Gabby: That is something you can’t fake, the emotional value is very hard.

Anne: So true.

Gabby: I see those, and I’m like “nope, next, pass. Give it to somebody else.” But on the other side of the coin, if it’s motivating –

Anne: Me too.

Gabby: Kind of rile somebody up.

Anne: Get the job done.

Gabby: I’m all in. That stuff totally resonates with me.

Anne: Yep. Wow.

Gabby: Kind of fun little quirks there, but interestingly, I also feel like language is such a huge part of this. So I had many years in radio, many years in advertising and quite a few years doing copywriting. And something that I find really interesting is colloquial use, right?

Anne: mm.

Gabby: So contractions or slangs, or you know language inside of a script. Language is so telling about the type –

Anne: Oh absolutely.

Gabby: Of audience that a buyer is trying to connect with.

Anne: mm-hmm.

Gabby: I don’t know, I feel like maybe more often than not, sometimes voice actors don’t take those cues very well, or they try to make a script more proper than it is, or that it is supposed to be.

Anne: mm-hmm.

Gabby: Do you know what I mean? Like, I’m not sure what that is, and I always find it interesting.

Anne: I’m always trying to tell my students to really kind of go beyond just reading the script. There’s so much that goes into the writing of that script. I mean, somebody was paid, number one, to write that script. Every word on that page has a meaning, has a reason for being there. And the closer you can get into the head of the copywriter, or the client that is requesting that type of copy for the sale, the better you’re going to be at aligning yourself with that gig and getting the gig. So important.

Gabby: The craziest thing umm in all of that is, is when voice actors don’t identify, or they don’t think about these things, and then they fall short, and they wonder why. Um and I always say it’s part psychology, part demographics of advertising. You, you’ve got to really look deeply into both of those to determine if your message is going to align with their message, and yeah. The outcomes can be very different depending.

Anne: And, and now here’s, here’s what is interesting. And I don’t know, Gabby, if I’m going to go down the wormhole here, but with advertisers are looking to specify or target a specific market, you cannot help but, but know that the word stereotype might come into that language. And nobody will say that, but there might be stereotyping of moms, busy moms, right?

Gabby: mmm.

Anne: And how are you as a marketer and just, I know this from, you know, a lot of my friends who are in marketing, it’s really hard to define that demographic without hitting some sort of a, a — we have to lump people together in this group of busy moms or, you know, dads that go, that are working overtime, you know, multiple times.

Gabby: oh.

Anne: You run into that. When does it become a stereotype, and when does it become, you know, demographics of marketing and advertising?

Gabby: But that’s it. From an advertiser’s standpoint, all of those things are blurred together.

Anne: Right?

Gabby: There is — everything is a stereotype. You know, I always, I always kind of laugh, and I go, OK, so you know, I’m Italian. And –

Anne: You talk with your hands.

Gabby: Well yeah, obviously.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: And I mean, depending on who you meet though, so growing up in New York, I met hundreds of people that would also claim Italian descent and identity. OK, fine. The difference was I actually grew up in a household where people spoke the language and literally were from there. My mother was an immigrant versus someone whose family had already been here three, four generations. We’d always see commercials or ads or ideas or concepts come through with this very like, you know, [in accent] pizza-slinging kinda person, [normal voice] with this exaggerated, ridiculous, caricature/stereotypical Italian male or female. And you just, you just kind of shrug and go with it. It’s, the reality is, while we can look at it and go, “yeah, all right, there’s very little truth in that,” you have to look at the broad spectrum of the country. New Yorkers are gonna look at that with a side I am kind of go, “yeah, that’s not really accurate,” but how’s someone in Minnesota going to respond or react? When you look at other parts of the country, because they have less exposure to what’s authentic, they go, “yeah, OK. In my head, that’s how I see that.”

Anne: And they believe that. mm-hmm.

Gabby: mm-hmm.

Anne: Exactly, and it’s, it’s such a good point that you make though that we need to, we need to think about those things.

Gabby: Right, wrong, or indifferent, they are the basis for some many performances, whether it be acting, standup comedy, voiceover.

Anne: Character, animation.

Gabby: I mean, yeah. “Saturday Night Live.” Like, it’s, it’s real. So we tap into that, and advertisers are no exception. They’re always looking to connect.

Anne: So Gabby, where does the responsibility lie in terms of, like, is it a stereotype?

Is it a, is it typecast — what is that? Where is the responsibility in terms of, what do we do as voice actors, in terms of if, if they ask us for that, you know, sound, I mean, should we voice that, or should we audition for that? There’s the question. [laughs]

Gabby: So I feel like the first, the first piece to that again comes down to the authenticity of the character. OK? In other words, if you can do it, and you can do it realistically, and you can do it successfully, yes. Audition for it. If you, you have no objection to the job, addition for it. However if you’re not really trained in that dialect, accent, whatever it is, if you haven’t studied it very much, throwing something against the wall to see if it sticks while you’re on mic is not the best idea.

Anne: I agree.

Gabby: I will give you a great for instance. I have lived in the South now for over 15 years. I can’t do a convincing southern accent.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: I’ve tried. The result is heinous.

Anne: Yeah, I get that.

Gabby: Now, I can do a very uhh awful, over-the-top, like if it was for a cartoon kind of thing.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: I can do that. If it was an animated type of thing, and it was supposed to be blown way out of proportion, I can totally do that. But when people come and they go, “no, you know, we want somebody that’s very much Carolina low country. We wanted to be a subtlety,” I can’t do that. I’m like, “I’m out. I got nothing for that.”

Anne: Gabby, I mean, with a last name of Ganguzza, I — right?

Gabby: [laughs]

Anne: I married an Italian.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: So people assume that, you know, I could probably do that Italian thing. And you know what? I –

Gabby: How funny.

Anne: I wouldn’t even go near that because I just can’t. But yet I was asked to do a British accent, and if I want to imitate or create a character that has a British accent, I might be able to convince uh a certain region that maybe that’s where I come from. Now, what, you know, there’s the question. If the casting doesn’t specify, right, “must be a native,” what do you do? Do you audition, do you still believe that you audition? Do you think it’s up to the best person for the part or the best —

Gabby: Yeah. Spanish market is a great example for this. So there are literally dozens of Spanish dialects within the Spanish language. Right?

Anne: Oh goodness, yes.

Gabby: Every culture, every country that speaks the language, and then within those countries, different dialects. When we were doing uh casting projects, and a client would come in and say, “we need a Spanish voice actor,” we would laugh.

Anne: Yes, exactly.

Gabby: That was our first reaction. It was laughter, and we would go, “umm, could you be a little bit more specific?” And then this would give us really great insights into the client, because one of two things happened.

Anne: Sure.

Gabby: Either the client would just go, “oh, it doesn’t matter. Just whatever.”

Anne: mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Gabby: And we’re like, “OK, so you’re not looking for an authentic speaker. You’re just looking for someone who speaks Spanish well.” And they would go “yes.”

Anne: But doesn’t that say though that the client may or may not have done their homework in terms of their demographic? Or maybe –

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: It’s a more general demographic that they’re selling to.

Gabby: I don’t know, maybe, maybe not.

Anne: Who is to say? Then as a voice actor, should you care? That’s a question, right?

Gabby: No, I don’t. I don’t care as an actor, and I’ve never, I never cared in casting either. Because at that point, I’m like, “OK. If you’ve got the chops, and you speak the language, we’re gonna go for this, and we’re gonna give it a shot.” There were many clients who we wouldn’t even have to ask. They would go, “we are looking for a very specific thing. We are looking for this, from this region, this country,” and I’ve seen those kind of castings domestically. Somebody who says, “we need umm someone from Minnesota with an authentic accent, authentic regionalisms,” same for Connecticut, New Jersey, Texas —

Anne: A native. Or they are asking for –

Gabby: Yeah. Exactly. They just want to know that the person and the speaker are going to be the best representation of –

Anne: Well, exactly.

Gabby: That marketplace and those peoples.

Anne: I think we’re seeing that more and more now. You know, I am seeing a lot more casting where it is asking for native, because it is going to sound more authentic.

Gabby: But then just keep in mind, because I do think this process is fascinating. This is where the character acting piece comes into play.

Anne: mm.

Gabby: You know, we spoke to Eliza Jane a couple of weeks back. Eliza’s prime objective is to help actors break down and replicate –

Anne: Yes, dialects.

Gabby: Accents and dialects so that they can incorporate them and use them in their performances.

Anne: Well, exactly. If you were to ask me, I really do believe that, you know, based upon the data that we have, right, when we are auditioning, if we feel that we can fit that bill authentically, I say, go for it. It’s an opportunity.

Gabby: I mean, I even have to go through this with a lot of different castings where it might be a character that I can reasonably pull off. Um ironically Italian being one of the top for me, but if they say, “we, no, we need authenticity,” I’m out. I was born here. We see it in all areas though when it comes to casting. Dialects, cultures.

Anne: And it is a cycle. And it is a cycle that we need to be aware of as voice actors. And we need to, to understand and go beyond just the words on the page and what the cast — the five or six words that casting specs say, and try to understand, I think, you know, um broader beyond what the words are on the page. Who is the, who is the market, who are they selling to, why are those words even on the page, and who am I supposed to be?

Gabby: And we also have something of an obligation too when it comes to that authenticity piece, say, am I going to be again, am I going to be a good, positive, solid representation, or am I going to sound like something that’s making fun of people, and am I going to be offensive in how much I’m butchering this?

Anne: Right.

Gabby: That’s a really critical point, and if that’s the case, you got to kind of bow out. A great indicator though, I think, is not only your coaches but your agents.

Anne: Yeah. Yeah.

Gabby: They, they will encourage you or discourage you from particular roles based on the skill that they see in your character acting. I’ll, I’ll end it on this note. One of my improv coaches, or my main improv coach, he was asked a question one day in, in a class setting. Uh, a student said, “well, wouldn’t someone take offense to that?” He, he was, so what he was doing was a very stereotypical Asian accent.

Anne: mm-hmm.

Gabby: And it was, umm, it was comical, learly meant to be comedic. The student said, “well, you know, what if somebody takes, takes offense to that? I don’t, I don’t want to offend anybody. I don’t want to upset anyone.” And Paul looked him straight in the face and said, “here’s the thing. My heart is always in the right place when I do these.”

Anne: Yes, absolutely.

Gabby: “I have a clean conscience, and my heart is in the right place.”

Anne: Yes.

Gabby: And if someone else becomes offended, he’s like, “that problem lies with them, not me.”

Anne: Right, yeah. Oh, I’m so glad you said that.

Gabby: I was like, wow. Alright, yeah.

Anne: That really, I think that’s a great way to wrap up this episode. But you said it so much more eloquently than I did. The integrity. Like, I think if you’re authentic in what you’re saying and what you’re doing and how you’re performing, I think that’s the key to it, and, and, and you know, that is what I try to teach in any type of voiceover, no matter what, you know, if you are, if you are voicing anything. It should really be authentic and coming from the heart and with an intention that is, you know, a, a, a good intention. Wow, we could talk about this for days.

Gabby: I know.

Anne: [laughs] For now, I’m going to say thank you to our amazing sponsor ipDTL. You too can record like a BOSS and find out more at

Gabby: And you can check us out literally everywhere. Every social media you can think of, we’re on, plus Stitcher, iTunes, Google Play. BOSS is just multiplying. Like you can’t get rid of us, guys. I’m sorry. We’re here. So find us on the web, uh and for all things BOSS, of course the fastest, the easiest route is just to go to

Anne: Thanks, guys. Have a kick-butt week, and we’ll see you next week.

Gabby: Bye!

Anne: Bye!

VO: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.