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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Voiceacting - Casting calls vs direct approach

Voiceacting is a challenging hobby, especially as each director brings his unique flair to his project. As I’ve branched out more into the general machinima/animation community, I thought I’d share a bit about my experiences in accepting/declining/casting roles.

I’ve gotten spoiled by working with the same core group of people over the past three years, and as a group we have developed fairly specific methods of approaching voiceactors and being aware of the expectations of both directors and VA’s.

Our casting decisions are usually made using one of these method: open casting calls or approaching specific voice actors – or a combination of the two.

Casting Calls

Open casting calls can be a lot of fun and draw attention to talent that the director wasn’t aware of. A typical casting call reads like this:

Casting call for Project Z
Role: Sam
Gender: Male
Age: 20-40
Preferred accent: Mid-western US
Number of lines: 10-20
Character description: A rather grouchy man who only gets cheerful when other people are miserable
Sample line: “These pretzels are making me thirsty”
Send lines to:

Role: Betty
Gender: Female
Age: 20-30
Preferred accent: Southern drawl
Number of lines: 30-40
Character description: She masquerades as a southern belle but stirs up trouble behind the scenes
Sample line: “Why, I do declare!”
Send lines to:

When I enter a casting call, I still follow the criteria I have outlined below in making a final decision about a role.

Direct Approach

When a director approaches a VA via email, forum PM, etc. about a role, that means he/she has a specific role in mind for the VA to play.

The first round of information I find helpful to gather up before making a decision includes, in no particular order:

#1 I want to make sure the directors knows that just because I agree to consider a character or read a script doesn’t mean I’ve accepted the role.
#2 I almost always want to read the entire script before I’ll commit to a project. If the script isn’t available at this point, a general synopsis will suffice.
#3 I am looking for interesting characters to play. Who is the character I am being asked to play? What is her relation to the other characters in the movie? I love it when I receive a character background to consider along with the script. I’ve even on occasion received a jpeg of the character as well.
#4 I want to be directed. I hope to see on the script at least some general guidelines regarding the lines. I’ve seen notes from “soft, urgent whisper” to “In this line Rosie is worried about waking up the rest of the house, but she is on the phone with Ray and really needs him to know that she is about to sneak out”, which would bring out a delivery far different from “In this line Rosie is hiding in the closet worried that her attacker will find her, but she is on the phone with Ray and wants to make sure he knows she is in danger”.

My usual list of questions when I’m making a final decision about a role:

#1 How quickly do you want the lines back? It can take me days to weeks to finish up voiceovers and I prefer upfront communication about this at the beginning. If the movie needs to be finished within a few days, I am not the best choice.
#2 What format should the lines be sent in (i.e., .ogg, .wav, .mp3, etc.)?
#3 Where should I send the lines?
#4 Is there a possibility the movie will be used for commercial purposes?
#5 I want the opportunity to watch some other work by the director so I can get a feel for his/her style.

The toughest part of considering roles can be saying no. Sometimes a director can be very persistent, almost to the point of pushiness. I do have a standard neutral response I use when declining roles, but depending on the director, I might provide more of my rationale.

The most rewarding part of voiceacting is working with some simply amazing directors. I have enjoyed that unique privilege over the years and look forward to many more such experiences.


Ricky Grove said...

Excellent post on voice acting basics. These are common sense ideas that everyone can understand and apply to their own work.

The only things I'd add, based on my own experience, is that you might need to do some re-takes for voice work, so be sure you mention that when you solicit a particular actor.

Another thing to keep in mind is the recording set up the actor has at his home. Some actors use their game headset/mic for recording lines and this might work on some productions, but for the most part more elaborate work requires a better mic set up. You might ask for samples of the actor's recording and what equipment they are using.

I've also been able to work live in rehearsal with directors via Skype. While the sound quality is poor, the live interaction can be very helpful if you are having a hard time getting a particular part.

Lastly, it's important to remain considerate on both sides of the mic. Sometimes actors/directors can be very busy, but you always have to treat others like you yourself would like to be treated. If a problem arises with voice acting, it's best to work it out reasonably instead of yelling or laying blame.

Sorry to run on like this. Thanks for posting this excellent info.


PS like the iClone widget! Recorded on the Blue Ball mic?

Dulci said...

Very good points. It's an interesting experience to rehearse with the other actors in Skype.

And yep - that widget is with my new Snowball mic! :) That was a great recommendation.

Ricky Grove said...

Thought I recognized it. Sounds great, Dulci. Glad the mic worked out for you.

Mellor Media Productions said...

Nice outline and insight there Dulci. It would make an interesting read for some of the staff I work with as well as the students.

I've been in that position (steady, not that one) where I've received 'scripts'/lines with just the name of the character & project to go on. This does give 'creative license' for the role but if it's not what the director's after you've put time, effort (& emotion) into sometime that's not going to happen - your points would be a great read for directors to take note of and actors to enquire more before acceptance.

Regarding the converse between you & Ricky Grove - mics & recording method - skype is a great idea which will be incorporated by 'mellormedia/spotlight clan' plus I'd like to add that at times we have voice actors in the studio 'acting out' the part with either a 'tie -clip mic' going to the sound desk or on film (then the audio is extracted as a .wav).

Good luck with what you do, best of seasonal greetings, Darren (mellormedia)

Dulci said...

There's a much more indepth outline that I often refer new directors/producers to:

Ben said...

Thanks for your insights. I am looking for advice on how (where) to post a casting call for a couple small voice acting roles in an upcoming video game. The information here is good, as far as the actual casting call, but where would I post it, or advertise it? Your link below did not work...

The game is still in concept development, the voice acting would be minimal with needs of two or three voices with no more than perhaps five minutes of voice needed for the first product.

Any ideas where to post such a call (with the details you mentioned above included, of course)?

any info would be great. Please e-mail me at:

benjamin395 at comcast dot net


Ricky Grove said...


Look around in your area and try to figure out where actors are most likely to congregate. Local community college art/drama building, local SAG/Equity (actors unions) office, local community theatre, perhaps an acting school(s) might have a bulletin board you can post at. Also, local cafe where artists might hang out.

Create a post-card sized casting call with essential info and perhaps some design/imagery.

Lastly, find out if there are any local forums/networks in your area that people/actors read then post the item there.

I'd also consider non-actors that sound good and are friends. Oftentimes, with some rehearsal, you can get excellent results from just everyday people, especially if you do some improvising as well as the written dialog.

Good luck!

Dulci said...

For video game casting, I'd recommend this site:

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