The Audition Really IS the Job

Nov 17, 2020

From the time I started working in commercial voiceover in 1986, I booked about one in every ten broadcast tv and radio commercial auditions.

Frankly, just about every female voice actor I knew in the Los Angeles market did, too.  And the ratio for my male vo colleagues was even better. There was a small circle of us who worked regularly, and those of us who thought about such things knew every one of us in the lobby of any given casting house was perfectly capable of doing whatever job we were there to audition for. It was just a matter of time before it was my turn or theirs. 

But there were some in the lobby who were anxious and jittery and unnerved. They made everyone in the lobby uncomfortable. They looked around with suspicion, as if they could tell what a voice actor sounded like by looking them up one side and down the other. I can only imagine how fraught their auditions were. They were the ones you just knew pestered their agents as soon as they walked out the door. Had they heard anything yet? When would they know? What do you think the chances are? They’d ask other actors at the next audition if they’d heard about the last one and would complain that they just can’t stand not knowing. Generally, these birds were rare and didn’t last too long in the nest. I can’t help but think they eventually did their careers in with this kind of consternation because, frankly, it’s bad practice to “vibe” that way and does nothing to ingratiate oneself to one’s peers let alone one’s agents. There’s not a voice actor I know who's drawn to another who is suspicious of them, and there's not a single agent who wants to be hounded with such questions. Even if they had the time, you do not want your agents telling you every time you DON'T book an audition.  What kind of self-confidence would you build hearing 99 “no’s” for every 100 auditions?  It’s long past time to cultivate a new attitude toward the copy in your inbox. The audition is KING. Not everyone gets to read it. But you do, and you're a lucky dog for it. So, read it well and move on. Life beckons.

I’m not sure how I cultivated this habit, but after sending one off, I rarely give an audition a second thought anymore. Oh I may get caught up in my desire to book a particular thing now and again, because I tell myself the lie that I need to book it. And then I worry about it, which of course adds nothing to the goodness of the day.  In fact, on those rare occasions, I’m pretty much guaranteed not to book it. There must be a voiceover law about that somewhere. I'll have to come up with one, if not. It is possible to work an audition into the ground rendering it inert. We've all done that, right? We try so hard so hard to get it perfect, the words and sentences themselves stop making sense. And then it plagues us. There’s nothing quite so awful as an overwrought audition begging on bended knee for consideration. It’s a particular kind of desperation you can smell even in a sound file. And those are the ones we linger on the most. Even so, to be successful and happy in voiceover, it must become the order of the day to rejoice in the audition itself, to treat it as our primary work, give it our best, and accept the fact that we will never get news about it unless we book it, or, at least, are put on avail.

I have always perceived every little bit of life in this business as a gift, and I count that perception a good portion of why I’ve managed a successful career for over 30 years. When I got my SAG card in 1986 I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. When I’d get a call to come in to the office to read a script, you’d think my agents had said, “come pick up your million dollars!” And whenever I was called into a casting house to audition, Good Lord, it was like winning the lottery. The audition IS the job, for better or worse, day in, day out, month after month, year after year.  

This then begs the question: What is a booking if the audition is the job? Well, the booking is payday, my friends, and payday is always a glorious occasion. Any hard-working 9-5er can tell you, though, you won’t get paid your full salary unless you show up for the job every single day.

While my booking ratio was 1 in 10 in 1986, in 2020 it’s probably less than one in 100. The reason is clear. There are now hundreds if not thousands of people in every nook and cranny of the globe competing for many of the same jobs. This may sound depressing, but with ever-growing and expanding new media there are also far more opportunities. Even though it means we are working harder, it does take a bit of the sting out of the odds.

If you want to feel like a million bucks about your voiceover career no matter where you are on the path, shift your mindset and start thinking more about finding and creating opportunities to audition, and then treat those auditions like the work it is. It’s kind of a numbers game in the end. What’s that saying? You miss 100% of the opportunities you don’t take. So, go get those opportunities. The greater the number of auditions, the more bookings you will reap. And in case it needs saying, it’s always wise to cultivate strong relationships with the clients you already possess, because if you’re booked for a job directly, all the better.

The only way to keep things moving and keep yourself booking is to seek out new opportunities wherever you can. The only way to maintain your sanity is to be grateful for every opportunity that comes your way. And the only way to really get better at your work is to remember: the audition is, and always will be, the job. 

 Trust and Be Brave,


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