With the ghost of mic tape still on their face, a sadness comes over an actor once a show has ended. So much preparation; auditioning, waiting for the cast list, painting the set, making the costumes, building the characters. Friendships are made. Choreography is perfected. There’s the nervousness of opening night. The rhythm of doing the show better each night. The applause. Finally, the closing performance. The set strike. The goodbyes. The empty theatre.
It’s been a while since I’ve acted on stage, but I observe that rollercoaster every time my youngest finishes a show. Suddenly there is free time. They’re looking for another musical to fill that void. I can relate to them because it’s an exaggeration of my daily life.
Voice acting is a different beast, however. Sometimes I audition with a casting director, but most days I audition alone. I’m alone to make character choices, to self-direct and to re-record until I’m happy with my mp3. Then I hit send and I’m onto the next audition. Rinse and repeat.
So, the nervousness of an in-person audition is deadened by the fact that I can erase it and do over as much as I want. Almost nothing is live in my audition process. BUT, I audition 12-20 jobs a day. So, how much time must I spend on each audition? I have to think like a stage actor in order to make a concise choice – read the script a few times and go with whatever voice I’ve committed to. I edit and send without overthinking it. Often times I’m way off the mark (as in I don’t hear any feedback.) Other times I know I’ve given them something they want to explore (I get a call back) and other times I nail it. (I book the gig.)
These are mini-rollercoasters. If I land the gig, the entire ride happens in one day. Often in one hour or less. I am directed, re-directed, played back, script-changed, and my personal favorite, “line-read.” This is basically when I’m told to read it like the person directing and then told to “forget that last direction” when they realize they don’t want me to read it exactly like they did.
There are several people on the line listening to my performance. Some stay quiet and others add their direction. The client wants me to hit this word harder. The engineer asks me to pause between bullet points to make editing easier. The casting director wants me to read lines 1-2 concerned, 3-10 friendly and professional and 11-12 as a rallying cry. Layers, people. It’s all about layers. I read the copy with their baklava of directions in mind. And usually at the end of the session they thank me and say that they got exactly what they wanted. This makes me happy. This is when the roller coaster is at its peak.
There are those days, or even weeks that I land nothing new. This is the bane of every entrepreneur’s existence. Where is my next gig coming from? When will I hear about that audition I did? Will I ever hear about this audition? Most of the time I will not hear from anyone unless they want to hear me read it slightly differently or if they are ready to hire me. I get an occasional, “You’re one of three people we’re putting in front of the client.” Actually, I get that a lot. But I don’t pay a ton of attention to it or I will get my hopes up and then not hear anything from them. While it feels good to know I’m on the “short list” in terms of casting directors liking my script interpretation, it does little for my booking ratio or my bank account.
I always tell my kids – who are also voice actors – “Submit it and forget it.” We can’t sit and wonder if we’re going to land every gig we’ve auditioned for. That would take way too much mental energy and it would make us feel pretty bad about the jobs we don’t get. If I’m realistic about it, I don’t get 99% of the jobs I try for. Yes, I said 99%. Feels strange to even type those words. I can’t worry about that. I embrace the ones that I do get. I try not to ride the highs too high or the lows too low. I do the best I can in the booth and hope that those clients will be so happy with the recording that they’ll think of me for the next job.