What does a friendly and optimistic talking frog sound like? How about a troublesome yellow 10-year-old? Just about anyone aware of pop culture could give you their best Kermit the Frog or Bart Simpson impression or perhaps enact Yoda having a conversation with Bugs Bunny. What these memorable characters all have in common is a distinctive voice that is inextricably linked to the image audiences carry in their minds. So, how does one go about achieving such a perfect pairing of personality and voice?
A voice-casting director is a specialist within the league of casting directors working in the entertainment industry. His or her key function is to audition voice-over actors to portray characters for animated films and televisions shows, video games, radio commercials, or any production that requires off-camera dialogue. After narrowing down the field of potential actors, the voice-casting director makes recommendations to the director for final approval.
The voice-casting director’s process begins when he or she is hired by the producer, usually early in the production. This person will meet with the producer, director, and other senior creative team to review the script and discuss the vision of the project. The voice-casting director is particularly interested in learning how the director imagines each character’s personality based on the background information found in the script. In some cases, the voice-casting director may be required to perform research to further understand the characters, investigating specific accents or seeking out reference material to illustrate certain voice types.
After having fleshed out the characters with the director, the voice-casting director then starts to scout for talent to invite for auditions. There are a number of resources available for seeking talent, such as contacting talent agencies, searching through online voice actor databases, and just pounding the pavement at local theaters and comedy clubs. Casting offices also maintain an extensive database of actors that have auditioned in the past. Usually, the director and voice-casting director will have at least a few performers in mind, based on their prior working relationship.
Before holding in-person auditions, the voice-casting director and staff will review solicited demo reels. Voice-over actors prepare audio recordings of past work and original material to serve as a representation of the performer’s range and talent. After narrowing the field to a select number of candidates, the voice-casting director will lead live auditions. At these in-person sessions, actors are asked to deliver a prepared monologue or read from the script in the character. The voice-casting director will usually ask the actor to read several times, giving notes to help the performer hone in on the particular type of voice the character needs. He or she coaches the actor by giving direction as to the emotion and personality of the character in the scene. If necessary, actors that make it on the short list are invited to callback auditions to perform for the director before a final casting decision is made. It is the casting-director’s responsibility to narrow down the field of candidates and offer a list of actors for each role to the director.
Skills & Education
A talent for listening is a voice-casting director’s most valuable commodity. He or she must carefully listen to the director’s ideas about a character, hear the characters coming to life in the script, and then find that particular voice in an actor’s audition. Imagination, creativity, and the ability to interpret abstract concepts are the marks of a great voice-casting director. Beyond that, this career demands an individual with considerable experience in the entertainment industry, with strong connections with producers, directors, and talent agents. To develop those contacts requires several years working in television, film, or radio.
A specific college degree is not required, though many voice-casting directors hold at least a bachelor’s degree, with an education in film and television production, broadcasting, entertainment business, or other media field. Knowledge of audio post-production process and sound engineering is also highly beneficial. It is very helpful to study performance, characterization, literature, and directing. Learning to dissect dialogue and descriptive language to identify the psychology of a character is an important component to casting.
What to Expect
The process of voice casting is highly instinctive, and as such, it is not a career that all will succeed in. Over time, voice-casting directors develop a certain knack for appropriately matching voices to characters based on a wide range of experience in the industry. Those that wish to pursue such a career can seek out entry-level career opportunities within casting agencies under the mentorship of a veteran professional. There are certain tricks to the trade that can only be learned through hands-on experience. Studying voice-over material like cartoons and video games can serve to enrich your knowledge base in preparation for a career in voice casting. On the job, you should anticipate a fast paced environment that is highly deadline oriented. In entertainment production, time is money. Voice casting is a creative process but one that must be carried out efficiently to keep the rest of the project on schedule. In this highly competitive field, an individual may take several years to reach a senior-level position.
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