Last fall, I got a voiceover audition from one of my agents that started out pretty routine. It was for a pre-roll commercial for a chain of movie theaters. The specs were for a young, friendly, enthusiastic female voice between 22–32 years old that was excited but not overly animated. Sure, I’m a couple of years outside that age range, but no one was going to check my driver's license. So far, so good. Then, I read down to the copy.
There wasn’t any. It simply said, “We don’t have a script. We would like you to provide a demo as close to the specs as possible.” I remember staring down at the space where the copy usually resides thinking, “What the heck am I gonna say?” I read the directions once more as if I were reading a recipe and then broke down the words to try and desperately deduce what I was being asked for in order to come up with a plan of action:
Step 1: Provide a demo as close to the specs as possible.
Step 2: Read the specs again.
Step 3: Grab some scrap paper and scribble down what comes to mind.
Step 4: Read the “copy” with my own unique flair.
Here’s what I came up with on the fly that October afternoon: “Y’know, it’s always hard trying to read someone’s mind. A few descriptive words, some general guidelines, and ‘Here ya go...good luck.’ Well, I for one love a challenge. And I bet you do too! So here ya go...good luck!”
It was sassy, off-the-cuff, and totally me. Yet, it was still completely in line with the specs, which was the main component of the copy requirements. Looking back, it was probably a good thing that I had an inbox full of auditions to do and little time to do them in. It caused me to move quickly and make the best decisions I could in the least amount of time possible. If I had overanalyzed this situation, I very well may have become completely paralyzed with doubt that what I had to offer was what they were looking for. But I remembered thinking that this client really didn’t know what they wanted. They just wanted options based on my interpretation of the directions and when they heard it, they would just know.
Guess what? The next day I got a call from my agent. It was down to me and one other girl. I would love to tell you that I booked the gig, but unfortunately I was the first runner up (for which there is no prize) and a good friend in New York booked the job instead. Still, I was proud of myself for thinking on my feet and getting so close to booking based on my own intuitions.
So what did I learn through the whole experience that can help you in a similar situation?
1. Be prepared.
This motto isn’t just for Scouts. It can make or break every voice actor. The success of our job is often based on our ability to adapt quickly. Cold reads are normal. Changes in direction are standard practice. Versatility is everything and thinking on our feet is paramount. Overanalyzing the directions can kill your creativity, so sit down and just let the ideas flow.
2. Be confident.
How many times have you seen the word “confident” in specs? It’s there pretty regularly because confidence is a gorgeous trait that everyone wants. Remember that you’re being chosen to audition for this opportunity. You’re good at what you do and don’t forget it. Use that self-assured attitude when you write your own script and then record it. Let go of your inhibitions and let your instincts take over.
3. Be yourself.
Yes, it does sound like every Disney movie that ever was, but you doing you is exactly what can make you stand out from the rest. Use your personality, your perspective, and your experience to create your own uniquely flavored script that no one else is going to think of. When I thought about what to write that day, I just imagined what I would feel toward a client who asked me to come up with my own copy and “so you want me to be a mind reader?” was what popped into my head. But I do have a little tact, so I rephrased it a bit, summarized the directions in my own way, and kept the pizzazz. When I read it, I didn’t go overboard on the snark.
Now you’ll be totally prepared the next time you’re asked to suddenly become a copywriter on the fly, right? Or at the very least, you’ll know to take a deep breath and produce something that hasn’t been plagiarized from that folder of old scripts in your files. Good luck!
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