There are similarities between casting a voiceover project and a live-action project, but there are some key differences to be aware of as well. A live-action project factors in how someone looks and their presence on camera; in voiceover, your main task is finding and hiring a voice actor that fits your assignment. Are you trying to find the perfect voice for your brand or do you need someone to fill a voice role in a commercial skit or on TV? The right voice can help you sell your product or make a viewer feel like they know your product or service, it can transform an adult actor into a character that’s a child, and ultimately, the right voice is something that fits so naturally with your project that viewers and listeners won’t think twice about what they’re hearing.
But when it comes to your own project, you’re the one that has to find voiceover actors that fit. How do you do that? You have to know your project and what it needs before you can find the right fit for it, and you have to know where to look because you’re not limited by location, age, or gender. With the help of Backstage, learn how to go through the voiceover casting process, note what decisions you need to make, and how you can use Backstage to hire the perfect voice actor.
Before you start looking for voice talent
Decide what kind of voiceover casting you are trying to do.
Voiceover has one meaning, but several methods, so what kind of voiceover are you casting? That will help you determine what type of talent you’re looking for. Different types of voiceover include:
- Film and television animation
- Documentary film and television
- Commercials and promotions
- Video games
- Event announcing
- Multimedia like virtual reality and work in the tech space.
Animation, fiction podcasts, and video games will likely require voice actors while documentaries, promotions and commercials might require voice talent that does not need to be skilled in acting.
What do you need from your voice talent?
What is your budget like? Does your project require three different voices but you only have enough money to pay one person? You might have to seek out people with several voices in their skillset and make that clear when you’re casting so talent knows to showcase what they can do. Do you need someone who can improv or do comedy? Look for that experience and check out their past work to see if their sensibility matches what you’re looking for.
You might want to ask for multiple takes so talent can both showcase the variety in their skills and you can make an accurate decision in terms of tone when sifting through submissions. “I think a lot of times, as actors, your instinct is to get to the correct take. You’re trying to home in on the right way to say a line, and that’ll lead you to give variations on the same line read,” “BoJack Horseman” creator Raphael-Bob Waksberg told Backstage. “The truth is, I’m not looking for the correct thing in the moment. I’m looking for multiple options. I want multiple correct things.” This is true when acting, but also when recording a line for a commercial or something more straightforward.
According to voiceover CD Mary Hidalgo, you can sometimes expect to cast the unexpected. “Sometimes, when I audition actors, they just give me what’s on the page and they don’t dig any deeper. I do like a deeper dig. Read between the lines or do something that just kind of pops away from all the other performances,” she says. “It’s nice to hear something that feels like an oddball take on the character or an interesting voice or emotion. Just reading what’s on the page most of the time doesn’t work for me.”
Additionally, video game CD Julia Bianco Schoeffling says in the genre, seeking versatility is key. “For a voiceover-only game, typically a client comes to us with a list of characters and descriptions, and then we take the ages, the accents, and all of the needs of the roles and organize,” she says. “There can be 70 or 100 characters that we’re dealing with. We’re always looking for versatility, because a lot of times you’re going to need to do more than one role, especially on voiceover-only projects.”
Know the terminology.
Familiarize yourself with the most important voiceover terms you should know.
Know what to expect.
Although voiceover projects, especially ones that require acting talent, will seek out performers with experience and skill, don’t expect voiceover résumés to look the same as regular acting résumés. Voice actors aren’t pursuing advanced degrees and there isn’t a traditional path to voiceover work. If someone doesn’t have an impressive school on their résumé, don’t pass on them, look for someone’s experience and take their demo reel or audition submission more heavily into account. A voice actor is more likely to be working with a coach or taking classes outside of a university program.
When you're ready to hire a voice actor
1. Write the breakdown.
Like with any audition process, talent needs to know what the assignment is. Without a breakdown, you won’t have sufficient information to send out and people won’t be compelled to apply and record because they don’t know enough about your project. Write a good breakdown, but you have to include more specifics than you might for a live action project.
2. Make clear instructions for applicants.
Provide talent with very clear instructions about what you need from them and how you want auditions to sound. Consider some of these questions:
- Do you want them to slate? With voiceover, slates are more important than with live action auditions where CDs can see the talent. If someone is augmenting their voice for their audition, it could be lost without a slate.
- If you want a slate, do you want it at the beginning or end of the recording? Actors need to know how to slate, but it’s up to you where you want it on their submission—at the beginning or end. Make sure to let them know.
- Do you want them to do or are you open to multiple takes? Sometimes talent has a few interpretations of how to read the sides.
- Do you want them to provide a demo reel? If so, make sure to be clear about what you want on it and how you want it edited together.
- Figure out a way for them to save and name audio files that works for your system, and tell them to follow it—otherwise, you might not hear their audition. You don’t want to hear a great audition only to realize you can’t figure out who sent it or you can’t locate it again.
Casting directors have “director” in their title for a reason. You’re doing more than just sourcing the voice talent, you’re directing them in an audition or in advance of them recording to get the best possible read for the decision-makers on your project.
If you’re casting a commercial, make sure to be clear that you’re not seeking demo reels that include candidates’ comedic skills and funny voices. You shouldn’t have to waste your time weeding through inappropriate materials to find who you’re looking for.
Know what tone you’re looking for and make it clear to the talent. If you are casting a commercial for a big national brand and you can’t share the specifics, at least tell candidates what genre the product or service belongs to. Kids’ toys, a fancy restaurant, and a skincare product all have different tones. Lead them in the right direction.
Be mindful of your sides. In order to get the best read from talent, the words they’re provided should be clean and crisp. Choose material from the project that is very representative of what will be recorded in the actual session; you don’t want to be blindsided (and neither does the actor) when your selected talent doesn’t sound the way you want.
3. Remember: location doesn’t matter in voiceover
The best thing about hiring voice actors is that your talent doesn’t need to be located nearby! If you need to record in a specific studio, maybe, but you can typically expand your search internationally to find the best fit for your project. Plus, the lack of time constraints of being on set makes it so talent that is already on a project can multitask for your voiceover project. This makes your pool of available talent bigger! “When I work at Cartoon Network, I do a mass search in every English–speaking country I can find, and I send it to every agent and every manager so anyone can have an opportunity to self-record. I listen to all of it. What’s great about animation is you can virtually record anyone anywhere. You can be anything, you can even cross-gender it. You’re not constrained to what someone looks like,” says Lamontagne.
You might be on a time crunch, which is when agents and Backstage come in handy to efficiently carry out the casting process, but if you’re going to be casting voice actors in the future keep an eye—and ear—out for voices that catch your attention, or look in places you might not have thought of, like on LinkedIn. That’s what the pros do. Linda Lamontagne, she says, “I’ve found people just searching the internet with keywords. If they’re on a chat show or a vlog, anything where they’re telling stories and they kind of go into voices.”
Sara Jane Sherman also wants to find talent by any means. “I watch a lot of television and movies. I try to know what’s happening in pop culture, even little YouTube clips or things that become popular on social media. Comedy clubs, sketch, improv, and standup are all great. Sometimes I’ll even Google search if I’m looking for a certain sound or a parody of a certain person. Maybe someone thought they did a really funny impression and put it up online.”
4. Make talent aware of the technical requirements of the project.
Does talent need to have their own recording studio or will you be providing a space? If they need to have their own equipment, does it need to be professional or will a simple mic or even their smartphone be able to capture audio correctly? Be on top of the technical aspects your project requires so that, especially if you need recording to be done remotely, you will be getting work that is the quality you’re looking for.
Linda Lamonagne notes that especially for auditioning, professional gear shouldn’t be required, as long as you tell talent how to record clearly. “Now you can record on your phone, and it’s so easy. You don’t need special technology. Some of the phones have the best sounding internal mics,” she says. “I always tell people it’s the room you’re standing in. I advise people to go into a clothes closet or place a blanket over the door and record facing the blanketed door, or, if you have an airtight car, that’s your best booth. I also want to tell everybody to read all the information you’re given. I tend to write everything out on an information sheet, [and] I’m very specific.”
Should they have editing software? If you’re expecting an audition to be recorded according to specifications you’re laying out (multiple takes, specific instructions in addition to the slate and reading, specific setup for a demo reel), your talent should know that they need audio editing software (that they know how to use).
5. If you’re auditioning in person, listen, but don’t look.
Every CD has their own methods, but since you won’t be seeing this talent in your project, it’s best if they’re visible during the audition for you to look elsewhere so you aren’t won over by visual elements that might be contributing to their performance.
Lamontagne notes the restrictions that come with live action roles don’t apply to voiceover, even in the audition process. “I’m solely focused on listening to them. If they’re in the room, I have them cordoned off in a booth where I don’t see their face, I just hear their voice and can direct them,” she says.
Hire Voice Actors on Backstage!
- Go to the application manager for your projects and filter down into the roles you wish to receive recordings from.
- Write a detailed message about exactly what you need recorded. You can include our guide to becoming a voice actor if you want!
- Make sure to include a deadline, instructions and production details to ensure the talent has the right skillset.
- Upload the sides and send!
- You can start finding talent on Backstage right now!
- Don’t forget, creators can search the talent and voiceover database to invite actors that did not have submitted on the project.
- See how other companies are casting remotely on Backstage right now!