How to Master Self-Direction as a Voice Actor

Photo Source: Photo by Pablo García Saldaña on Unsplash

It may come as something of a surprise to you, but regardless of whether you’re auditioning for on-camera or voiceover, you’re not likely to get much direction—at all.

What gives? Don’t they know what they want?!

Of course they do, but as confusing as it may seem, casting directors, producers, and potential clients typically want to see what you do with what they’ve given you. (i.e. “Conversational. Real. Natural.”) Not what you think they want from you. You’re the ultimate variable in the production equation; no one does what you do quite the way you do it.

They want you to surprise them with something extraordinary. They want you to think outside the box, use what they’ve given you as a jumping off point, and become a valuable member of the creative process. So, rather than waiting for them to mold and shape you into one person’s vision of a single, solitary take that barely fills the bill, you need to be prepared to surprise even yourself.

Believe it or not, that takes practice.

As talent, we must take risks, and not just in the daily operations of our careers. (It’s imperative to act on the opportunities that come your way, however meager.) We need to take risks in every session, on every set, in every booth, in every audition, and with every take. It’s imperative you make a habit of challenging yourself and pushing your comfort zone. In doing so, you will come to trust your impulses, gain greater confidence in your ability to simply play, and allow discovery to become one of your greatest assets. This is a key component to making you skillful.

READ: The 10 Most Common Voiceover Demo Mistakes to Avoid

In fact, developing your ability to self-direct is a vital component to making yourself a valuable talent. It’s one of the reasons we continually train. Just like athletes, we need to stay sharp. It’s how we develop agility and confidence in ourselves as talent instead of obsessively wondering what someone we’re auditioning for—whom we may never meet in person—is thinking. Your objective with every performance is to confidently walk into the audition as if it were the session and give them something interesting to think about within the context of the piece.

The truth is that they aren’t thinking about anything—yet. You’re there to supply your skill and imagination, not the other way around. You will have an interesting thought, I promise. You have them all the time! Allow a few of them into your performance. It’s why you’re there; you’re paid to have a pulse.

Head into every audition and every session prepared to play.

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Kate McClanaghan
Kate McClanaghan is a casting director, producer, and founder of both Big House Casting & Audio (Chicago and Los Angeles) and Actors’ Sound Advice. She’s a seasoned industry veteran and actor who has trained actors and produced demos for more than 5,000 performers over her 30 years in the business.