Ready or not, holiday season is here. From the holiday music on a loop in Starbucks, to the tourists bombarding the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, ’tis the season: an insane amount of gifts, food, cookies, and cheer. I always view the end of the year as a time to reflect on what we have accomplished.
Since I always offer advice in this column, this month, I want to reflect on what I learned about voiceover casting and what I will take into 2016.
1. The un-announcer is the new announcer. In all the commercial campaigns I worked on this year (most notably Porsche and Home Goods) the majority of casting specs called for a new announcer that sounded non-announcer-like. I culled and auditioned hundreds of actors, received even more MP3s, and at the end of the day, both commercials feature distinctive voices that sound real and engaging without being preachy.
2. Preschool villains can’t be too scary. I cast a number of preschool animation projects (most notably “The Numberlys” for Amazon) and when chatting with the creatives, the discussion almost invariably led back to the casting specs for the villain: how to find a distinctive voice that would not be too scary to a 3 year old. The ultimate voice needed to engage the young viewers, convey the villainous tone, and yet not scare a child to turn off the show and run away screaming.
3. Sometimes it’s a kid, and sometimes it’s an adult who gets the kid’s role. I am always a fan of casting a real young actor if the character is a child. The flip side is that adolescence inevitably rears its head and we have a short period to record the young actor. In one project, we hired a 9-year-old young actor for the pilot, but if the show ends up a series, we will opt to hire an adult instead so we can have longer recording sessions and can avoid voice-changing issues. In another project, we auditioned kids and adults and, although I wanted a real kid, the team chose an adult. So there’s no formula, and in every case, the outcome can be either.
4. My choice is not always the choice that gets approved. At the end of the day, casting is collaborative. Even if I think someone’s right for the role, I never shove my opinion down the throat of my creative team. The casting is ultimately a decision that they need to be happy with. My job is to present the best choices. I always make the comparison to being a bartender at a bar that offers a variety of drinks: I present different drinks (casting choices) to my creative teams. Sometimes they will choose my favorite white wine and sometimes it will be a drink I rarely mix. My job as a casting director to be as open-minded and open to hearing new voices and meeting new actors.
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Jen Rudin is an award-winning casting director and author of “Confessions of a Casting Director: Help Actors Land Any Role with Secrets from Inside the Audition Room.” (Harper Collins/It Books, 2013). Visit www.jenrudin.com and follow @RudinJen.
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