Unfortunately, many actors think they can do more accents than they really can, especially American. For an accent to be believable, it needs to be both fluent and sound like a local
Mark Summers has been casting voice-overs’ for over twenty years. Laughing, he says, ‘Everyone believes they have an amazing voice, but there are actors who are able to work in voice-over and many who are not actually suited to it. It is a different style of acting, and now more than ever, time is money.’
Mark Summers has been casting voice-overs’ for over twenty years.
VO recording sessions are timed very precisely and the voice-over artist needs to understand, intuit and work within very specific timings. Clarity and consistency are key.
‘Never listen to your parents who probably think you have a marvellous voice!’ Mark remembers his parents telling him, when he was a successful child actor: ‘Come and talk to us about your great voice when you are top of your industry.’
At Mark Summers Casting we have cast at least 50 different accents, or languages. We cast anything from commercials to animated films and computer games. At times, we might not even understand the language we are casting a voice-over for, but we do understand the tonality, resonance, articulation and intonation required, and we always have an assistant who will translate and clarify finer details if necessary.
Casting Director Mark Summers was asked by Iconic Director Joe Pytka and Ogilvy in New York to cast 5 actors (who were turned into robots) to work alongside Carrie Fisher on this spot for IBM.
Due to London’s incredible diversity we have most nationalities of the world living and working here. Also the UK is not restricted by performers’ union rules, which is a restrictive monetary issue in the USA. This means we get a fair amount of American VO jobs because there is a decent size of American actors based in the UK.
Mark often has less than eight hours to find the right cast of voices and will listen to anything between 2000-6000 voice reels in a few hours. From about 3 seconds in, Mark can hear whether your voice will fit the specific requirements for the job, because he has experience going back to the age of 3 when he started in the industry, and he’s been casting for over twenty years now.
It is essential to have a professional voice-over reel, just as actors need head-shots and a show-reel. Once you have a good reel then you can start approaching agents that specialise in the field. Be thorough in your research and listen to their clients so you can pitch yourself appropriately. There is no point in approaching an agent who already has an actor that sounds like you.
The best way to record a professional VO demo is to approach a working studio with an experienced engineer. It must not sound home recorded, or tinny. Don’t bother with the demo services offered on-line or in actor magazines: they usually provide unoriginal and uncreative demos. Do your own research and find original scripts that fit your voice. No one wants to keep hearing the same material.
Unfortunately, many actors think they can do more accents than they really can, especially American. For an accent to be believable, it needs to be both fluent and sound like a local.
Some actors have an animated reel, if they are good at lots of character voices (minimum of 12 required) while others have one dedicated for their range of accents. However, if accents are not your strong point then do not pursue this.
Unfortunately, many actors think they can do more accents than they really can, especially American. For an accent to be believable, it needs to be both fluent and sound like a local. British actors tend to veer towards either a New York or Southern accent. Of course, that is fine if that is requested, but don’t claim you can do a general American if you cannot. No one is good at everything. Unless, you are Meryl Streep, of course.
Prep times are shorter than ever, and turnaround is often brutal. Actors please make sure you never email downloadable files (they may have bugs), and that any links are fully working.
On the plus side, the voice-over industry is always open to fresh voices that can deliver the goods and hold their own. Good luck and keep your ear to the ground for future castings calls from us at Mark Summers Casting where we pride ourselves on discovering dynamic new talent.
By Clea Myers
Follow me on Twitter @Camtweak