More independent creators than ever are looking to add voice over to their latest project. As a voice actor, I love having so many new projects to audition for, but there are a few things I wish many of these calls would include - things that would help me prioritize specific calls and make the submission process easier overall. If you're thinking of holding auditions for your project and want to reach as many voice actors as possible, here's a few things I would be sure to consider!
1) Be Up Front with the Scope of Work
The scope of work is the first thing I look for in every single audition. Whether it's the number of hours of live recording to anticipate or a final word count per character, the scope of work tells me if I have the time to commit to your project and if the budget matches the amount of work expected. In the past, I have skipped over casting calls that do not include any description of the work because I don't know what kind of commitment I would be making if you were to cast me. I recommend including this for each character along with the bio and rate.
It's okay if you are just casting for a pilot, demo, or Kickstarter sample just to get started. Still include the scope of what is expected for that demo or pilot, but also include how much you anticipate will be needed for the final product as well. Be clear about when you plan to record the rest of the voice over too, even if it's months or years off. (If your project scope is estimated in years, do be prepared for your actor's availability and rates to change over time.)
2) The Budget or Rate is Clearly Listed
Being able to glance at an audition side and see what rate to expect is incredibly helpful. I'm way more likely to prioritize an audition for a project with ANY number listed - even a smaller budget - over one that requires me to submit a quote. This transparency also helps your actors know that they're all being paid on the same fee structure (whether it's by word, hour, role size, etc) and it discourages others from undercutting. I personally like seeing this listed for each character along with their bio and scope of work if possible. If not, please be sure to include the rates in the project description or details.
If you still prefer to ask for quotes anyway, it does help us to know what your funding model is, such as whether you are self funded, have investors, or plan to raise/have already raised money via Kickstarter. While some actors have set rates, other may be open to negotiating for a single creator or a small team working on their labor of love with limited funding.
If you haven't included rates because you're not sure what a fair rate actually is, you may also want to reference the Voice Acting Club Indie Rate Guide which is compiled here.
3) Specifics for Casting Diverse Characters
Recently, both actors and consumers have challenged those making casting decisions to put additional effort into making sure that actors belonging to minority groups are able to fairly access auditions and work opportunities. A major way this is happening is by putting a higher priority on seeing that characters who have a specific racial, gender, or sexual identity are portrayed by actors who more closely match that identity.
If this casting diversely was not on your radar before, the decision not to seriously consider it can be costly, as one game developer discovered recently.
Being aware of this shift should not frighten or discourage you, but it is something you should attempt to address, even if you're still learning how best to accomplish this with your project. While there is plenty of nuance to this subject I can't cover here, things many actors look for and hope to see in casting calls to address this do include:
With all of this in mind, a bit of nuance to keep in mind is that when you describe your ideal candidates for each role that you are not asking actors to volunteer information about or prove their identity. This provides protections for actors who are closeted, multi-racial, or have any other concerns about disclosing private information.
By now, most actors will understand what you mean when you list ideal or preferred candidates and will usually elect to not read for characters where they are not the correct fit. I also recommend making these recommendations bold, as some actors do skim descriptions (especially where there is no character image) and may submit anyway by accident. Use your best discretion when casting to make sure each actor is the right fit for the character.
4) Include an Image of the Characters (in Visual Mediums)
For indie games and animation specifically, this is an incredibly helpful component of a great casting call. It tells me that your project has already completed at least some of the pre-production process and that you're far enough along to start recording right away. Seeing any art in a casting call radically increases the likelihood that I will audition for it. It also helps provide context for what my voice needs to match and how to differentiate characters more effectively.
If you are concerned about intellectual theft, this might be a great place to at least include concept art or sketches if finished assets are not an option.
5) Everything Necessary to Audition is in One Place
Whether this is a a single PDF, Google Document, or a page on your website, having everything in one place is SO helpful. I've seen some auditions broken out into a separate documents for each character, while others separate the characters and their audition lines into a separate document from the technical specifications and submission guidelines.
Please keep everything in one document or page! It's very normal for an audition package to include a page or two dedicated to the project information, technical specifications and submission guidelines, followed by a full page for each character that includes their bio, additional information about the role, character image, and audition lines. Less than that is just as fine.
The one exception to this is having a separate document for characters based on character gender. This allows people who want to audition for characters of a certain gender to be able to find the characters they will typically audition for a little easier. However, in this case each document should still include all of the same technical specifications and directions to submit.
6) Consider Using Auditions for Other Characters to Cast Bit Roles
If your project features a huge number of characters to cast, consider only holding auditions for the main or most significant characters, or those that have specific voice types or accents you need to hear an audition for. Then, use the auditions you get for those characters to either cast your minor roles (or directly contact a few select actors to read for them after your call has ended.) I especially recommend this if you plan to cast roles with only a few lines, such as guards, merchants, random office workers, etc. This is more respectful of the time it takes for actors to audition for a casting call and saves you the time of having to listen to so many extra auditions.
7) Set an Audition Deadline and Do Not Cast Before It Is Over
Not everyone is able to audition for your project as soon as you post it. Some actors need to set aside time to record and may schedule that time based on the deadline you set. I personally create calendar tasks based on the listed deadline to make sure I submit something before that day. Even if you're on a tight turnaround, I recommend 24 hours wherever possible to give your call a chance to make the rounds. (It doesn't take that long!)
To respect the time of everyone who is considering auditioning for you and set aside time to do so, please set a deadline to cast your project by and keep it. Even if you hear a great voice early on that is the perfect fit for that character, there's no reason you can't still cast that person after the end of the deadline. Most casting directors will also note that they always get a huge rush of last minute auditions on the very last day, even more within the last few hours. This means that many actors who will submit to you won't do so until the last minute.
That being said, extending a deadline because you still don't have enough options is both normal and understandable! This allows time for more people to share and see your project and set time aside to audition. You may also want to consider if you are willing to offer extensions on an individual basis if someone contacts you and wants to submit, but can't right away due to scenarios like illness or travel.
8) Please Don't Tell Me I Wasn't Cast
Most actors prefer that we did not receive emails telling us that we were not cast. As an actor, a big part of our job after auditioning is mentally setting each project aside (or forgetting about it entirely) so that we don't obsess over whether or not we got the job. An actor with a great booking rate is still likely to book only 5-10% of the jobs they audition for, so we have to have mental mechanisms in place to handle that rejection and focus on our successes.
"Thank you for auditioning, but we did not cast you at this time!" emails are very well intentioned, but are incredibly jarring for actors who are trying to focus on just auditioning for the next job until we book. They bring us back to a job that we've already set aside and reinforce that we did not succeed. They also add additional content to our inbox that we can't act upon in any constructive way. As a result, most of us would rather not receive them at all and I would discourage sending them at all.
Note: These emails do not include emails confirming that you have received an audition. Confirmation emails are normal and often expected!